Category Archives: Church Revitalization

Articles addressing the plateaued, decline and dying condition of Churches in North America

A Thrice-bound Cord

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

Blog: preachbetweenthelines.com

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Snakes and Mistakes

Numbers 20-21 are two more accounts where the people of God; Israel are still the stiff-necked people. The change in their hearts has not been made. Time after time the people will rebel and then when things go haywire, they cry out in distress for the LORD to deliver them. One would think that after so many times of rebelling and failing that after the Lord delivered them, the people would get a clue. Wait a second, this sounds like how many believers live their lives out! The Book of Judges is reflective of the roller-coaster ride many professing Christians experience. The on and off dedication to the Lord is cause for so much agony and heart ache.  Chapter 20 starts out with Miriam dying, the older sister of Moses. So at Kadesh, after refusing to enter the Promised Land, the people start singing the same song about “why have you brought us out here to die, would that we stayed in Egypt.’ If we think about this a bit; if the spies had just brought the glowing report of food and sustenance about the Promise Land, then the people had to be satisfied with the Manna and Quail now; I’m sure we would complain a bit too. However, this complaining has its effect on the Leader. Now leaders are human beings too; but that doesn’t give us excuse. In the heat of the conflict, Moses gets angry and instead of “speaking to the Rock” he strikes the Rock twice. The water comes forth from the Rock – but the event of rebellion against God has its consequences. Moses will not be allowed to enter in the Promised Land when the time comes. In Deuteronomy Moses is not sick, or blind, in good health, but taken up the Mountain that overlooks Jericho, Moses sees the picture of “what could have been.” Joshua will lead the people across. Now I have to admit I was a little ticked about the harsh punishment Moses received because he disobeyed God. I thought of all the ways that the people behaved, and felt that God should give him another chance – in fact Moses addressed the punishment with God – and the Father got ticked “what I have said, I have said – no more talk about it!” Only until I was reminded of how close Moses was allowed to get to God and the privileged position he was in did I understand that if anyone should have gotten it right – Moses would have been it. Speak to the Rock, don’t strike it. The is a metaphor of Jesus – Jesus only needed to be struck/die once. We do not need to repeatedly re-crucify Him. Also Moses struck in anger at the people. I wonder how many times have we struck out at God when people made us angry?

The second event is the Snakes – The same song is sung “why have you brought us here” – this time the complaining of the people to Moses draws the ire of God. He sends a plague of fiery snakes on the people. The people start dying because of the snake bites. Moses begins to intercede for the people to the LORD; God gives the cure to the people – don’t look at the snakes on the ground look at the standard with the bronze serpent on it. Jesus uses this metaphor about Himself – just as Moses lifted the serpent up in the wilderness, even so the Son of Man must be lifted up. As the people “looked and lived” by believing [faith] the serpent standard would heal; so it is with people who look to Jesus who was lifted up on the Cross. Healing from sin and death is a result of our faith looking. The symbol of the medical field is one similar to the Nehushtan. As the people of Israel were plagued with the fiery serpent that caused death, so are we people who are plagued by sin and death [Satan the serpent] the cure then and now is to Look and Live. Look at the Savior and live. For all the healing mankind needs is found not with a snake on a standard, but the Son of God on the Cross.

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You’ve Gone Far Enough

In Numbers 16 and 17 we find that Israel [congregation] confronts Moses [pastor] about just who is important and who isn’t.  It always amazes me how short a memory we have about the past. Israel has just tasted defeat because of their lack of faith and rebellion against the LORD. Now they want to take on the LORD’s anointed.  The clan of Korah – Levitical ancestry challenges Moses and his authority. The Levites were chosen by God to do the administration of the Tabernacle/Sanctuary. Two-hundred and fifty leaders stand up to enact a coup. They tell Moses “You have gone far enough!” Now let’s think about this a bit. Moses reluctantly takes the task of delivering Israel out of Egyptians slavery; he has led them through the Wilderness and been the spokesman for them to God.  Now that the future 40 yrs. is before them – which means wandering around and dying; they bow up and say they are equal to him. “All the congregation is holy, and the LORD is in their midst . In other words – Moses you just aren’t all that! We are just as good as you.”

Now this is a very interesting story – one could ask why the LORD would include it in the scripture? Additionally, what do it mean to us today. This is just my thoughts – but one could look at the story of the congregation versus the Pastor; or the Ministerial leadership against the Laymen in a church.  I have often found that many pastors labor in conflict and difficulty when things are going rough. When congregational life improves, then we find the people want to take over from the leadership – using the justification that they are “God’s people” too. This has the impact of bringing the pastor/leadership down to the pew level. I believe today there is a lack of respect for the pulpit in many congregations. Sometimes this can come about because the pastor/leadership is weak or the congregation looks at the leadership as “hired employees.”

