By Mark Dance
In the late 1980s, the hyper-focus on revivals subtly shifted to church growth, which then gradually morphed into church health.
Today, church revitalization is the latest target for pastors to shoot for, which is only helpful if the target is clear and correct. I propose it’s neither.
After more than three decades of ministry, the distinction between all of these nebulous terms still eludes me, so I’m going to coin my own term–revivalization.
How’s that for clarity?
Regardless of the nomenclature you prefer, my guess is every pastor wants their church to thrive and change the world, as they should.
May I be so bold, however, as to ask if church revitalization is the primary target pastors should be shooting for?
I propose pastors should focus first on personal revitalization, not church revitalization. Is it realistic to hope for a lasting church revitalization that’s disconnected from pastoral revitalization?
These goals are not mutually exclusive.
Please don’t read this as a rant against revitalization when it’s just the opposite. Neither is this a backdoor dig at any minister or ministry.
My opinion is based on anecdotal evidence of my last five years of service to pastors through LifeWay, in addition to 29 years of service as a lead pastor.
When Jesus addressed the seven churches of Revelation, he specifically spoke to the angels (messengers/pastors), as well as the lampstands (churches) they served.
Write to the angel (pastor) of the church in Ephesus…I know that you have persevered and endured hardships for the sake of my name, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:1b,3-5).
Don’t forget the need for pastoral revitalization.
Since the health of every church is intrinsically connected to the health of the pastor who leads it, don’t be tempted to bypass pastoral revitalization to get to church revitalization.
There are many paths to church health, but the journey is too often cut short by an unhealthy or confused pastor.
The road to church revitalization is typically paved by programs, which can be helpful, but won’t lead to lasting change.
- Keep praying for revival in your church.
- Keep making disciples through groups.
- Keep sending missionaries and evangelists.
- Keep starting new churches and leading established ones.
- Keep equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.
- Keep building bridges to the five generations in your church.
These are very important initiatives, so keep up the good work! Just remember the Ephesians were also commended for their good works, yet fell short of their most important work of loving Jesus.
Church revitalization doesn’t start with a new program; it starts with a repentant, revitalized pastor who puts Jesus first.