By Joe Conway
WASHINGTON, D.C. (BP) – The North American Mission Board (NAMB) is partnering with the 9Marks collective, a network devoted to pastor support, church health and church planting, to host a church revitalization conference, Tues., Oct. 27 at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. 9Marks exists to equip church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources for displaying God’s glory to the nations through healthy churches.
The one-day event will feature 9 Marks president and Capitol Hill Baptist senior pastor Mark Dever. Also featured at the conference will be Mark Clifton, NAMB Church Replanting national strategist and Los Angeles church planter and urban strategist D. A. Horton, among others. Dever has written extensively on the subject of church health.
“You and I in this next generation have the opportunity to step in there and with the help of the Spirit of God to actually see churches turn around to see new life come into churches,” Dever said.
The four years since NAMB launched its Send North America strategy has brought renewed energy to Southern Baptist church planting and a focus on expanding the Gospel in some of the most influential population centers in the United States and Canada. The overall health of church plants, and planters, has improved with numerical evidence. Increased baptism rates, along with significant strides in church plant survival and missions giving, are hallmarks among the newest congregations.
Perhaps drawing less attention, but no less energy, is the issue of church health across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). That is where the Send North America emphasis of partnership over process has ignited a movement of church revitalization. Church planting centers and individual churches continue to see church health as critical to church planting. Unhealthy churches, experts agree, should not plant churches.
Clifton, a church planter with experience in Canada and the U.S., most recently help revitalize a dying congregation in Kansas City. He has been leading church revitalization gatherings for NAMB with Woodstock Baptist Church senior pastor Johnny Hunt for the past year.
“A church that does not produce fruit is dying; even if the bills are being paid and people continue to attend,” said Clifton. “Each year over 900 SBC churches close their doors. Each week we plant 20 SBC churches and we close 17.”
Clifton said some of the common symptoms of unhealthy churches include valuing the process of decision making over the outcome, valuing member preferences over the needs of the unreached, the inability to pass leadership to the next generation and eventual irrelevance within their community.
Churches which observe the warning signs should move toward more healthy practices in all these areas. Clifton recommends serious reflection and decisive action for planters hoping to help revitalize a congregation.
“They need to realize it is first and foremost it is spiritual warfare and prepare accordingly,” said Clifton. “Church planters need to love the remaining members and warm their hearts to the Gospel. They need to intentionally develop young men to build leadership.”
Clifton said simplification goes a long way to help churches turn back toward health. He encourages churches to re-engage their communities and serve them with radical generosity.
For more information about the 9Marks & NAMB Church Revitalization Conference, visit http://9marks.org/event/2015/10/9m-namb. View a video invitation from Mark Dever at http://www.namb.net/9Marks. If you have a question about church revitalization, visit http://www.namb.net/revitalization or email email@example.com.
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.