[Editor’s Note: This post has been adapted from Bill Henard’s book, Can These Bones Live? This new book on church revitalization can be purchased at Lifeway.com.]
If you are going to take the challenge to tackle church revitalization, how should you prepare yourself? What would be some necessary personal and biblical prerequisites that would be essential for you as the servant-leader of the church?
An Absolute Dependence upon the Holy Spirit
In spite of any revitalization project or method that you might follow, without the Holy Spirit our efforts are frustrating and will be fruitless. It is extremely important to understand how God uses means to bring about His program. We recognize the absolute sovereignty of our Savior Jesus (Phil. 2:5–11). Skeptics may try to cast doubt, but, in my opinion, no question exists as to His rule and reign. In His sovereignty, though, God has chosen to use people, programs, and methods to carry out His work. Our conclusion must be out of those facts that Jesus is not bound to produce results just because we implement the right method or follow the right program. Remember this truth: church revitalization occurs because of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, not just because of our efforts.
A Consistent Spiritual Revitalization in Your Own Life
In understanding how God uses people to accomplish His tasks and the connection with the Holy Spirit’s power, we must pursue diligently a consistent, personal spiritual growth formation in our own lives. One of the things that I have learned in ministry is that a pastor can become accomplished enough in methodology that he forgets his own spiritual growth. He can preach well-crafted sermons and do needs-based ministry and not be walking with Christ himself. One might not draw that conclusion or believe that it is possible, but considering the power of God’s Word and His promises, some pastors can see some results in spite of their own shortsightedness. In all honesty, sometimes pastors are successful because of their personalities and abilities. They would succeed whether they are selling Jesus or selling soap.
Eventually the lack of spiritual growth will catch up to all of us. This fact is especially true in church revitalization. A church located in a prime area with little or no competition would probably have to have people stationed at the front door with shotguns to keep it from growing (although in today’s culture, we might begin seeing even these churches struggle). Church revitalization originates from a different breed. No church revitalization project will be easy. Therefore, the pastor must be involved in a daily, personal study and application of Scripture.
A God-Sized Vision
Take time to study the Scripture concerning the makeup of the church. Many excellent books have been written that develop a clear ecclesiology and practice for the church. Look beyond these books and ask, “What would God want for my church?” What do you believe God wants to see happen and what do you want to see happen in your church? Out of these questions, formulate a vision. If no obstacles existed, what characteristics would define the church? Even if obstacles occur (which they will), what basic, foundational, and biblical values are essential and nonnegotiable? It is very important that these values and this vision be written down so that they can be articulated at the proper time. Know where you want to go before you begin the journey and make sure that it is something that demands the attention of God.
A Compassion for God’s People
Never forget that the people you are serving are God’s people. An easy temptation is to see people as objects or projects rather than as the redeemed of God. Remember that the pastor will answer for how he leads God’s people (Heb. 13:17). Therefore, make the commitment early to be patient, understanding, and sensitive to the church. Most of them will never be where you are in developing vision and foresight for the church. That reason alone is why you are the leader. As the leader, though, do not run so far ahead of the church that you are no longer leading. Love people and determine ahead of time to give them time to follow.
A Commitment to Integrity
The ends do not always justify the means, even when the process results in something biblical. Unfortunately, pastors allow the desire to grow the church to open the way for all types of compromises. No one can really say what the results will be from a church that has refused to be salt and light and a people who have bought into the idea that being like the world means reaching the world. We have seen the result of fallen pastors and failed churches. We know that the church will survive and prevail, but what will be lost in the meantime if integrity does not guide the pastor? Therefore, without regret, be a person of integrity.