Back to our story of Korah – Moses does his normal response, he seeks the LORD. The incense and censer test will determine who is holy and who isn’t. Moses tells Korah “You have gone far enough.”  Many a conflict arises in congregational life about who is in charge and who isn’t. The Pastor is called to be the under-shepherd; he is to lead the flock/sheep in accordance with God’s will.  Moses has already led them where God wanted them; but they refused to follow. We often have read that Israel is compared to a stubborn, hard-headed sheep.

In this passage we are confronted with the power of God and His protection of his servants and intolerance for rebellion. Korah forgot who they were – nothing they had done qualified them for the priesthood; yet now they boasted of themselves. While Korah thought they were confronting Moses and Aaron, but in reality they were confronting and challenging the LORD. The story continues with Moses interacting with Dathan and Abiram; who refuse to come see him – throwing the failure of obtaining the Promise Land on him, when it was the people who decided not to go.  I have wondered sometimes why Moses decided to stay with the rebellious people? He had opportunity to let the LORD start over fresh with him – I believe it is the pastor’s heart of Moses, even though the people were adamant against him, he stayed with them, interceding and pastoring them. Finally the anger of Moses with the insubordination and rebellion reaches its apex – Korah just kept pushing against Moses’ leadership. The righteous anger of Moses draws the attention of the LORD. “Separate yourself from Korah” the ground opens up and the 250 men are swallowed up.  You would think that after the display of power from God people would get a hint – Nope; the murmuring continues and a plague is sent  that 14,700 die.

In a revitalization thought – how is a pastor to shepherd a people who do not respect or honor the position of pastor? How many business meetings have happened where the pastor/leadership was raked over the coals about something they had no control over? How many times have congregations risen up against the LORD by rising up against God’s man? We wonder why churches die and decline – I think it is a result of the Pew taking over the Pulpit. Now don’t get me wrong, there are bad pastors, just like there are bad congregations. We all have no grounds for boasting of ourselves. We are the priesthood of God, because He made us so!

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Death of a Generation

I find that Numbers 13/14 to be some of the saddest chapters in the Bible.  After having camped at Mt. Sinai for a year, the nation of Israel is finally on its way to the homeland – the Promised Land. The blessing of God that was promised to Abraham all the way back in Genesis 12/14/17/22 is finally coming to a crescendo; but the lack of faith by the generation appointed to enter the land results in children wandering in the wilderness for forty years, watching their disobedient parents die. The tribes of Israel had been witness and recipient to the power of Yahweh for the last 18 months. They had tasted of His provision of manna, water and quail. The people had personally received the mercy of God during their rebellious behavior [Exodus 32]. Each tribe afford the privilege to send out a scout to see the Land of Promise and bring back a report. The orders were to “spy out the Land; investigate the cities and people of the Land and bring back some fruit from the Land.”  For 40 days the spies enjoyed the provision of the land; all the while collecting data about the Land God said He would give them. I cannot imagine having to cut down a sapling tree in order to carry back a cluster of grapes. The question – is the Land as God said it would be? Is it a land “Flowing with milk and honey?”  True enough was the report from the 12 spies. But – oh, why did there have to be a “But”? Yes the land is like the Lord promised – but the cities are fortified, and there are descendants of Anak in the land [Anak or the Nephilim are ancestors of the Philistines – remember Goliath was a Giant some 9 feet tall.] Fear had gripped the 10 spies who saw the obstacles in the land not the opportunity of the land.  Caleb tries to quiet the people; fear has gripped them – their thought obviously was that they would just walk into the inhabited land and take it without fighting or conflict. Just as Egypt saw the “strong hand of the Lord” so will followers by faith. The people saw their own limits and determined that even though the land was as described – they were like “grasshoppers” and would be nothing more than cannon fodder for the giants. Walking by sight says we can’t – walking by faith says we can’t but God can!

Caleb and Joshua some men who were 40 and 45 at the time relived that God could do what he said. Joshua the son of Nun had been the commander of the armies and witnessed the “battle strength” of God during the fighting of the Amalekites. [Exodus 17] For he had been part of a battle with the enemy where if Moses hands being lifted up , fighting a battle he couldn’t lose; and when Moses hands were down, fighting a battle he couldn’t win. The faith of Caleb and Joshua would be rewarded, not on this day though. The crowd or mob that was forming would win the day. FEAR won that day. Numbers 14 is just as sad – for now the people have realized no promise land, so they complain against Moses and Aaron. “Would that we would have died in Egypt”  – Let’s get another leader and go back.

