The Grimy Road of Church Revitalization
A CONFESSION OF A CHURCH REVITALISATION PASTOR
Often rugby players leave the pitch having been hit so many times in big tackles that it is the equivalent of a car crash, this is Church Revitalization.
I am not nearly experienced enough to comment on this, however, what I have experienced over the last 2 years (nearly) of ministry in a context of church renewal I confess has been similar to a spiritual car crash of mistakes, lessons learned, failures, triumphs, and some incredible displays of a holy God moving in power sustaining weak saints.
GOD BREATHES LIFE INTO DEAD THINGS
The temptation for any pastor or core team going into a church plant or church revitalization is that we believe we are in control, who are we kidding. We have sung as children that old hymn, “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” our Holy God is sovereign over all things including the revitalization of dying churches and the salvation of His elect.
Paul says, ‘I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.’ (1 Cor. 3:6-7) God works by his Spirit through his Word to bring about new life and equip us for ministry. It is God who effectually calls those He has predestined by His word and Spirit out of a state of death and rebellion, to grace and salvation in Jesus Christ alone. It is those ordinary means of grace He uses to grow His church in grace. It’s all God!
Our God loves to breathe life into dead dry bones, dying churches, He loves to make something from nothing, He loves revival, He loves revitalization, He loves the Lazarus individual and lukewarm church in which to display His glory and make us say, “only God could have brought spiritual life.” His acts of recreation and resurrection bring Him alone the glory!
IT’S NOT SEXY
If you are a seminary student just about to head into ministry thinking you’ll change the world and that it’s all sunshine and roses, well I hate to break your bubble, but it’s not sexy, it’s hard graft, ugly work that God uses to glorify Himself and change the world with His gospel. Roll those sleeves up, strap those boots up and wear the whole armor of God.
One thing I said to myself before I came to Emmanuel Church in Farnham England was,
“you must pray, preach, and stay, and God please strengthen my spiritual spine to glorify you.”
It wasn’t easy, I feel week most days, have those Monday morning blues and what to jack it all in, yet that leads me to prayerful dependence upon God to move amongst the lampstands, to save the spiritually dead, to empower me to make much of Him. Prayer is so important to our ministry and if we are to be ministry men then we must be praying men.
E.M. Bounds said of those preaching men in Acts,
“Men they were of solid mold, preachers after heavenly type – heroic, stalwart, soldierly, saintly. Preaching with them meant self-denying, self-crucifying, serious, toilsome, martyr business. They applied themselves to it in such a way that told on their generation, and formed in its womb a generation yet unborn for God.”
What we can often forget is that there is a Christ in our boat, we are never alone in this noble endeavor of church revitalization and if Christ walked the hard road of suffering and trials who are we to say we shouldn’t walk through them too. Yes, Church revitalization is not easy, it is a grimy road, but in it, God has worked what I could never do by my best preaching, prayers, or holy living.
God has not called us to comfort or ease, but to faithfulness, “be strong in the power of his might” brothers, and see what God does for His own glory.
Gerald is Lead Pastor at Emmanuel Church in Farnham, England. He has a BA Hons in applied theology. Gerald is married to Morna, and they have two children, Noah and James.