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7 Words of Encouragement in Church Revitalization

I’m a church planter. Having planted two successful churches, my heart is to see more church plants launch and do well. I think once church planting gets “in your blood”, it’s always there.

A couple years ago, however, God called me into an established church in need of some revitalization. (Actually my first church was a revitalization church.) It’s been an incredible couple of years. God has blessed us in so many ways. It’s harder than church planting — just being honest — but its very rewarding in so many ways.

I’ve encouraged numerous young leaders to not ignore the opportunities in church revitalization. As much as we need new plants — we need to revive some existing church — a lot of existing churches.

The work of revitalization is similar to church planting. We are starting some things new. We are building momentum around a vision. We are constantly looking for new leaders. But, its also incredibly different. There are unique challenges in church revitalization. As I’m learning things, I’m trying to pass them along.

Here are 7 words of encouragement in church revitalization:

Don’t high-jack the church – You can change a church where it can experience growth again without taking away the DNA of the church. That means you may not be able to make every change you want to make. It may mean you move slower than you want to at times. But, the general culture of the church — at least the one that has lasted for generations — should not be on the table. Now here’s the if — and this is the big if — if the culture or DNA — or part of that culture — is one that is destructive to the future vitality of the church then it needs to be changed. If the church is opposed to any change, it chews up and spits out pastors, it’s structure is so archaic that it just doesn’t work anymore — change it. But, if it’s just a flavor of who the people are — it is probably best to leave it alone. For example, if it’s a church that has a history of loving big events, don’t kill all of them — find a way to make them work for Kingdom growth.

It will take longer than you think it does. To them it’s likes rocket pace and to you it feels like snail pace. In church planting, you can change in a week. That’s usually not the case in revitalization. Take time to bring people along that have invested years in building the church. Over time, when trust is developed, it will get easier, and you’ll be able to move quicker.

Celebrate the history while shaping the future. Don’t pretend that everything old is bad. It’s not. It’s what has helped the church survive as long as it has. It may not be working as well right now, and there will likely need to be changes, but some of the old things were and are good things in principle. Recognize that, acknowledge it, and people will be more likely to at least appease good changes.

Recognize the sense of loss in change. It’s the number one reason change is resisted. (I wrote a whole post on this subject.) Don’t ignore or underestimate how big of a deal change is to some people. Be humble. Considerate. Compassionate. That doesn’t mean don’t change. It does mean don’t change assuming it’s “no big deal”. It is.

Love the people even when you don’t love everything about the church. You may not like some of the structure of the church or the process you have to go through to make change. But you must love the people. And, loving the people will help you lead the transitions you need to make. Years ago, God convicted me that if I focus most on loving Him that loving people in any church, any city, or any setting will be easy for me.

Don’t let a few critics determine your self worth. You’ll have critics. Make no mistake about it. And, some aren’t very nice in how they offer it. You will have to make hard decisions. Very hard decisions. (Don’t make them without input, but make them.) But, you will be making changes that impact people  (as all changes do) — people who have been at the church for years. You may know the changes are needed. They even me know the changes are needed. But there will be resistance. And there will be angry people. And when people are angry they say and do things they may not do otherwise. But, here’s what you need to know. If God called you to it you can be assured there are usually more supporters than detractors. The detractors just often have stronger vocal chords.

Rediscover more than you reinvent. You may need a lot of changes to be vibrant again. Most likely, however, in spite of where they are today, the church has some positive moments in their history. If not, maybe it’s time to close some doors and redistribute the Kingdom dollars elsewhere. (How’s that for honesty?) But, I’ve found most churches have had better days. Help the church rediscover the heartbeat of the times people loved — when things were healthy, lives were changing and Kingdom growth was occurring. Build momentum as you celebrate the emotions and the passions from the good days of their heritage. Lead people to rediscover that joy they once had for the mission.

Those are just a few things for now. I’ll share more as I learn more.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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  • Pastor Samuel Raju. says:

    Dear Beloved Brother Ron,
    Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    I feel it is a great privilege to introduce myself to you. I am Pastor Samuel Raju, Doing Gospel work in Pithapuram Since 1985, a Central Town for more than 70 "Rural" and "Coastal Villages". Our town spreads over the East-Coast line, State of Andhra Pradesh, South India. I have been blessed with 5 Children (4 Daughters and 1 Son). I came from a "Hindu Family" background and my parents are "illiterates" and anchored in superstitions and "Idol-Worshiping". When I was 10 years old in 1978, that time one Pastor came to my home and told about Jesus Christ. Then my whole family members believed and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and took Baptism. And I took baptism through this scripture, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1Timothy 1:15. Then I realized the God's call through this scripture, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel” 1Cor 9:16. And I responded & dedicated my life to it and started doing his work through "GRACE BAPTIST CHURCH" & "GRACE MINISTRIES" to "Reach the Unreached" Villages with the Gospel as our main Goal. “I strived to Preach the Gospel, not where Christ was named”…Romans 15:20.

    We are so happy for that there are 25 Co-Workers (Pastors) and we are all endeavoring our best to spread the Gospel in Towns & Villages by our diligent work and devotion. Besides regular weekly services, And every day I and our ministry 25 Pastors are formed as a "GRACE GOSPEL TEAM" for going to 3 villages surrounding the areas of Pithapuram Town. Monthly once we are going to as a team by “Rented Van" comprising 40 to 50 members doing Lord's ministry and around about 50 kilometers from Pithapuram Town. We are distributing "Tracks" and "New Testaments" in that area. We are conducting the "Open Gospel Meeting" also in that area. Wherever we go, there we are visiting every House in that village and praying for the sick people. We have “GRACE BIBLE COLLEGE” for training to the Church Planters. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”. Mark 16:15.

    With much "Prayer & Leading" of the God we started "GRACE CHILDREN HOME & GRACE WIDOWS HOME” are running in "Rented House" through the help of generous gift of our congregation. God is faithful in helping us to take care of “25 Children & 25 Widows”, we are so happy to bring "Joy & Hope" in the faces and deep heart, they counted experience the "Godly Love" through our Service. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit “Orphans and Widows” in their trouble”. James 1:27. I am doing this ministry by “faith” only. Because I believe this wonderful scripture, that is: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus”. Phil4:19. So, please pray for our “Ministry Activities” in India.

    Once again thank you for reading our mail. I would like to request to send your prayer request to us, we have a "GRACE PRAYER TEAM" to pray for your family and your ministry. Thank you for your "Love & Prayers" for our Family & our Ministry in India. We will continue to pray for your Family and your Ministry. We are looking forward to hear from you soonly.

    Thanking You,
    With Love & Prayer,
    Pastor Samuel Raju.
    Skype: pastorsamuelraju