Moses challenges the people not to rebel and not to fear the people of the land. I wonder how many churches have not conquered their “land” because of fear of the people? We find out later that the people of the land were already gripped with fear in the story of Rahab [Joshua 2].  In Numbers 14:18-19; there is a great warning and punishment for failure to accomplish what God had set out to do through us. To know that our rebellion will be found in the 2nd – 4th generations – this is the great influence and impact that we pass on to our children and grandchildren. While that is the negative, we also know that faith expressed is a source of influence for good to the generations that follow us. After the people of Israel had been chided for disobedience; they try to go take the land in their own strength. This is a big mistake; this was the source of their fear – Not by the strength of man, but by the Power and authority of God the Land would be theirs. The change of mind and attempt to do what only God could do ended in disaster. Doing the right thing at the wrong time is still disobedience. The people of Israel and the church often have learned the difficult lesson following God. Many a church has balked at the “Promised Land” because they saw obstacles. Would that Churches today would trust more in the power of Jehovah than in the programs of men!

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Some Things Never Change [Here we go again!]

I am back from my recovery from open heart surgery. When we left off we were reading Leviticus; obviously I can’t capture all of our readings for the last seven weeks – so I want to pick up with Numbers 10. In Leviticus and the first nine chapters of Numbers, we find the continued instruction for the people and priests.  They are still at Mount Sinai; they camped at Sinai for a year. Israel has been out of Egypt for about 18 months when we come to Numbers 10. The track record of the people thus far is not a good one. It seems that every time the LORD tested them to determine their obedience, they failed. The people complained from the beginning of the Exodus; complaints about being drawn out to die at the Red Sea; complained about no water, or food. We even have the episode of blatant rebellion in Exodus 32 with the Golden Calf while Moses is up on the mountain receiving the Law. The scripture tells us that Israel is an obstinate and stiff-necked people. I was reading recently from Thom Rainer about the three kinds of church revitalization attempts. [http://thomrainer.com/2015/05/three-types-of-church-revitalization-introducing-church-answers-monthly/] He identifies them as Acquisition [90%], Covenantal [40%] and Organic [2%]. Acquisition is similar to replanting or restarting a church with new leadership. Covenantal pertains to a church agreeing on certain changes with a catalytic change agent; and Organic is when a church tries different methodologies and programs to stop the declining and dying.  My point in referencing this is that Organic is least successful because while the processes and programs have been changed, the people’s behavior/attitude has not. Some churches would die than change. When we know that upwards to 1000 churches will close this year just in the Southern Baptist Convention; obviously something has to done. If Thom Rainer’s success rates are accurate; then only when radical “surgery” occurs will there be any real effect on the dying/declining churches. As I titled this blog post, some things never change. Change is inevitable; if change doesn’t occur, death will.

Back to Numbers 11; when Israel is told to leave Mt. Sinai and head to the Promised Land; the people pick up where they left off with complaining about everything. Their complaints find the ears of the LORD and Moses; now Moses has to be commended for even when the people seem bent on ousting him, he intercedes for them. Remember now the people are still in the Wilderness; they complain about the Manna and wanting meat to eat. The fury of the LORD brings fire that singes the outskirts of the camp. The rabble as they are called continue to stir up strife and controversy. Rather than praising the LORD for deliverance from slavery and the daily sustenance. The people have a nostalgic moment, thinking back to Egypt – their memory was skewed for they made Egypt far better than it was; claiming they ate fish, leeks, cucumbers, melons, onions and garlic. To me that seems like the formula for indigestion!  The people continue to complain – “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” This is the struggle with Church Revitalization – that which needs to be done, cannot be done for people would rather be like Israel and remain in Slavery [Egypt] then to move forward in the power of God. Since there are so many churches closing, one would think that people would do what is necessary for the blessing of God – Israel in its complaining still expected to receive the blessing of God – instead they got the plague of the quail. They asked for meat – boy did they get it – the point that it came out of their nostrils. Murmuring continues even from the family of Moses; Miriam and Aaron balk at the leadership of Moses. [Familiarity often breeds contempt]. After a bout of leprosy they get back in line with Moses authority.

