REVITALIZATION BEGINS WITH GOD'S PEOPLE
Mike Durbin - State Director of Evangelism
I had the unique experience of pastoring a church that turned 100 years old during my ministry there. The church had a great heritage. It was planted, built, and supported by men and women who loved Jesus and sacrificed their time, talents and treasure for Him. Through decades of faithfulness, the lives of many people in the area had been transformed by Christ through the ministry of this church.
As the centennial approached, the church was in need of revitalization. She was plateaued and in danger of declining. Just about every part of the building needed repair. The church was at a low point by most metrics, but there was a group of dedicated men and women who loved Jesus and each other. The church family started a journey toward health and vitality that taught me some life-long ministry lessons. I want to share two of many lessons learned that may encourage those who long for revitalization in their churches.
Celebrate the heritage of your Church.
A church that is approaching 100 years has a lot of history. It's amazing to think about the amount of world change that took place in that century. And yet, the church followed Christ and served Him and each other through good times and bad. The fact that they were approaching this milestone was a testimony to Jesus and His work in their lives. I was a small part of a very long story and I learned to truly appreciate the men and women who came before me. They left a legacy that I had the privilege to be a part of and build upon.
They also left traditions. I learned that it's hard to let go of something that was vital at some point in the church's history but has lost its effectiveness. Revitalization involves change and change is hard. Some people naturally think we are being critical when we change things. We should be careful not to leave that impression. It's much easier to develop new initiatives when people know that you value and celebrate what was done as you move in a new direction for tomorrow.
Cast fresh vision and celebrate victories.
The time leading up to the centennial celebration was an incredible opportunity to cast vision. Conditions were right for a new challenge from God for the future. There was a desire in the church family not just to celebrate the history of the church, but to write the next chapter under the Lordship of Christ.
We started with the building since everyone wanted it to look good for the anniversary. The classrooms hadn't been painted in years and the ceilings needed to be replaced. It was surprising how much everyone in the church was excited with the results. One project lead to another and before long the people decided to remodel the outside of the building too. There was new energy in the church family and the conversations about the church in the community were encouraging. People started inviting their family and friends to church services and events. Attendance increased and just about everything else with it. People committed their lives to Christ as Lord and followed Him in baptism. We celebrated every step of the way.
Please understand that it wasn't a building that brought revitalization. Christ was moving in His people. They longed for Him to work in their lives and in His church. He brought them together in that context around their place of worship to start the revitalization. The revitalization was not of a place. It was of a people - the people of God who came together to Glorify God and advance His Kingdom!