We recently had the privilege of hosting at Falls Creek a group of leaders from across the Southern Baptist Convention who are striving to assist churches in their state and regions in need of revitalization. I have had the opportunity to participate in this State Revitalization Network for the past four years and have noticed a common thread in our group.
This is the thread: church revitalization is hard work, and there is a great need for pastors who will commit themselves to the task of shepherding these churches. One of the encouragements to my heart, over the past few years of meeting with this group, is the stories from pastors who have led their churches toward health and growth.
I hosted a panel discussion of a few pastors from across our state who have experienced a positive change in their churches and have sensed a strong leadership from the Lord to share what I observed with you. Here are my takeaways from the panel:
• Each pastor who participated in the panel demonstrated a genuine humility and quickly attributed the growth and transformation of the church to a divine activity that was beyond them. Church revitalization starts with a recognition that the Lord is doing the work, and we must trust in Him. Humble leadership that relies on the Lord is a great need in the church today.
• While there were similarities in the church contexts, there were unique factors at play in each setting. As I watch churches across our state that are experiencing growth, one of the common factors I have observed is the pastor and church have found a way to connect with their community. Because of their engagement in the community, they have identified the doors of opportunity to advance the Gospel. Churches that find a way to engage their community are dealing with one of the greatest barriers in experiencing revitalization. By the way, all three of these churches are in communities that are not experiencing population growth. A growing community can help a church to grow, but there is no guarantee it will.
• All three pastors have served in their churches for more than 10 years. Each of these men talked about defining moments in their leadership and the progress that occurred after these moments. Often these defining moments are challenges, crisis or conflict. Too many pastors view these moments as a time to move on instead of working through them with the church. Working well through these moments often leads to new opportunities in the future because of the trust and credibility that is earned in that moment.
• While it was evident that these three men had very different personality types, they each demonstrated a clear sense of focus or vision as they spoke. It is easy to confuse personality and leadership, but leadership manifests itself across the spectrum of personality types. These men all clearly articulated the vision that Lord had placed on their hearts and have modeled it before the churches they lead. It is easier for the church to move forward when there is a clear sense of direction and focus on it.
Revitalization has become one of the most discussed topics among church leaders today. The most recent Lifeway Research conservatively identified 67 percent of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention as either plateaued or declining. The need for pastors who will lead with humility, integrity, clarity, patience and prayer is significant. Join in praying that God will continue to raise up pastors that will lead the churches of our state in this way.