Are You a Church Revitalizer?
Discerning God’s call is often a difficult, and prayer-filled, endeavor.
Discerning God’s call is often a difficult, and prayer-filled, endeavor. As I was setting out for seminary I felt led to church planting. I possessed entrepreneurial experience, casting a vision, a love for seeing new things flourish so I immediately wanted to connect with an experienced church planter.
So, we met and discussed the call to church planting, but immediately this church planter put the brakes on the conversation when he asked, “are you even called to pastor?” To say my internal reaction to this was kind and seasoned with humility I would be lying. But looking back on this conversation I am thankful for this question because before a man can pastor a church revitalization or pastor a church plant he must be called and qualified as a pastor (more on that in a subsequent post).
Assuming you are both called and qualified to pastor, generally, what questions should you ask to consider a calling to church revitalization specifically? Here are five aspects to consider:
Am I Intimately Pursuing Jesus?
This aspect is so important. It is the most important, if you are not doing this, you should not be a Revitalizer or a pastor. Seek counsel, pray that God would grow in you a passion for him and his word. Without a growing relationship with Jesus, service to His church is merely reverting back to seeking approval for works. And brother, it will never work.
Remember, who is it that purchased the church with his blood? It was Jesus. He must be adored by the pastor of the congregation. Your church will see when this is or isn’t happening, but more importantly the Chief Shepherd will see. You can’t fake it.
Am I Zealously Prioritizing Members Becoming More Like Jesus?
If you are pursuing Jesus personally, an outflow of this is that you desire your congregation to also be pursuing Jesus more. So, you prioritize this. In Revitalization, the cause for many churches declining is that the majority of the members have begun to look to other things as more important. That’s not to say they abandon Christ. It is to say that the most important thing; Jesus, has become less important and other things have increased in value.
A reminder for this is pointing them to their first love while also asking, “Have you ever trusted in Christ?”
No doubt you may feel as though your calendar is full and there is no time to pour into your members through discipleship, but this is the work of a pastor, a member, and Jesus follower. After all, this is Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-20. Make disciples.
In your weekly calendar block off time for discipling your members. A result of discipling is that your people will talk, act, and look more like Jesus. And when your people look more like Jesus your community will look more like Jesus.
Am I Faithfully in this for the Long Haul?
Church Revitalization doesn’t happen overnight just like the downward spiral didn’t happen overnight. Many times, these trends have developed over years and decades of unhealthy programs and theological emphases. Are you willing to give the time it needs?
One of my mentors has said not to go to a church in need of revitalization if you aren’t planning to be there more than 5 years. This is a good standard, but it is not enough to begrudgingly stay until the 5 year mark. Faithfulness in this work entails being present mind, body, and soul in the work. There will be days that you want to throw in the towel. Find other pastors to encourage and uplift you in your work and stay the course. Are you willing and able to do this when the going gets tough?
Am I Selflessly Motivated by Growing his Kingdom?
I was headed out of the sanctuary one Sunday morning and heard a member say, “we had 19 in worship this morning!” This was joyous news as it was almost 100% growth in a relatively short time. I was encouraged. The church was encouraged. Having visitors attend your church should be exciting, but it should not be praised.
Are you driven, I mean, the one who counts the numbers every Sunday, checks the giving, and feels personally responsible for all the growth of your church? Is it upon these numbers that you ride the wave of success and failure? Be reminded, you are not building your church. Christ is building his church, against which no opposition, not even the gates of hell will prevail.
Am I Joyfully Able to Compromise?
The dreaded word: compromise, where no one truly gets what they want, right? Wrong, in fact there are some areas in a Church Revitalization where pushing an agenda would do great harm. It would be best to navigate this area humbly and joyfully compromise on areas that don’t require immediate action biblically. But much of the ability to compromise well comes from a leadership style.
Modern leadership has corrupted the biblical definition of leadership. To look for our model we should look to Christ’s example, to the imagery David gives in Psalm 21. Pastoring is shepherding, and thus, is not mainly heavy-handed discipline. This aspect necessitates some give and take. Navigating the difficult decisions with grace and patience but also grace and truth. There may be decisions that need to be made that can (and should) wait. But, there may be decisions of open sin where a decision must come.
Lastly, as one pastor cautioned, “Don’t be a jerk!” An important word. Are you intimately pursuing Jesus? Are you zealously prioritizing your members looking more like Jesus? Are you faithfully in this for the long haul? Are you selflessly motivated by growing his kingdom, and lastly are you joyfully able to compromise?
These are not must haves, but they are important gauges in discerning your fit in the ministry of Church Revitalization. You want to know something though? You may have 2 or 3 attributes today and God may grow you by the power of His Spirit. As he is revitalizing his church he will simultaneously be revitalizing you.
 A great book on this is Shepherds After My Own Heart by Timothy S. Laniak. In it Laniak traces the role of pastor through the framework of Shepherding. He roots this premise in the theological aspect of Shepherding in Ancient Near Eastern literature and through the progressive revelation of Yahweh shepherding the Israelites, and ultimately to Christ shepherding his people (John 10).