Defining church revitalization is not an easy task. It falls into the category of things like love and leadership, it’s hard to define, but easy to recognize. However, I like what Winston Churchill once said: “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”
The Tennessee Baptist Convention has a strategy for church revitalization. At its core is the desire to see 500 churches revitalized by 2024. To begin with, we must define what we mean when we talk about a revitalized church.
A definition of church revitalization
Church revitalization is a process by which a church is redirected toward a healthy and sustained: 1. Exaltation of Christ, 2. Proclamation of the gospel to the lost, 3. Affirmation of the Scripture to be the guide for church revitalization and 4. Expression God’s love in their communities.
Allow me a breakdown of the components of this definition:
Church revitalization is a process: It won’t happen overnight. There will be many twists and turns along the way as the process is worked out in each individual situation.
A church is redirected toward a healthy and sustained: A revitalized church is typically a process of at least three years. Over that period, the difference between lasting change and temporary uptick can be discerned.
Exaltation of Christ: This is the foundation and purpose for seeing churches revitalized. This process is for the glory of God alone.
Proclamation of the gospel to the lost: Sharing the gospel is a command of Christ. Every church that is alive and flourishing will be actively sharing the good news with the lost.
Affirmation of the Scripture to be the guide for church revitalization: The Word provides our game plan for revitalization. This is not about programs, cultural trends or traditions. This is about measuring our church against the pattern for New Testament churches.
Expression God’s love in their communities: One of the most common characteristics of a church in decline is their loss of connection and impact in their communities. Revitalized churches make a difference.
Traits of a revitalized church
So how will we determine if these components of our definition are a reality? How will we gauge if a church is making headway? We believe churches progressing in this revitalization process will portray some if not all of the following traits:
— Lost people will be saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship.
— Attendance increases will occur in corporate worship and Bible studies.
— Stewardship patterns will be noticeably improved.
— Members will adopt a more missional lifestyle in their community and around the world.
— Church leadership development will become a priority.
— New 1-5-1 groups will be started, resulting in new church starts.
— Pastoral leadership will notice a “new spirit” within the church.
That’s our working definition of church revitalization. Does that define your church?
Bob Brown is the Church Revitalization Specialist for the TBC. He served as a pastor in the local church for thirty years before coming to the Convention. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.