By Dr. Jim Grant
November 25, 2014
There is a new buzz word that is circulating among evangelical denominations – the word is revitalization.
Many surveys and research have been done to determine the condition of the Church and what can be done to correct the 80-85% of local churches that are plateaued, declining or dead.
I have been surprised at the great number of books, articles and seminars on the subject of Church Revitalization. The interesting observation is that much of the prescribed remedies come from a repackaged Church Planting point of view.
Both campaigns are necessary for accomplishing the Great Commission. New churches are needed to meet the growing population and changes in culture. The Church Planting movement has brought great diversity to “how church is done.” Church Revitalization is also needed for many churches are anemic, unhealthy and dying rapidly. Church revitalization is the new “buzz word” in almost all church growth and church health seminars. There is a struggle however of putting church growth and church health in the same sentence for revitalization. The former indicates many times a numbers focus; while the latter reveals a wellness desire.
Clearly there is a different world between planting and revitalizing. I was amazed at the number of books that suddenly became available on church revitalization. However, I do not believe that a success story of “rags to riches” is necessarily a revitalization example; numbers don’t tell the story.
Church revivalization is more about the core health of a church. It is about finding the cancer within the body through a surgeon-like investigation into the past; not treating surface symptoms. The focus is not on building up the attendance numbers with programs that feed the consumerism of Christianity. Revitalization is a very difficult task; in fact going through a revitalization process will result in loss of members and possible loss of job.
Two things I think need to be considered about revitalization. First, everyone is not a revitalization leader. A mere 8% are true revitalizers and super revitalizers. While there are many similar characteristics between church planters and church revitalizers, the two are not the same. Secondly, it is time to start talking with the practioners of church revitalization. Theory and philosophy have their place, but with the current emphasis, the guy in the trenches needs to hear from those who are revitalizers.
I appreciate that there is a Renovate Conference; but it must grow in its scope to include real stories with all the pitfalls and praises. If church revitalization is truly a work of only 8% of all pastors, then it is unreasonable to expect that they can be the remedy of 80-85% of plateaued, dead and dying churches. Planting new works is part of the solution, but thus far that thrust is not even replacing the losses. A pondering question; could it be that we must reverse the trend of “specialization” within pastors, and develop more versatile pastors for the Church?
 Gene McIntosh, Taking Your Church to the Next Level: What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There. Grand Rapids, Mi. Baker Books, 2009. Pg. 93-95.
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