One of the great difficulties of church revitalization is the fact that sometimes churches are not ready. Either they have not come to the realization that revitalization is needed or they are not willing to pay the price to revitalize. At that point, the revitalization pastor has two choices: leave or persevere. It may be that we give up too quickly on churches that struggle with revitalization and especially with those that struggle with change. We all resist change, and we all struggle with the admission that we need revival and revitalization – even in our own personal lives, much less the church. So what can the pastor do as he patiently waits for God to move? Let me suggest 4 things that every revitalization pastor needs to do, regardless of what stage the church finds itself in the revitalization process.
1. Preach the Word. Pastors admonish their congregations to believe God’s Word and to practice its commands and principles. Yet pastors are the most guilty when it comes to recognizing the power that God’s Word has to change lives. Paul told Timothy, the young pastor of the church at Ephesus (a church in need of revitalization and revival) to preach the Word (2 Tim 4:2). One of the steps to helping a church discover its need to revitalize is allowing God’s Word to speak to the church. I am a strong proponent for expository preaching, and church revitalization is one of the reasons. Instead of preaching illustrations and sprinkling in a verse or two, preach the Word. Do not underestimate the power of God’s Word to change people’s hearts toward revitalization.
2. Pastor the People. Simon Peter’s admonition to the leaders of the churches dispersed and in disarray through Nero’s persecution after the burning of Rome was to shepherd God’s flock among you (1 Pet 5:2). The temptation of the pastor is to barricade himself in his study. Remember, though, the careful balance between sermon preparation and caring for the church. Those relationships will be essential and necessary when the church is ready to undertake the difficult task of change.
3. Prioritize Congregational Prayer. In most established churches, the Wednesday night service is called (or has been called) prayer meeting. The fact is, though, we do not spend much time praying. It may be that the church, as a whole, is just not ready for it. The revitalization pastor can, however, prioritize prayer, not only in his own life, but also when he leads the church in worship. Make prayer special. Teach the church how to pray. Pray at other times besides the beginning of a meeting. Lead the church to understand the power of coming into God’s presence (Heb 4:14-16).
4. Practice Personal Evangelism. If the people will not witness, work, pray, or function, there is one thing the pastor can always do. He can build relationships with the unchurched and consistently share his faith with them. Paul charged Timothy with the task to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:6). Regardless of what we face, we can always share our faith.
The work of revitalization is not easy. It takes time, patience, and perseverance. So do not get discouraged if your church is not quite ready. Stay faithful to the tasks assigned to you in Scripture and let God get the church ready to revitalize.