Revitalization – Formulas or Fresh Wind?
Many have advocated revivals often are a result of a particular formula, such as following a step by step process developed from 2 Chronicles 7:14. The thought is “that if we do this . . . ., then revival will come. Charles Finney revivals were outlined in such away. Many pastors tried to duplicate his approach but were disheartened when their efforts did not obtain results such as Finney’s. This duplication of what worked somewhere else and tried in a local context is not new. In our present day many churches and pastors have used Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Church” or Eric Mc Manus’ Mosaic model to try and get the same explosive growth results.
When we look specifically at the 2 Chronicles 7:14 passage, I personally believe the passage is descriptive not prescriptive of what happens when revival does occur.
When we approach the Revitalization realm, we find the same faulty logic of just repeating verbatim what someone else has successfully done. In both cases of revival and revitalization we find that the error centers around the unique context of each church. There is not a one size fits all. However, having said that, there are underlying principles that need to be observed and put to action.
In a previous article “Where revitalization Begin,” I wrote about the heart needing to be changed. The problem with many church health issues is the condition of the heart. Unless there is a significant change in the heart, attitudes and behaviors will continue to be unhealthy. If real heart change does not occur, any effort attempted would look like the Titanic rearranging the chairs as it sunk.
How does Revitalization/Revival occur? It is a process of assessing and correcting both spiritual and strategic problems. Many times, churches and pastors must face the “Elephant in the Room!” G.K. Chesterson said, we must set our sails and catch the wind of the Holy Spirit when it lows.” The point that Chesterson is making is man must do what he can, but ultimately men must wait for God to move. Like a sailboat that has no power in and of itself, it is dependent on the wind [external force] to move it. The same must be understood in the church. Are there things that churches can do to PREPARE for revival, absolutely!
Revitalization is a spiritual movement of God in an unhealthy situation. We must remember Jesus said, “I will build My church.” When we think of formulas and processes, it is essential that we remember that the strategic initiatives without the Spirit’s movement results in just reorganization attempt. Likewise, the Spirit’s movement without a sail up result is a wind uncaught. Both strategic and spiritual elements are required. I do wonder how many sailboats are stuck waiting for the wind to blow, yet they do not have their sails up? Could churches be functioning the same way – expecting God to work, and yet the church has done nothing to “Catch the Winds” from God.
To carry this illustration a bit further. If Revival is desired, and there is not any plan to Capture the wind when it blows, then a revival spirit will eventually die out. Churches who desire a revival or revitalization must be prepared to “capture the movement of God” when it happens.
In Revitalization the same thing can occur; without a heart change by revival in the person, the revitalization efforts will be wasted and seen only as a man-made attempt to do what only God can do.
So, there are three points to capturing a healthy church/congregation:
Revival – Restructuring – Revitalization
- Revival is about God’s people repenting and returning to a holy relationship with God.
- Restructuring is about tearing down barriers and obstacles that prevent growth/health.
- Revitalization is about returning to the mission/task at hand – vision if you will.
We see the cycle found in the book of Judges reflecting the drift and departure of God’s people from Him and the steps God takes to restore His people. We are a people that are redeemed, but we are a people bent on rebellion.
We find ourselves today, across the globe in a spiritually anemic condition; lukewarm would be a nice alternative to the calloused cold condition of the church at large.
For Revival and Revitalization to be effective churches/pastors must move away from the CEO model of leadership and embrace the Shepherding model of Jesus. Revival and Revitalization happens in place – right where the problem lies. Context is huge, yet so many fail to address who they are and where they are in the local area.
In the world of Revitalization [which is an umbrella] we find many other terms associated with it. Terms like Replant, Restart, Merger, Fostering, Legacy and Relocation. If this is valid, then we have a Revitalization Puzzle; and no one knows how to put the puzzle together because they have no idea what it should look like when it is completed.
Revitalization has taken on the same dynamic of “repeat what everyone else is doing.” Millions of books have been sold because someone was in a particular place where God worked. They write a book about the experience and now every church/pastor buys the book things that is the silver bullet that will fix all their problems. NOPE!
Revival and Revitalization is this – The Holy Spirit moves, and Men work!
The condition of 85% of our churches [regardless of denominational ties] are plateaued, declining and dying. Just as a doctor will do a diagnosis of a patient to discover the root problem; he will observe symptoms and access their severity.
The symptoms of the American Church condition:
- Old generationally
- No discipleship, been making church members not discipling Christians
- Lack of holiness and godliness in people
- Worldview shifts
- Cultural Christianity
- Biblically illiterate congregations
- Self-help [healing] sermons
- Pew driven not Pulpit led congregations
A fresh breath from God requires that we RETURN to God. There must be:
Revitalization really is summed up in this – Churches and Christians doing what they should have been doing all along.
Revitalization requires placing a priority both personally and collectively on certain disciplines.
- Disciples of the faith
But a church cannot be revitalized if it has never been VIVED! In other words, an unregenerated church/person must be Saved before they can be Sanctified! Are there lost people in church, yes, and there should be, but they must be regenerated before they are allowed to serve?
Revival and Revitalization are connected in that they have the focus of Returning/Repenting/Restoring/Renewing to a condition that once was. By this I do not mean return to the “good old days,” but getting where God is with His plan, and following it.
The question must be asked, how many churches are a direct result of man working and God being absent. Blackaby said in Experiencing God – “Find out where God is working and get there.” Today so many people and church believe that activity is a directly reflection of spirituality – nothing could be further from the truth.
When we look at how Church is done, we find they reflect the very “Woes” of Jesus in Matthew 23.
Jesus exposes the tactics of the then religious leaders and pronounced woes on them. My fear is that we are repeating the same tactics in our churches.
- The people were being weighed down with man-made laws and restrictions; we call this legalism.
- In verse 5, we find an egocentric clergy who seek after the praise of men – let us call them glory hounds, looking for positions of honor; having a form of godliness, but so far removed from it
- Luke 18:9-ff, Jesus calls them hypocrites [actors or pretenders]
- Matt. 23:37-39 is the declaration of Israel’s chance to be the people of God. God takes away their privilege and gives it to the Gentiles. [Romans 11:25] Also reflected in the Parable of the Landowner in Matt. 21:33-35
- Matt 23:11; religious leaders saw themselves as those to be served, not serving. That the people existed for their benefit not people oriented.
- Verse 13- walls to keep people out
- Verse 14 – greedy gain; hypocritical prayers; presumes long prayers were effective
- Verse 15 – proselyting not discipling, make like us – churched people.
- Verse 16 – straining at gnats [legalism] using oaths to protect their sins of omission
- Verse 23 – fundamentalists – letter of Law, forgot the spirit /intent of laws
- Verse 25-28 – – white washed tombs, look good on the outside, fake inside/empty
- Verse 29- re-writing history, trying to cover up the truth of their past
How are modern day churches the same as the Pharisee and Sadducee “church” during Jesus’ day?
The cycle of sin and rebellion continue. The World will do the world, but the Church must walk with God and be different than the world.
Revitalization is getting the world out of the church and the Church back into the world.
August 18, 2021