The Law of Inertia – An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. This law is often called “the law of inertia” – Isaac Newton http://teachertech.rice.edu/Participants/louviere/Newton/law1.html In previous articles to this magazine I have used the word Revivalization. I use this word to identify that both spiritual revival and leadership structure are necessary for revitalization to occur. In the process of developing a revitalization strategy, the Team must look beyond the “Turning Around” point of the Church. It has been said that to turn around a huge ship it takes quite a bit of water; the same can be said with a dying or declining Church. Once the revitalization effort has begun its “turning” it has to keep the momentum or it can easily return back to a listless position. Momentum is very important within any organization; for a lull can be detrimental to all that was previously accomplished. Since we all know that change is unwelcomed, if there is a hint of stabilization before the revitalization process is complete, there will be none accomplished except wasted effort. Once a church is moving, it must keep moving. Revitalization has at its heart two key principles: 1st – Create a sense of urgency and 2nd – Create an atmosphere of change. A church must embrace its true condition; but knowledge of this does not mobilize the Church to do anything. The Revitalizationist like an artist must draw a new future to be embraced. While most of the plan and implementation is to bring a Church back from extinction; there must also be incorporated in the process, an extension of keeping the Church moving. This action can be simple as establishing an evaluation interval for course correction of previous actions. Part of the process I have incorporated is while establishing a Strategic Plan for “turning the boat”; we also establish a Long range Planning Team. This Team will take into account those actions implemented and will if necessary bring forth course corrections to achieve the original goals. But Revitalization is more than turning the boat around; it must also include how to get the “boat to move up-stream”. A Church/boat can be turned eventually; but that doesn’t mean it is moving, it could after turning around, then be caught flowing down stream, which only means it is in greater danger going down stream backwards.
In the Strategic Process, the Church must have clearly established goals and actions. These actions necessarily need to be accomplished over a period of time. Normally most experts say 5-7 years. Too fast a change can have the effect of no change. Revitalization takes time; we have all heard this over and over. But there can be a “push” to “get it done” that just puts too much at one time on the congregation. We have heard that we must have small wins to create a willingness to make bigger changes. Use the Wins to keep the Church moving. Once the Church has made the turn from drifting and declining, a great amount of effort has to be expended to get it to go upstream. As with a boat, it will take a lot of horsepower to move the boat forward; this is just as true for the Church. While the Strategic Process is at work, the congregation must be Strengthened. The Spirit of Revival can be this catalyst. Just as Nehemiah had the task of building the Temple Walls, he had to motivate the people to build. Nehemiah had an Ezra to help him “renew the spirit” of the people. As a consequence the “people had a mind to work” and the walls were complete in 52 days! [Nehemiah 6:15] People forget quickly what God has done. If Revitalization is going to be successful, the Church must believe again in the power of Jesus.
While the task of building the Wall was accomplished; there was so much more that needed to be done. This is likewise true in Revitalization. This is where the Long Range Planning Team [LRPT] comes in to the picture. Establishing a LRPT will act as the fuel for the engine to travel up stream. The goal of Revitalization is never just to turn the boat around! There must be in the Strategic Process the answer to the question – “Where are we going?” The LRPT establishes the course to get to the new destination. These course plans will have to be long, medium and short term. A typical format would have a 3, 5 and 10 year outlook of plans and actions to be accomplished. Now word of caution; this LRPT is an on-going process; it is part of the new DNA of the Church. The Church faltered because it “had arrived” so to speak and quit. To prevent the cycle from recurring, develop a continuous course. To do this when the 3 year plan has been implanted, the 5 year now becomes the 3 year and the 10 year plans become the 5 year. This means there is a new 10 year plan to be envisioned, and the subsequent cycle continues. Obviously, a church cannot continue to build building and the like, so the LRPT must include things like new staff positions, church planting and missions’ involvement. As a Revitalizationist, we must also be visionaries. We cannot be content with bringing a Church back from the depths of decline and death; we must enable them to become healthy and reproductive; and all of this will take time; a lot of time. When I read about Churches that have been Revitalized, it usually includes a long-termed pastor and on-going leadership and shepherding of the Congregation. This is why the Long Range Planning Team is important, it sustains the initial movement to head the right direction; but also provides the enthusiasm to stay on the journey. Happy Sailing!