Category Archives: Church Revitalization

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

Revitalization: Formula or Fresh Wind?

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

  1. Revival is about God’s people repenting and returning to a holy relationship with God.
  2. Restructuring is about tearing down barriers and obstacles that prevent growth/health.
  3. 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:

  1. Old generationally
  2. No discipleship, been making church members not discipling Christians
  3. Lack of holiness and godliness in people
  4. Worldview shifts
  5. Cultural Christianity
  6. Biblically illiterate congregations
  7. Self-help [healing] sermons
  8. Pew driven not Pulpit led congregations

A fresh breath from God requires that we RETURN to God. There must be:

  1. Prayer
  2. Persistence
  3. Passion
  4. Patience

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.

  1. Confession
  2. Repentance
  3. 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.

  1. The people were being weighed down with man-made laws and restrictions; we call this legalism.
  2. 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
  3. Luke 18:9-ff, Jesus calls them hypocrites [actors or pretenders]
  4. 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
  5. Matt 23:11; religious leaders saw themselves as those to be served, not serving. That the people existed for their benefit not people oriented.
  6. Woes
    1. Verse 13- walls to keep people out
    1. Verse 14 – greedy gain; hypocritical prayers; presumes long prayers were effective
    1. Verse 15 – proselyting not discipling, make like us – churched people.
    1. Verse 16 – straining at gnats [legalism] using oaths to protect their sins of omission
    1. Verse 23 – fundamentalists – letter of Law, forgot the spirit /intent of laws
    1. Verse 25-28 – – white washed tombs, look good on the outside, fake inside/empty
    1. 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.

Jim Grant

August 18, 2021

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Revitalization

Cooking with a Stove not a Microwave

Cooking with a Stove Not a Microwave

The adage “A watched pot never boils” pertains to a stove top cooking process, not a microwave timed cycle. I guess I am old school, or just old but I remember when we would bake bread at home. The process was to mix the flour and ingredients into a dough. The dough would have to rise, we did this by placing it on the wood stove. [We had two wood burning stoves for heat] Of course you must punch the risen dough to let it rise again, when the yeast had fully activated the dough would be placed in pans and prepared to go in the oven. After a time of cooking, the fresh bread would be done, and we indulged ourselves in this fresh bread. Of course, times have changed, but another old saying is “better than sliced bread” meaning that things were greatly improved.

I bring all this bread making dialogue to get to the point that some things just take time, and those short cuts while they may achieve the same results, are not necessarily the same quality or as lasting. When it comes to putting a revitalization process into action, short cuts do not help. It has been said that a revitalizer should expect to invest 3 years into a revitalization situation. In our technological world of instant results this is a troubling duration.

This is where the church and revitalizer must develop a patience discipline. God is not in a hurry, we are! The LORD took 6 days to create, after each day beginning with day 2, He took time to reflect on what He had accomplished and said – “It is good.”

When I was a child growing up, we had cartoon Saturday’s; two of my favorite cartoons were the Jetsons and the Flintstones. These two cartoons depict what I would describe as our dilemma when it comes to Church Revitalizations processes. On the one hand you have the Flintstones with their Neanderthal living conditions and on the other hand you have the Jetsons with their space age technology. We live in the 21st century and have developed into more of the Jetsons world. I can still see Jane putting some tablets into a bowl and punching some buttons and instant presto lunch was made!

I say all this to say, we must be careful to take our time in revitalization actions. We really do have people in our churches that are old enough to remember when they were growing up that a radio was the only source of entertainment. Now I must warn all that having patience does not mean slow, it means take our time and ensure that what we are doing is going to achieve the results that are needed.

I have been guilty of wanting to move faster than the situation warranted. When we move at our pace to get our results, we usually leave people behind and wind-up having to do “battle damage clean up.”

Revitalization is people and people are the church. I have shared with pastors that if they think they are moving to fast, they probably are, and if they think they are moving too slow, they probably are not gong as slow as they think.

