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Revitalizing a Church, Part 1
A Church Revitalized
I've been asked to speak on church revitalization at the Advance Conference this year. Six years ago when I was called as a pastor, Homestead Heights was a declining 41-year-old Baptist church. Attendance was down to about 350 people, and more were leaving. Today, the Summit Church consists of four campuses spread across Raleigh-Durham. To God's glory, this past Easter we had 4400 people in service and saw 160 profess faith in Christ.
Revitalized To Be Gospel-Centered
I've entitled my talk "Planting is for Wimps: Revitalizing a Church around the Gospel." That is, of course, tongue-in-cheek; we believe, and are heavily involved, in church planting (and if not, I'd never admit it at an Acts 29 conference)! We have started a church planting center at our campus called SendRDU, and our goal is to plant 1000 churches by 2050. But at the same time, America is rapidly becoming a boneyard of emptying churches, and our situation cries out for pastors who can lead their churches away from the idolatry of traditionalism and back to the centrality of the gospel.
I am often asked by guys whether or not they should try to revitalize their current church or plant a new one. Only God can show you what your situation requires, but I want to pose two questions that I think anyone considering revitalization should ask:
- Why, exactly, do I want to revitalize this church?
- Has God been preparing my church for revitalization?
We will address the first question here, and the next in Part 2 of this series.
Why Do I Want to Revitalize?
There are a lot of bad reasons to attempt church revitalization. Here are two major ones:
1. To Restore Institutional Glory
Often we want to revitalize a church because we remember how great it used to be. We are saddened to see a once-thriving church in decline, so we want to "save" the institution and restore its glory days. The problem is that a local church is a covenant community, and it's composed of the people who are currently part of that community, not those from its past. Jesus died to redeem the one universal church and will preserve it forever. In heaven, there will be no "Summit Church," no "Mars Hill Church." If you want to revitalize a church, do it for the care of its members or the excitement over those it could reach, not to restore the glory of the past.
2. To Save the Resources of the Church
On one hand, you hate to see the sacrifice of previous generations go to waste and millions of dollars of property "lost." On the other hand, the Bible repeatedly instructs us that we should look to God to meet the needs of what we are doing today. The story of God's provision of manna in Exodus 16 shows us that God does not want us to depend on his provision yesterday for what we need today. Practically speaking, you will likely waste time and money trying to redeem resources that could be better spent starting something new. The most valuable resource of the church, the only one really worth saving, is its people. To be continued.