By Dr. Jim Grant
Dr. Jim Grant is Director of Missions of the Galveston Baptist Association in Texas
Stress, anxiety, emotions, and mental anguish can be a demoralizer for a pastor dealing with everyday ministry life. When you add in the revitalization variable everything is magnified and intensified.
Since the trials and troubles of ordinary ministry life can zap the enthusiasm and energy from a pastor, and knowing that revitalization is a most difficult task under good conditions, we must investigate how to navigate the journey of revitalization and its personal and professional impacts. I will use the testing of Job throughout this article to bring better understanding of the need for personal and professional “order” in ones life.
Scripture tells us that to be qualified as an elder/pastor that “he must lead or manage his family well.” [2 Timothy 3:4] This verse actually applies to the realm of ministry, but also to the effect on personal life matters. Obviously, all of us know about “pastors and their families living is glass houses” and the effects or scrutiny that that brings. When a revitalization work is undertaken, the microscope on all that is being done by the revitalizer is magnified even greater. Change does not bode well with people.
Revitalization is a difficult work of ministry. Revitalization is not for the faint of heart. While a church congregation may have agreed to some form of revitalization, you can bet that there will be those that voted yes but have taken a “wait and see” stance.
As the verse above specifically identifies the “HOUSE OR FAMILY” I will start here first. The family is one of the most important aspect of all ministry. For a pastor to lead well, the church and/or public will watch the conduct and behavior of the pastor. Many views or perspectives are arrived at by watching the family’s behavior. I have heard and witnessed the attacks and undermining of a pastor or even a deacon office because their children did not “act right.” When it comes to the “wife” things can become very cruel and obnoxious from the congregation. Everything will be analyzed and talked about concerning her. I have stated several times to pastors that “a pastor will only go as far in ministry as his wife will take him.” This is a critical variable if revitalization is going to be attempted. The revitalizer absolutely must have his wife 100% with him. He will face hardships and attacks directed at his family. If a revitalizer does not have the support of his wife, do not attempt a revitalization work alone! I hate to hammer this point but think of the attack Job encountered because of his testimony of righteousness – His family – even his wife told Job to curse God and die. We all know that the family seems to be the most damaging point in ministry. SO, make sure that your family is all in before attempting a revitalization work.
The second point is FRIENDS. Close friends are a necessity in ministry; this is even more necessary in revitalization work. Ministry is lonely, revitalization is even lonelier! Back to a Job illustration of this point – Job had three “friends,” yet they were of little help. They accused Job of being unrighteous, accused him of unconfessed sin. Again, Job was on his own. His friends ridiculed him and blasted him. In revitalization, many people will not understand what or why you are doing what you are doing. We all need a Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy in our lives. We must have a “go to” person that will lift us up in times of depression and defeat. A revitalizer cannot do the work alone, this fact is true in pastoral ministry and church planting. People will not understand why we do what we do. Our only resolve is knowing that the LORD God of heaven has called us to the work. Revitalizers cannot depend on the opinions and views of friends. This sounds terrible, but the revitalizer lives and breathes the work, it is his life. Friends only know what they see [in Job’s case] and not the why.
The third aspect of having a “House in order” is the FOES IN REVITALIZATION work. This will be both the congregational people, other churches, and Satan himself. Using Job again we find in the first chapter that Satan was given permission to accost Job. Ephesians 6:10-18 is extremely specific who our battle is against. Satan will use our family, friends, and others to demoralize the pastor/revitalizer. When revitalization is attempted it has the goal of taking the dead and dying church and reestablishing the vitality of Spiritual Life into the people. Satan does not care if people go to church, but he raises up and seeks to “steal, kill and destroy.” [John 10:10] The “wait and see” voters will rise up against anything that might jeopardize their rule and power. A revitalizer must be aware of the attacks of Satan through people and on himself. If there is a vulnerable place in the revitalizer’s life, he must be repentant and restored fully before engaging in revitalization work. This personal attack will be expanded to family and friends in an attempt to thwart the work of God. I have been through the meat grinder of attacks personally and professionally because Satan and those influenced by him wanted to destroy the possibility of NEW LIFE and glory to the Father in heaven. Satan is real and his attacks are formidable!
The last area that is a must is FAITH. The faith of the man attempting the work of revitalization because of a direct call from God to do so. I will use Job again for this point. Job in the end had only his faith. His family and friends had left him. Job is sitting in ashes and a dog licking his open sores, his friends have already declared him guilty and deserving of his deplorable ash covered sores. Scripture tells us that “in all this Job did not sin or curse God.” Now please understand we know of the request of Job to have audience with God, and it was granted. God allowed Job to plead his case, but then God spoke! As a personal testimony, I have been through a most difficult time trying to revitalize a church. Initially there were many victories for the Kingdom of God. Then evil came to Church! I clung to James 1:12 for over a year. I did not understand why all this was happening to me. I questioned “where was the God that called me to this work?” I praise God for the support I had during those times of testing. My wife and friends were strong in their faith and lifted me up continually. There was a time during all the adversity that I had no job, no house, and no prospects of ministry. Yet through it all the one thing I knew I had was my FAITH. Faith grew and stood strong as the waves crashed against my life. The only thing I could firmly hold to was knowing that God was for me and with me. All I had was my Call to the ministry, and that was enough! We know how the story of Job ends. I am glad to say that season of ministry ended well for me too. Faith does not disappoint! I am stronger because of the “fires of revitalization.” But make no mistake the fires are real – make sure you have all things in order.
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