Too often churches that once had a viable ministry decline because the focus become “What’s in it for me?” Another way of saying this is the church become “inward focused.” So what is the solution? There must be a heart change before there is a behavior change. The heart must return to the authority of the Holy Spirit, we call this REVIVAL. Israel never did change; they continued to be a stiff-necked people; would that we would learn this lesson in our time.

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Early and Latter Rains

Early and Latter Rains

As I sit writing this article, I look out across the corn and bean fields of Illinois. It is obvious that they are in need of a refreshing rain before the scoring heat of the summer withers them to just dry foliage.  It is essential that the plans that were put into action during the spring have the continued nourishing rains during the summer. The scripture talks of Early and Latter rains [Joel 2:23-25]. The growing seasons in Israel were dependent n both rains. The Early Rain came in the winter and gave hope of a spring harvest. The Latter Rain came in the spring as would be necessary for the crops to mature and produce during the arid Israeli summer months. The absence of either would spell doom for any hope of sustained crop production.

While our growing seasons are somewhat different in America, the crops planted in the spring are dependent on the snowfall and winters rains. Likewise the crops need the sustained rains for a bountiful fall harvest. As a child we grew quite a large vegetable garden. We had the early crops like snap peas and green onions that would come on pretty quickly. The rest of the produce such as tomatoes, corn on the cob, green beans and sweet potatoes would be the fall crops, used for canning and seeing our large family through the winter months. Now I like the early crops of peas, cucumbers and the like, but they won’t be around in the fall. So while it is enjoyable to eat of our labors quickly; they would all but be gone by fall. Amos 8:1 uses the image “basket of summer fruit.” The point is that summer fruit just doesn’t sustain; in fact it spoils very quickly.

In the April/May Renovate magazine, I titled my article “The Law of Inertia.” In that article I addressed such things as strategic plans and Long Range Planning; correlating it to the plans that had to be formulated in the winter month, and put into action during spring. You might at this point wonder ok, where is he going with this? The focus of this edition of Renovate is “how to sustain momentum coming out of summer.” I want to use the aforementioned discussion on crops and rain to draw a parallel to what must happen in the life of the Church.

For many [if not most] Church the summer months are the busiest time of the year. Most of the ministry done will be done during the summer months. Plans are made for mission trips, camps, VBS and backyard sports camps and such. The struggle with the “early rains” of ministry is that they are not enough to sustain a Church through the dry had fall and winters months. While there is a lot of excitement during the summer activity, and please I do not want to minimize the good works that is accomplished by these activities; but they are like the Basket of Summer Fruit, Amos talks about. The ministry has its quick rewards, but it doesn’t last. The focus too often of the ministry and missions of the Church in the summer months is “Let’s get through these activities for another year!”  Instead of trying to create or use them as launching greater sustainable “crops” for future sustenance, the objective was do the ministry and be done with it for another year. If there isn’t a goal of using these “traditional” events for longer, deeper ministry, then all we get to enjoy is the immediate rewards for our efforts. There is nothing wrong with the summer fruit, except it is consumed during the summer months, for it will spoil before winter, so it must be eaten quickly.

Now I know that with our modern day ability to irrigate crops, we can determine that there will be a fall crop. But if we are people of faith, we must trust the Lord for the Latter Rains; this blessing from God will produce the “staple” crops for canning and the rest of the year sustenance. The planning, planting, weed pulling and plowing has to continue throughout the hot summer months. I can remember complaining about the heat of the day and wishing to just bask in the food we already had. Something about tending a garden and church ministry – if we are not mindful and attentive to the crop in the field, the weeds/tares will take over and choke out the good harvest. The Work of a Church is not done when they have finished planting and harvesting the early crops; the work continues into the fall. I am reminded at this point the words of Jesus. “Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send labors for the harvest, for the fields are already white unto harvest.”

As a child we would spend hours shucking corn, snipping beans and peeling tomatoes. There were long nights of pressure cookers and jar washing. What seemed to be an arduous task during the summer was a welcomed sight when retuning to the cellar for jars of our labors.

If a church is going to have more than “Summer Fruit” the ministry and missions work must be more that a completed task on the calendar! Every “crop/ministry” must answer the question – why did we do this? If Churches have not thoroughly thought through why they do what they do during the “missions months” then they will enter into a fall/winter season of dried up fruit, which will not sustain any momentum achieved by their hard lard in the sun.

I was so thankful for those canned jars of “latter rain” crops; for they assured that we would get through the cold months of inactivity to greet another spring filled with hope and new life.

 

 

Dr. Jim Grant

Sr. Pastor, Heartland Baptist Church

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The Law of Inertia

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!

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