Communication is key is revitalization work. Timing also is crucial. In scenarios such as mergers, replant and restarts the catalyst must make sure the church and people are following. This brings me to another aspect of taking our time, dating. I know you are saying WHAT? If we look at revitalization situations, they do take on a dating climate. How many of us have had long term dating when we were courting our spouse? I have known some who dated for years before they finally decided to marry. Revitalization is about relationships not about pushing a process through. The revitalizer must be a PEOPLE first and TASK second person. This is a difficult aspect of revitalization. I struggled with wanting to get to the results that sometimes I left the people behind or worse, neglected them totally to get to the goal I had conceived.

In dating again, it takes time to know the other person, such is the case with a revitalizer. Revitalizers will have a set to tools and skills to work through revitalization, but we cannot forget that we are dealing with people not inanimate objects. Revitalization is NOT about us, but about the people of God in a real situation that needs the MAN of GOD to lead them out of the wilderness.

Now having said all this about the revitalizer; the other side of the coin is the people involved in the work. The leader must clearly communicate the urgency of the work, yet not allow the church/people to wander around aimlessly. I have found that churches/people are all about talking about what needs to be done, but struggle with actually doing something.

While patience is a virtue that must be present, inaction cannot be tolerated. There comes a time where action must take place.

How does one develop patience? Slowly!

  • Revitalizers must get before God, before he gets before people.
  • Pray before acting and keep praying.
  • Develop the Plan of God for HIS people.
  • Instill the Will of God through scripture to the people.
  • Communicate the PLAN over and over.
  • Gather the people so you can lead them.
  • Move towards the goal in unison.
  • Take rest stops along the way.
  • Trust God for results, not processes, or books.

I leave you with two other truths: James 1:12

Rome was not built overnight.

The turtle beat the hare in the race.

Dr. Jim Grant

Executive Director

Galveston Baptist Association

1 Comment

Filed under Church Revitalization

Family, Friends, Foes and Faith

Using the character Job this article reveals the necessity for having a revitalizer and or pastor’s house in order before undertaking a significant ministry obligation.

Family, Friends, Foes and Faith

Stress, anxiety, emotions, and mental anguish can be a demoralizer for a pastor dealing with everyday ministry life. When you add in the revitalization variable everything is magnified and intensified. Since the trials and troubles of ordinary ministry life can zap the enthusiasm and energy from a pastor, and knowing that revitalization is a most difficult task under good conditions, we must investigate how to navigate the journey of revitalization and its personal and professional impacts. I will use the testing of Job throughout this article to bring better understanding of the need for personal and professional “order” in ones life.

Scripture tells us that to be qualified as an elder/pastor that “he must lead or manage his family well.” [2 Timothy 3:4] This verse actually applies to the realm of ministry, but also to the effect on personal life matters. Obviously, all of us know about “pastors and their families living is glass houses” and the effects or scrutiny that that brings. When a revitalization work is undertaken, the microscope on all that is being done by the revitalizer is magnified even greater. Change does not bode well with people.

Revitalization is a difficult work of ministry. Revitalization is not for the faint of heart. While a church congregation may have agreed to some form of revitalization, you can bet that there will be those that voted yes but have taken a “wait and see” stance.

As the verse above specifically identifies the “HOUSE OR FAMILY” I will start here first. The family is one of the most important aspect of all ministry. For a pastor to lead well, the church and/or public will watch the conduct and behavior of the pastor. Many views or perspectives are arrived at by watching the family’s behavior. I have heard and witnessed the attacks and undermining of a pastor or even a deacon office because their children did not “act right.” When it comes to the “wife” things can become very cruel and obnoxious from the congregation. Everything will be analyzed and talked about concerning her. I have stated several times to pastors that “a pastor will only go as far in ministry as his wife will take him.” This is a critical variable if revitalization is going to be attempted. The revitalizer absolutely must have his wife 100% with him. He will face hardships and attacks directed at his family. If a revitalizer does not have the support of his wife, do not attempt a revitalization work alone!

I hate to hammer this point but think of the attack Job encountered because of his testimony of righteousness – His family – even his wife told Job to curse God and die. We all know that the family seems to be the most damaging point in ministry. SO, make sure that your family is all in before attempting a revitalization work.

