There’s more here than you might expect. That was true for me. I’ve been hearing the argument for church revitalization for years, and it has always sounded like a conversation about practical matters. There are practical reasons to sometimes plant a new church. And there are practical reasons to sometimes revitalize an old church.
But reading through the articles for this edition of the 9Marks Journal, I discovered something larger, something older, something more basic. Church revitalization, it occurred to me, goes to the very heart of what it means to pastor. And the desire to see churches revitalized, I dare say, should be a constituent part of a Christian’s heart. Could it be that we’ve been missing something as basic as evangelism and discipleship, even if it’s rarer?
Church planting is a great thing, and there’s no need to take anything away from it. But there should also be a default setting in a Christian’s heart that always longs to see dying churches revitalized. It’s not like the debate in your head about whether to fork over $2000 to the mechanic to fix your clunker of a car or to just buy a new one. It’s more like a decision about whether to walk away from a dear but difficult relationship. Our hearts should never want to do that, even if once in a great while we must.
Start with Andy Davis’ remarkable story of reforming one church, and you’ll find something that feels strangely like it’s from the Bible, as if Andy were only doing what the apostles did. Then let the biblical burden of Bobby Jamieson’s article sit on you. I’m serious. You just might find some new light bulbs turning on. Matt Schmucker's and Mike McKinley’s articles then round out the apologetic by offering crisp statements for why churches and pastors should pursue the work of revitalizing.
If you are a pastor, keep reading into the next section, where Jeramie Rinne, Greg Gilbert, John Folmar, J. D. Greear, and Brian Croft offer valuable and practical wisdom on how to proceed with the work of reform.
Could it be that church revitalization does not loom as large in the modern evangelical mindset as it did in Jesus’ and the apostles’? Before you answer that question, if nothing else, read Bobby’s article. You just might wonder if we’ve missed something basic.
(Click here to download the issue in eReader and Kindle format.)
A Story of Revitalization
An inspiring and in-depth story of one church’s journey to greater faithfulness. Read more >
If we share the priorities of Scripture, we will have a burden for bringing life to dying churches. Read more >
We should seek to revitalize churches for the sake of Christians, nominal Christians, non-Christian neighbors, stewarding resources, the future, and the name of God. Read more >
Planting and revitalizing each have their advantages and disadvantages. In this article, one practitioner lays them out. Read more >
How to Revitalize
In church reform, speed is often a killer. But hasty pastors come in many shapes. This article offers a taxonomy. Can you find yourself on this list? Read more >
Where do you begin in reforming a church? What do you do after that? Greg Gilbert provides a map through the jungle. Read more >
Without preaching, partnership, providence, and patience, church reform is not likely to succeed. But with them, amazing things can happen. Read more >
Ultimately, only God brings life to dead things. But there are some things we can do to nourish that life, and not hinder it. Read more >
Church revitalization is full of surprises. Here are five lessons that snuck up on this pastor. Read more >
Responses from Thabiti Anyabwile, Mark Dever, Bob Johnson, Garrett Kell, Michael Lawrence, Mike McKinley, Josh Smith, and others. Read more >
Book Reviews on Church Revitalization
The current church planting trend among evangelicals forces an important question: Why would anyone choose to pastor a struggling church rather than simply plant a new one? Pastors Kevin Harney and Bob Bouwer offer some intriguing answers to this question in their new book The U-Turn Church. Read more >
The seeker-sensitive ethos is alive and well in evangelical circles. This ethos assumes that the primary purpose of the church’s weekly gathering is to attract non-Christians. It holds that the substance and style of corporate worship should conform as closely as possible to non-Christians’ preferences. And it treats numerical growth in attendance as an absolute metric of success. This ethos still governs the operating systems of many churches, even some whose reformed theological convictions might seem to imply a different ministry philosophy. Read more >