There is an old saying that people can be one of three types of “Takers:” A Caretaker, a Risk-taker or an Undertaker. Obviously each of those types of people has pros and cons. The point being made is if a person is a risk taker, there will surely be conflicts and struggles along the way. But it is better to attempt change than do nothing. The Caretaker is the “maintainer” in a situation. The risks are seen as too volatile to try because of the “fear” of repercussions and conflicts. So rather than engage in actions that should be done, there is a compromise with “Status Quo.” But as we have learned and experienced in a ministry setting, this can mean certain death, where you must call an “Undertaker.”
When it comes to Church revitalization and Renewal, a “status quo” frame of mind is unacceptable. The reason churches are in need of revitalization and renewal in the first place is because when they could have done something in the Church, they elected to take the easy road, or least hazardous. This action is clearly a compromise. James 4:17 tells us “to him that knows to do good and does not do it, it is sin.”
In the case of being a Risk-taker, the leadership necessary must be confident and bold about the direction to be pursued. If there is a “crack” in the plan from God, then it will show up as weakness. People in the church are unwilling to follow weakness. Now this doesn’t mean that the revitalizer needs to be a tyrant either.
SO where does this boldness and confidence come? It comes from the Lord. The revitalizer must put himself on the “potter’s Wheel” and allow the Lord to begin the revitalization and renewal work in him first. I have learned that excitement and passion are two very contagious characteristics. When a new believer speaks of the wonderful things of God, we that are observing this have two reactions: first we can pass it off and say the person will come back to earth soon, and discount the testimony; or secondly, we can remember the joy of our own salvation and be renewed in our faith having seen the Lord at work still changing lives.
In the renewal of a pastor or revitalizer there are necessary steps to be taken: Prayer and the Word. I hear so many pastors and laymen tell me they don’t know what God wants them to do! If a person is not in conversation with the Lord Jesus through prayer and the Word, then it stands to reason that there would be doubts about what to do, and even when to do changes. As a revitalizer, a person must determine who He is; which of the three types of people. Now before I get too far, there are plenty of ministry venues where, things are in place and a “maintainer” mentality will be at the forefront. Even so, the ministry must be evaluated and tweaked if necessary. Some 80% of pastors are maintainers/caretakers or as Gary McIntosh calls them “Operators. Two calling in ministry are Risk-takers: Church Planters and Church Revitalizers; within Church revitalizers there are variations called super revitalizer and the reorganizer to mention a few. McIntosh indicates further that Revitalizers and Re-organizers make up only 7% of all pastors. When the Church is dying at alarming rates, there is a great need for pastors to know who they are, but then Be who they are supposed to Be. This is the confidence builder for a Revitalizer. When we know what we are to be doing and knowing where our orders came from, boldness and confidence from the Lord will be forthcoming.
I know from my own experiences, I didn’t want to be a Revitalizer – it was too hard and too much conflict! “No God I don’t want to be a Church Revitalizer!” I HAD TO COME TO GRIPS WITH WHAT THE LORD JESUS WANTED for HIS church not the ease of ministry I wanted. What I eventually learned was that I had always been a revitalizer. Every church the Lord moved me to, I had a mission of renewal and revitalization to do. Sort of like the song, “I was Country when Country wasn’t Cool.” I was a revitalizer before there was a movement.
As a revitalizer there must be purpose and intentionality in the direction a pastor moves the church. This will not come from a book or the latest growth model. The direction for a particular church has to be borne out in the prayer room, not in the board room. This is a mistake too often Pastors and churches make, especially in our CEO world of management. Churches don’t need management; they need leadership – bold leadership! Pastors are called to leader People, not manage resources.
Once a revitalization thrust has begun; regardless of the naysayers and the loss of people who don’t want change – the resilience to stay the course is imperative. Oh praise God for the testimony of Apostle Paul – “I have fought the good fight, finished the course, I have kept the faith. . . . [2 Timothy 4:7] The unwillingness to stay the course is tragic, both to the church and the man. The church will be very reluctant to attempt anything like it again; and the man will know he didn’t finish. A revitalizer must not just finish – but finish well. Success is what God does, obedience is what we do. If you know that the Father in Heaven is leading you; your confidence will rest in Him, not your own strength.
Dr. Jim Grant
Heartland Baptist Church, Alton, IL
Pastor, conference leader and revitalizer
DMin from Midwestern in Church Revitalization