A Thrice-bound Cord
Can two walk together, except they be agreed? [Amos 3:3]– And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken. [Ecclesiastes 4:12]. When we look at Revitalization and the necessary elements for success; it becomes quickly to our attention that revitalization cannot be done alone. Revitalization work by itself is tedious and strenuous; couple revitalization with ministry and revitalization becomes almost insurmountable. The problems and conflict connected with revitalization efforts could be partly to explain why so few revitalization attempts are successful and even more not even attempted. If revitalization is going to have an opportunity to be successful there must be a cadre of people for support and encouragement along the way.
I have heard many times that every successful person has to have at least three people in his life: a Paul as mentor, a Barnabas as encourager and Timothy as a protégé. In this article I will discuss these three necessities, plus add two of my own “friends” to the list – A Cohort and a Critic.
While there are different models/methods of accomplishing revitalization, it will come down to a catalyst in place trying to implement a strategy that will bring life back to the Bride of Christ. Some may call this “an organic” method of revitalization. I point this out because while other methods may focus on a Revitalization Team or Covenant Board; the leadership at the Church will have to implement the strategy. Conflict in ministry is a norm; adding change to the mix makes it volatile.
Beginning with the Paul friend – he is the mentor; the one who will be instructing the leadership. Just as we find that Paul became the Team leader with Barnabas and Silas, there must be someone who is ultimately guiding the process. This person has to be versed in the work of revitalization; this will keep the leadership and church on course to the intended goal. You could call him the expert; one who has done the work, a practitioner, not a theorist.
The next person is the much needed person – a Barnabas as the Encourager. This is a vital person in all of our lives, even more so in a Revitalization scenario. Acts 8 tells of Paul’s conversion; a great miracle in itself, but Paul was a persecutor of the Church, and His own testimony in Galatians that he did not affiliate with the Apostles. The people looked upon Paul as an outsider even after his salvation. Enter into Paul’s life was Barnabas, who took a chance and embraced this one who breathed threats and persecution on believers [Acts 9]. Barnabas was more than a friend; he became THE advocate for Paul in ministry. When we looking at Acts 11:19-26, the Church is being persecuted, yet growing at a phenomenal rate. Barnabas seeks out Paul and brings him to Antioch, and Paul becomes a leader in discipling believers. We all need a Barnabas in our lives to be our advocate and encourager for us to keep believing and trusting in the work the Lord has for us. It is through the influence of Barnabas that Paul becomes the accepted leader for establishing churches within the Gentile community. Barnabas believed in Paul; but more so believed in the God in Paul. Every Revitalizationist needs this person.
Then there is the Timothy or protégé person. Revitalization must be taught and lived out before others; especially the next generation of ministers and believers. Paul is the “father figure” for Timothy – who had a Greek father that appears to be missing in his life. Paul calls Timothy his “son” in the ministry. As we experience revitalization events, success and failures, the Revitalizationist needs to teach the stumbling blocks and success on. Paul was an example to young Timothy. It is interesting that Timothy is left at Ephesus; this well established church that was in need of revitalization, for it had lost its first love. Through the Pastoral Epistles written to Timothy, Paul admonishes and teaches Timothy about the truths of ministry. As ministers and pastors, we have obligation to pass on to others the lessons we have learned.
A person on my list is the Cohort – this is someone who is also going through the revitalization process as well. I know misery loves company, but in our world, walking with someone who is walking in the same situation as us is encouraging and helpful. We are able to talk and philosophize about how to accomplish our work. In this relationship – the verse “Iron sharpens Iron like one brother does to another” is so applicable. [Proverbs 27:17] During my seminary days I found that having others going through the same regiment that I was an encouragement and a much needed voice in attempt to master the classes. Often we can attempt to do something we think is right, only to find out that we didn’t even get the assignment right. So a person who can bounce different ideas and techniques off of is a great someone to have. This actually works both ways. While we need a Cohort, we need to BE a cohort as well; a much needed voice into our thinking and ministry.
The last person is the Critic – I know you are already saying I have enough of those in my life already, why do I need another one? The word critic doesn’t carry a negative connotation. A critic is someone who acts like a critique of what is being done. I like to call this person an Overseer. They are the one who will be a clear voice of analysis and evaluator of whether the Revitalizationist is accomplishing what he thinks he is doing. A set of eyes removed from the intimate details which can objectively look at the work, and give a true assessment.
If a revitalizationist has these five friends in his corner, he is well on his way to “staying the course, finishing his race” and making the right decisions about strategies and their implementation which will accomplish the goals initially set out to achieve. What is the song Hanks Williams, Jr. sang, “Getting a little help from my friends!” We all need our friends because revitalization work is hard, lonely and discouraging; but well worth the time and energy to achieve New Life for the Bride.
Jim Grant, DMin
Heartland Baptist Church