The second point is FRIENDS. Close friends are a necessity in ministry; this is even more necessary in revitalization work. Ministry is lonely, revitalization is even lonelier! Back to a Job illustration of this point – Job had three “friends,” yet they were of little help. They accused Job of being unrighteous, accused him of unconfessed sin. Again, Job was on his own. His friends ridiculed him and blasted him. In revitalization, many people will not understand what or why you are doing what you are doing. We all need a Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy in our lives. We must have a “go to” person that will lift us up in times of depression and defeat. A revitalizer cannot do the work alone, this fact is true in pastoral ministry and church planting. People will not understand why we do what we do. Our only resolve is knowing that the LORD God of heaven has called us to the work. Revitalizers cannot depend on the opinions and views of friends. This sounds terrible, but the revitalizer lives and breathes the work, it is his life. Friends only know what they see [in Job’s case] and not the why.

The third aspect of having a “House in order” is the FOES IN REVITALIZATION work. This will be both the congregational people, other churches, and Satan himself. Using Job again we find in the first chapter that Satan was given permission to accost Job. Ephesians 6:10-18 is extremely specific who our battle is against. Satan will use our family, friends, and others to demoralize the pastor/revitalizer. When revitalization is attempted it has the goal of taking the dead and dying church and reestablishing the vitality of Spiritual Life into the people. Satan does not care if people go to church, but he raises up and seeks to “steal, kill and destroy.” [John 10:10] The “wait and see” voters will rise up against anything that might jeopardize their rule and power. A revitalizer must be aware of the attacks of Satan through people and on himself. If there is a vulnerable place in the revitalizer’s life, he must be repentant and restored fully before engaging in revitalization work. This personal attack will be expanded to family and friends in an attempt to thwart the work of God. I have been through the meat grinder of attacks personally and professionally because Satan and those influenced by him wanted to destroy the possibility of NEW LIFE and glory to the Father in heaven. Satan is real and his attacks are formidable!

The last area that is a must is FAITH. The faith of the man attempting the work of revitalization because of a direct call from God to do so. I will use Job again for this point. Job in the end had only his faith. His family and friends had left him. Job is sitting in ashes and a dog licking his open sores, his friends have already declared him guilty and deserving of his deplorable ash covered sores. Scripture tells us that “in all this Job did not sin or curse God.” Now please understand we know of the request of Job to have audience with God, and it was granted. God allowed Job to plead his case, but then God spoke! As a personal testimony, I have been through a most difficult time trying to revitalize a church. Initially there were many victories for the Kingdom of God. Then evil came to Church! I clung to James 1:12 for over a year. I did not understand why all this was happening to me. I questioned “where was the God that called me to this work?” I praise God for the support I had during those times of testing. My wife and friends were strong in their faith and lifted me up continually. There was a time during all the adversity that I had no job, no house, and no prospects of ministry. Yet through it all the one thing I knew I had was my FAITH. Faith grew and stood strong as the waves crashed against my life. The only thing I could firmly hold to was knowing that God was for me and with me. All I had was my Call to the ministry, and that was enough! We know how the story of Job ends. I am glad to say that season of ministry ended well for me too. Faith does not disappoint! I am stronger because of the “fires of revitalization.” But make no mistake the fires are real – make sure you have all things in order.

 

 

