The Cost of Church Revitalization

I’m amazed by these words by researcher Ed Stetzer in his book Planting Missional Churches: “Church revitalization does not happen much, but it does happen sometimes. I have been struck by how infrequently it actually occurs.”

Talk about sobering! Church revitalization is possible, but it’s rare. According to statistics, most existing churches are in a state of plateau or decline. The good news is that these churches can be turned around, at least in theory. The bad news is that most of them will never pull out of their decline.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to turn a church around. I can think of a lot of churches that are in decline, but I can only think of a few that have turned around. Here’s what they have in common.

First, they got uncomfortable. I’m amazed how easy it is to drift into a comfortable life and ministry. Sadly, comfort and decline go together. Churches that become stable and comfortable have chosen safety, but it’s a safety that leads to death. Churches that die are churches that have forgotten how to take risks and live dangerously in their mission.

In each church turnaround, the church made a decision to begin living on the edge again. This meant taking new, very real risks. Leaders are the first to go here. Leaders put a lot on the line when they choose to lead a church into risk and discomfort.

Second, they confronted dysfunction. Churches have a way of slipping into dysfunction over time. Because it’s scary to confront dysfunction, a lot of it goes unchecked and eventually it becomes unnoticed. The dysfunction eventually begins to choke the church and its ministry. Until the dysfunction is confronted, there’s little hope for a turnaround.

The cost of confronting dysfunction is high. In each church turnaround, people got angry, and many people left. In some cases, the church was almost stripped to its core. It took courage and a willingness to suffer. The payoff was substantial, but there’s no denying that it cost a lot to those who were willing to confront the dysfunction.

Third, they refocused on the gospel and on mission. It’s not enough to get uncomfortable and to confront dysfunction. Churches need a positive focus. In the faith communities I know that have turned around, the churches became focused on two things: the core of the Christian faith, centered on the person and work of Jesus; and the mission to take that news to others.

It’s no wonder that church revitalization is rare. In each case, the turnaround took years, and the pain was significant. Both church planting and church revitalization are necessary, and both are costly and risky. But churches can be revitalized, and the cost, though significant, is more than worth it.

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Darryl Dash

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 

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