A Guide to Church Revitalization
Editors Note: The following excerpt is from Brian Croft’s chapter titled “Clear the Runway: Preparing Your Church for Revitalization” in A Guide to Church Revitalization. This new title from SBTS Press is available for download Monday, June 15, 2015. _____________________ It was a cold Wednesday evening when I walked into this struggling church. A young,…
Editors Note: The following excerpt is from Brian Croft’s chapter titled “Clear the Runway: Preparing Your Church for Revitalization” in A Guide to Church Revitalization. This new title from SBTS Press is available for download Monday, June 15, 2015.
It was a cold Wednesday evening when I walked into this struggling church. A young, eager pastor greeted me at the door of the meeting room and introduced me to the committee. They were a friendly group, but timid. Most were older pillars of the church. All were white. The committee had formed because the church realized that something was not right. They needed a change, but weren’t sure what that was. They knew the church was broken, but didn’t know how to fix it. I had been invited to this first of what would be numerous meetings of a church revitalization committee. My role was to help prepare them to walk through whatever revitalization would look like for them.
The first thing this group needed to do was honestly assess where the church was in its current state. Not what it once was, not what they wished it was, but a realistic and accurate appraisal of where the church was right then and how it got there. I presented five areas to help them think clearly through the process of evaluation. Evaluating these five areas are crucial to every congregation if it is to navigate the revitalization process well.
The first question I asked in that committee meeting was, “Who’s in charge?” Let me be clear on what I am asking. I am not asking who the bylaws say is in charge. I am not asking who moderates the business meetings or leads the deacons meetings. I am asking, “Who has the greatest influence in the church?” To whom do church members go when decisions need to be made? To whom do church members listen the most? Just because a pastor gets paid a full-time salary and preaches every week doesn’t make him the man in charge. You must determine where the authority in the church really lies. Only then can you compare your answer to Scripture’s answer.
The Bible is clear about who is in charge: Jesus Christ. Scripture calls him the chief shepherd (1 Pet 5:4). His authority is mediated to us through his Word. If a church willingly submits to the authority of Christ, there is no confusion about where the final word lies. Once during a deacons’ meeting, I had to confront a deacon about non-attendance at church. When he pointedly asked me where in the Bible it says we have to be at church, I replied: “Hebrews 10:25, ‘Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some.’” That ended the discussion. Only a church’s commitment to the authority of Christ has the power to do that.
The question tied to this area asks, “Whom do I follow?” It is essential to identify the leaders in the church. Southern Baptist churches have experienced an epidemic of short pastorates. One consequence of this tragedy is an environment in which church members have to assume roles of leadership spawned by the vacuum of pastoral leadership when there is no pastor. To be clear, the problem is not with filling roles of leadership during the absence of a pastor, but with what happens to those roles once there is a pastor.
The revolving-door cycle of short-term pastorates creates a breeding ground in which churches, too frequently burned, come to distrust the pastoral office and allow others to usurp leadership roles. Every church must realistically consider who the church is truly following. Only then can a more biblical paradigm be taught and pursued. That pattern consists of the two biblical offices of the church: pas- tors and deacons. Faithfulness to the biblical paradigm involves having not only the offices, but a proper understanding of them as well. This means teaching what are the qualifications of pastors and deacons and what are the proper roles of each (1 Tim 3:1-13; 1 Pet 5:1-4; Titus 1:5-9; Heb 13:17).
Read more by downloading A Guide to Church Revitalization, released Monday, June 15, 2015.