Dr. Jim Grant

Executive Director

Galveston Baptist Association

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Revitalization

Being a Moses or a Joshua

Being a Moses or a Joshua
I have come to understand in the world of church revitalization, there really is not any question about WHAT needs to be done or about where, when, and why. The biggest struggle in revitalization is the WHO. Are the people who need revitalization WILLING to take the necessary steps to restored health? Revitalization would much easier, if congregations, leaders, and church members enthusiastically jumped on board for the hard work of revitalization. But there is always fear and push back from folks who genuinely afraid of what the “UNKNOWN FUTURE” might look like, with or without them. I have had several situations where all the steps were slowly taken to build trust and confidence in the work to be accomplished and the leader/catalyst do the work, only to have a church or pastor balk at taking the first step. What does a Church Revitalizer do? He knows what, when, where, why and how-but the WHO says no. I will list below what experience has shown me what to do. But before I get too far, let me explain what I mean by being a Moses or a Joshua.
In Numbers 13-14 we have the story of Israel coming to the Kadesh-Barnea area, Moses sends in 12 spies to check out the land. After spending 40 days scoping out the Promised Land, the 12 spies brought a report along with some of the fruit from their journey. The “Church Business meeting in the Wilderness” voted 10-2 to NOT go into the Promised Land. There is a lot of similarities between that “church vote” and what happens in a Church revitalization vote. FEAR IS A PARALYZER. People could not or would not go forward in obedience to God because of visible and invisible giants. At this point, Moses has a choice to make; go in anyway or stay with the decision of the people. Now Moses rightly knew firsthand what He was supposed to do; but decided to stay with the people of Israel and die with the defiant generation. Fast forward 40 years to Joshua 1:1-2; Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise and cross this Jordan, you and the people.” Moses decided to live and die with a generation that chose to disobey God – very pastoral, but now good leadership. Joshua told to cross over Jordan with the people. Of course, there is a new generation of people now because everyone else died. Joshua tells the people in 1:11 “you got 3 days and we are going across. Joshua the leader did not put the decision up for a vote again. He obeyed God’s instruction. So, when a church says no the Church Revitalizer has two options be a Moses or a Joshua. I would hope as a Church Revitalizer they would choose being a Joshua.
When it is decision time; after all the talking and cajoling is done, the church has to make a definitive decision. They have options because the are autonomous.
1. Say yes and mean No
2. Say No and mean No
3. Say Yes and mean Yes
It is absolutely essential for a church revitalizer to have BUY-IN from the Church and its leadership. When we look at the three options, we have to ask what exactly the vote is saying.
The Church Revitalizer needs to find out who is saying No and Why? If there is a resounding NO, then you can probably assume that there was not enough groundwork done so the people understand are comfortable with the proposal.
Possibilities:
1. Pastor must be a risk taker, and able to make a tough decision
2. Staff – Must staff for future, not present
3. Power Brokers – emotions, power base losses
4. Older People- congregation tired, “unmovable”
5. Lay Leaders- fear of change
Change Brings Opposition, it cannot be overstated, the revitalizer must Find the Source of Opposition.
Here are some possibilities of what a NO vote may mean:
1.No may not mean to revitalization, but to the plan/approach. The people are ready, but not with the specific action plan presented.
2. A No vote could mean that too many unanswered questions remain. As a rule of thumb, the church revitalizer needs to try to “answer questions before they become questions from the people. I know this can seem like an exhausting task but providing as much information up front will alleviate questions and NO votes later. So, answer the questions before they become a question.
3. Find the barriers; in any proposal there will be barriers or non-negotiables will pop up. The Church Revitalizer must find these and deal with them before a vote is taken. That means the revitalizer has to do his homework of exegeting the Church and the Community.
Sometimes the Revitalization Team could be the hinderance to a positive Yes vote. So, the structure and substance of the Revitalization Team must be established with the right people.

Revitalization Team – this is the Working with the people of the Church step
1. Careful Selection of people; get the right people on the bus, even though you do not know where they sit
2. Communication Lines clearly established; one cannot over communicate
3. Creating By-In; the Team must own and believe the work before the congregation will. The Spies mentioned earlier did not have buy-in into the Promise Land as a personal possession.
4. Church Task not Staff Task; this is vital, for if the church only sees revitalization as something the staff is going to do – again there is no ownership. Leaders have to be on-board, lay, and professional staff
5. Clear idea of what is being asked; the people have to have a clear understanding of WHAT they are asked to do. To try and get buy-in without a plan; the revitalizer will be asking the people to buy something but have no idea what they are buying. This will result is a NO VOTE.
6. Assessment of the Church Health. The Revitalizer has to know who he is dealing with as a people. If you look at Moses’ situation, we find that they were grumblers and stiff-necked. Not really conductive to a position decision.
a. Spiritual
b. Resources

Handling Opposition – how a revitalizer deals with this area is crucial. Instead of trying to “win the argument” use tools at your disposal to confront and deal with conflict and opposition. Keep the “goal and vision of health” before the people. Do not let someone become the Main Distraction! Use the tools available to defuse opposition. Obviously, a Church Revitalizer has to present accurate information without prejudice or manipulation. Some of the tools listed below will circumvent a “wild Card” looking to derail the train.

