Church revitalization is not for everyone. It is a unique calling that takes unique gifting and wiring. If you are in a place of trying to discern if church revitalization is for you, here are 10 essential questions you must honestly ask and wrestle with before you jump in.
1. Do I see this opportunity as a mission field?
This is critical. You’re not just going in to shepherd a people. You’re going in as a missionary to reach the surrounding community with the Gospel. The revitalizer must approach this not simply as, "I am caring for the people that are there" but rather, "I am caring for the people who are there as we seek to reach the lost with the good news of the Gospel within this community."
You are a missionary and you are a developer of missionaries. You are helping those people who remain in this congregation to get on mission to reach those far from Jesus. Why? For that church to become healthy you need new converts, you need new disciples, you need fresh life and fresh passion. That’s what brings a church back to life. An outward focus is needed.
2. Am I emotionally mature enough to take upon myself the rigors of taking the lead role in a church?
This takes wisdom. This takes discernment. There’s an emotional maturity that some young guys, as well as old guys, don’t have. It can be the thing that ruins their leadership and hinders the revitalization of a dying church. Our emotional maturity is something we (along with others) need to honestly assess before taking on a ministry in revitalization.
3. Am I biblically and theologically competent enough to lead this congregation?
You’re going into a dying church. A church that is starving spiritually whether they realize it or not. There are people in this church who are looking to you to feed them good food, as they should. You are their pastor. You are their shepherd. They need you to feed them. In fact, much of the revitalization that is needed in their own hearts is dependent on your ability to preach and teach the Bible and the truths of God faithfully. There’s a biblical and theological competency that you must have. You can't give what you don't have. You need to know the Word. You need to be able to articulate doctrinal positions from a biblical perspective to help people see the great truths of God. This serves as the bedrock of any and all healthy revitalization.
4. Am I organizationally competent?
Being theologically equipped is not enough. Being emotionally equipped is not enough. We need to be organizationally equipped as well. Basic administration. Systems. Policies. Procedures. Putting a budget together. While these might sound like kryptonite to some of us, the reality is, getting these organizational components in order and working are part of healthy revitalization.
5. How will I respond to and love my critics?
You’ll face critics in church revitalization. How are you going to respond? How can you prepare beforehand as best you can? It hurts! It hurts badly whenever you’re criticized. But are you preparing yourself now with Gospel truth that is preparing in your heart a foundation to withstand harsh criticism?
If you find that you’re someone who is overly sensitive, this is something you probably need to intentionally focus on and grow in, by God's grace. To grow in your understanding and application of two primary truths: 1) A right understanding of who you are in Christ and 2) a right understanding of the sovereignty of God in and over this church and ministry. These are two theological doctrines I believe help form a necessary, strong foundation to withstand criticism over time.
6. Will I make a commitment for the long haul, through good and bad?
Are you convinced that long haul ministry is essential for church revitalization? That this cannot be done overnight? Are you convinced that the best way, the most effective way, the most biblical way to lead a church back to life is through a steady, faithful, "marathon" type commitment to this local church? If you are not convinced of this, if this does not appeal to you, then you need to question if revitalization is the right fit for you. Revitalization is long haul ministry and must be approached as a marathon and not a sprint.
7. Will I be a continuous learner about church revitalization and pastoral leadership?
You never stop learning. At least you shouldn’t. This is especially true when it comes to revitalization. There are always new insights to gain about pastoral care and leadership. How to serve people better. How to counsel people better. How to deal with difficult leadership situations. We need to be humble and teachable in revitalization. We need to be committed to our ongoing maturity and growth, constantly learning how we can be more effective in serving the Lord and His people.
8. Am I committed to being a positive example and encourager for my family on this journey?
This isn't just about you. It's about your family too. You need to count the cost for your family and be prepared to help them see both the joys and the challenges that are sure to come.
I know for me, I wanted my wife and kids to feel real ownership of the church and the work of revitalization God was calling us to. And so from the very beginning they were part of things. I wanted everybody in this church to know them, and I wanted them to know the people of the church. I wanted the church to see that as their pastor, my wife and kids are part of this revitalization too.
You must lead in this. You set an example for the congregation and for your family. For good and bad. Do all you can to make this adventure fun for your family, even in the face of real challenges. Include them. Encourage them. Help them feel part of what God is doing.
9. Do I have pastoral mentors who can coach and encourage me?
You’re going to need pastoral mentors throughout your whole life. In revitalization, you’re going to need men and women in your life who have done it. Who have been through it. Individuals you can call up when you’re discouraged and can say to you, “You’re okay. I’ve been there. Others have been there. The Lord loves you and is with you. He’s not done with this church. You’re going to get through this storm.” We all need mentors and encouragers like this, don’t we? We also need mentors who can be honest with us when we are leading poorly. When we are fighting battles we shouldn't be fighting. When we need to humble ourselves before the Lord and others. Do you have them? If not, you need to intentionally find them and integrate them into your life and ministry.
10. Do I have a sufficient support system of peer relationships and friends?
We all need friends. We need people we can laugh with and be goofy with. We need friends we can just hang out with. Do you have a support system where you’re going? If you don’t, then you must intentionally work to find people who can help you develop one so that you have support over the long haul in this new ministry. You need this kind of support. Your family needs this kind of support. Staying connected to friends through email, phone calls, and Facebook is important, but not sufficient for long haul health. You need need friends in the flesh. Friends who are present. Friends who can show up at your house and give you a hug when you need it. Begin to pray now that the Lord would bring healthy, supportive friendships for you and your family in the church and community where you are being called.