To An Aspiring Church Revitalizer...
Deep in the work of revitalization, I received a message from a seminary student interning at the same church where I did my internship and residency. He said that he was interested in revitalization and wanted to know my thoughts. It was very encouraging to see some other young guys getting a vision for revitalization. Here is (an edited version of) what I told him:
1. You already see it like a journey and that's clutch. If you feel called to be a pastor and pastors and other leaders affirm that, then be content to take journey God has for you get there. I think of where I was at emotionally/spiritually along my 6 year journey and God's timing really is perfect. It's almost like he knows everything or something.
2. Revitalization is awesome! It’s been so fun to see the power of the word of God awaken hearts! Revitalization has greatly grown my love for the Bride of Christ. It’s shown the value of roots in a community (my church is 145 years old). Proclaiming outrageous grace to tired, over burdened saints is a joy. Getting a bunch of adopted grandpas and grandmas, older saints has warmed my heart. Seeing generations interact as the family God is a clear picture of the Kingdom.
3. Church planting is for wimps. Read the book and know that it's true. When people talk about about how hard church planting is, they are right and it is glorious work. But revitalization is simply harder in many ways. In church planting you’re faced with being anonymous and the struggle for momentum.
In revitalization you have fierce opposition, criticism, and accusations. I’ve been yelled at repeatedly, literally been called Satan, slandered to my face, had threats of physical violence, and had people say I should be ran out of town. You have tear down (with the word) before you can build up with revitalization.
4. Work on your soul. The number one thing you can do to prepare for revitalization is soul work. Get your theology and doctrine down, but don’t stop there. Do the work to get it deep down into your soul so that you can experience it deeply.
Find men who can counsel you, work through your past, address your daddy issues, and really submit your self them. Ask for character rebuke and feedback, dive into the Enneagram or another self-awareness tool, work on silence and solitude and other contemplative disciplines. I did a lot of those things and now I see the providence of God in them so beautifully. The goal is that your true identity as a son of God can be become more real to you.
I heard recently that revitalizations have a 20% success rate right now. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons for this, but I’d venture a guess the soul health of the pastor is at the top of the list. Self-awareness and communion with God is so hard for most of us who desire to lead and growing in that will save you a lot of problems. Knowing facts about God will just not cut it when the opposition comes. Experiencing the presence of God as his precious son will.
5. Be super generous with your wife. Lots and lots and lots of time together. Build lots of trust and most importantly (if you're like me) learn how to need her and be really vulnerable with her. You'll be all alone in a revitalization and having your wife be a safe place is really beautiful and crucial. And of course you have to be doing soul work for this to happen.
6. And bro - come intern with me! Do a year or two at a healthy, multiplying church and then come do a year with me actually revitalizing. See the real thing in action and then come help make it happen somewhere else for a year. To go from a fun, fruitful, healthy church to a horrify train wreck can be overwhelming. Get some experience doing the real thing before you launch out.
Josh Foor is a son of the King, Camille’s husband, and the lead pastor of Big Rapids First Baptist Church (bigrapidsfbc.com) in Big Rapids, Michigan. He loves people, porches, and coffee. Find his sermon podcast here and connect with him at Facebook.com/josh.foor.