1. Use Health Assessments [Transformational Church]
2. Perform SWOT analysis of Ministries
3. Perform Community Demographics analysis
4. Create Vision for a Future
5. Get the “Elephants” on the Table – a revitalizer will deal with either a dinosaur or an elephant. Dinosaurs go extinct; but elephants can adapt. Make sure you know which one you have!
Finally, No means No – in the end; an autonomous church may very well say NO and mean NO. As a Church revitalizer, you cannot become their Moses! Even the Pastor may have to evaluate who he is in light of a no vote. Ultimately a Church will decide. The revitalizer cannot become an obstacle to possible future decisions. No may mean no for now. If the Door is closed, do not bust it down. Some Churches will just die. Just as a Church will have to count the cost of moving forward or staying the same, so does the Church Revitalizer – he must count the Cost

Jim Grant, D Min
Executive Director
Galveston Baptist Association
Blog: Preachbetweenthelines.com

Leave a comment

Filed under 2020 missed passages, Church Revitalization

breaking the cycle of sin

Breaking Sin Cycles

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Revitalization

When Generations Collide

when Generations Collide

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Revitalization

Vicious Cycle

Readings in Judges can be down right depressing. When Joshua dies after 30 years of leading the Israelites into the Promise Land; I would imagine there was a very high feeling of success. Finally, Israel got the long Promised Land covenant to Abraham. While God had said that “wherever the sole of your feet would touch had already been given to them;” the conquest  of the Canaanite tribes still had to be done.

Joshua, a man of war, and great integrity of character delivered the people. Obviously Joshua was a very influential leader, for we find in Judges 2:10; Israel served God all the days of Joshua, the days of the Elders who followed Joshua; but there rose a generation that knew not the acts of God.  It amazes me as a person and a pastor how quickly people are to forget the blessings of God in their lives. The very next verse tells us that Israel went after Baals; the walked away from Yahweh; provoked Him to anger and incurred His wrath. It’s that same mentality of “what have you done for me lately?” Israel was a wayward, hard-headed and stiff-necked people – careful so is the Church for the most part!

I know the book of Hosea describes the terrible marriage Hoses and Gomer had; when I think of Israel and the spiritual marriage to God – oh how unfaithful they were to Him. Even in the wrath and anger of our holy and righteous God; there is great compassion and mercy. When Israel [and we] cry out to our Lord in distress that we self-inflected; God hears and delivers us. I was thinking about the Judges and how they were called to “deliver” Israel and how that they are a good archetypal of Jesus our deliverer!

The book of Judges reveals the insane cycle of Israel coming and leaving God continually. The cycle shows the unfaithfulness of Israel and the long-suffering of Jehovah. It appears that when a nation/church experiences times of opulence and abundance that a “look what I’ve done” attitude – pride develops and we leave our Heavenly Father who has done it all for us. I cannot but help think of the United States in this analogy. When we are in times of distress or economic decline, we seek after God – even those who don’t know God call on His name for deliverance. God hears the prayers of His people and a return of blessing and hope result. Soon however, people start to drift from the Lord – He isn’t as important now, for things are going good. Henry Blackaby speaks of this vicious cycle in his book “Fresh Encounter.”

One of the problems that I feel precipitated Israels waywardness is they broke the covenant with God. He told them to NOT intermarry with the people; do not take their gods and eliminate the Canaanite people. They failed in all aspects. Early in chapter one, we find that 6 of the tribes did not totally remove the people for their land. Eventually, co-existing with them and sharing their children and customs. Instead of being a change agent to the people; the culture and Canaanites change Israel. Over and over again through the book of Judges, the people of God become enslaved to the very people they were to oust from the land. In our homeland toady we find that we have been infiltrated with so many Eastern religions and customs; when Christianity is lived out correctly, it is declared “offensive” and legislated to stop. Now, before I get too far – the Gospel is for all – all people, all cultures all creation. But the world is having more impact on the Church then we are on the world!

Compromise and apathy are the order of the day. We are to be IN the world, not OF the world; sadly the latter is true. Is America and the American church already in the Vicious cycle of judgment and deliverance?

Leave a comment

Filed under 2017 Peneteuch, Church Revitalization

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Revitalization

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2017 Peneteuch, Church Revitalization

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under 2017 Peneteuch, Church Revitalization