Preaching for Revitalization takes two paths. Both paths are necessary and vital for success. The first emphasis must be placed on preaching for renewal; and the second is to challenge the congregation to new vision and ministry. In most if not all revitalization situations, there is an apathy or lethargy prevalent in the congregation. I like to use the word Revivalization to explain what needs to happen in declining and plateaued churches. I guess you could explain my thoughts about the preaching necessary for revitalization and some old fashioned “Hell fire and brimstone” preaching. The kind of preaching that brings strong conviction about the way people are or are not living. Revivalization is a combination of revival and re-visioning. It isn’t a far cry to say that every church needs revival; even the healthy growing churches. Revival is the renewal of our commitment to the Lord as sovereign over our lives. Usually there has been a lapse of hunger for spiritual things in the life of the church. Now revival is a much debated topic even among evangelicals. How does revival happen? Can revival be orchestrated and planned or is it just something that happens without any kind of preparation on the part of the people. Many books have been written on the topic but two that stand for me are Eight Keys to Biblical Revival by Lewis Drummond and Quest for Personal Renewal by Walter Kaiser. These two authors dig deep into the dynamics of revival. G. K. Chesterton has been quoted many times about revival “Put up the Sail and Wait for the Wind to Blow.” This thought puts the work on both mankind and God. We must do what we need to do for revival, but revival is what the Holy Spirit brings. As a sail boat needs winds to move, even so the sail must be up to catch the winds when it does blow. But the preaching that will prepare for revival is strong, powerful sin exposing and condemning preaching. The whole premise with revivalization is that the Church is unhealthy and dying; Holy Ghost preaching is necessary to bring the life back into the congregation. Now you must understand that that kind of preaching is not readily accepted today by most; and you may lose some folks when you quit being politically correct in your sermons. In order for a congregation to begin to seek the Lord and spiritual healing they have to know that something is wrong. If the church is satisfied and feels no threat of decline and death, they will not be inclined to seek the Lord for restoration. In this revival preaching there must be bold pronouncement against the “sins of the church.” This will require much prayer and study by the pastor. The pastor must know what the problem is even if he is the problem; the barriers and roadblocks must be exposed and dealt with. I call this my “killing the elephant in the room” preaching. The length of time spent on reviving the congregation can vary with each church. It is most important to convey to the church that something is wrong, and they are the key to making it right again.
In the second emphasis of preaching the focus is on “what to do” in restoring the church to healthy. The church will be hungry for direction if they are truly revived. Their spirit will thirst for the things of God again. If all that happens is the church is awoke from a slumbering sleep without something constructive and important to do, they will nod off again at best, or seek elsewhere to find the “winds of God blowing.” This part of the revivalization is most important for if the leadership does not have a plan or vision of where and what he expected the church to do, then no matter what kind of revival preaching occurred, they people will just be worked up into a frenzy and left to flounder. Just as the pastor/leadership conveys what is wrong with the church, there must be Challenging preaching to mobilize the now spirit revived congregation. Some may look at this part of revitalization preaching as vision casting or ministry focus. Either way the leadership would have to work through a strategic plan process to establish goals and benchmarks of where the church is supposed to be going. I have heard that vision leaks, this is true, so the congregation will need to have the vision constantly communicated to them. This where break down usually occurs. Pastors preach for change in people, but give very little application of what that looks like in personal lives and the church. Application preaching enables the church to take the Gospel with them into the community. The goals and vision forming must be done before the revival/renewal preaching begins. The whole dual emphasis preaching will take time. Revival and revivalization does not happen overnight. There may even be a need for preparatory preaching before leading into a revival phase. Now all of this preaching does not need to happen during a Sunday morning context. There are a number of ways to bring the sense of urgency to the church. Some of those could be through an in-depth walk through “Fresh Encounter” by Henry Blackaby and Claude King; or Solemn Assemble and Lay Renewal weekends. The point is something has to change in the way the church does “Church” and ministry. Something that has been overlooked to this point in the article is Prayer. None of what I have presented or suggested will work if there is a lack of prayer. The prayer of the people the pastor and leadership is absolutely essential. One day prayer vigils will not be enough, there must be persistent prayer. [Luke 18:1-5] The bible says that somethings will only come by prayer and fasting. [Matt 17:21] Here is the power of revival and revitalization – prayer. But if the people won’t pray, no “blowing of the Holy Spirit” should be expected. I love the Old Testament verse – 2 Chronicles 7:14, if My people which are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and heal their land. God is willing, the question is are we? I know that verse sounds so cliché but God has honored His word in the past and is willing to do so again, If Only!