In recent years the emphasis on church planting has been accompanied by a growing emphasis on church renewal. For the last twelve years, I have been part of two different church revitalizations. I am planning on discussing this process at length from start to finish. My prayer is that it will encourage each believer in Christ to help strengthen their local church so that it can be all that God has called it to be.
What is meant by church revitalization? I have heard the terms “restart,” “reformation,” “revitalization,” “renewal,” etc. all used interchangeably, and essentially, they all mean that there are many churches that are struggling that need new life breathed into them. I plan on giving an exhaustive approach to this from Scripture and my own personal experience.
The first church I served was called a “church plant” in Esto, FL, but it essentially was a “church restart.” The existing church had dwindled to about ten people and desperately wanted to have new life breathed into the church. The name was changed, a great pastor was called, and they started fresh trying to restore the church. I came on board about a year or two after everything began there as Youth Pastor, and I eventually became the Assistant Pastor there. The church changed and became a vibrant part of the Esto community seeing many people come to know the Lord and many Christians grow in their faith.
I am currently serving at Antioch Baptist Church in Gainesville, FL. The church had many good people in it, but it had fallen on hard times. A few years before I came, the church split and then the next pastor was terminated. The church had had over 50 pastorates in its 140 year history. Currently, I am the longest tenured pastor the church has ever had. Throughout my time here the Lord has been faithful, and we seen Him do great things. The average age of the congregation went from around 65 to 35. The attendance has increased about 65%. The church is experiencing a time of peace and joy. People are growing in their faith, and the church has a bright future.
These things have come at a significant price emotionally and spiritually. The Lord has been faithful, but our knees are sore. Over the next few months, I want to go over many different things that I have learned about this process. We will be looking at things like redefining success as a church, getting rid of Business Meetings while increasing congregational input, how to raise up men to lead, dealing with conflict, church discipline, fighting depression as a pastor, etc. It is my prayer that the Lord will use this to help many believers seek the God glorifying changes that are necessary for churches to be vibrant testimonies to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.