“REE” + “VY” + “tuh” + “ly” + “ZAY” + “shuhn”
re = again/anew vital = life/living beings sation = action/processes
Revitalization: the act or process of giving new life or fresh vitality or energy to someone or something.
Robert Dale and others have pictured the life cycle of a church with a classic bell curve.
On the left side of the curve …
- A person/group discerns a dream from the Lord, gathering a core around the dream.
- That core discerns systems and structures that might facilitate the dream becoming a reality.
- The core deploys those systems and structures – recruiting/equipping leaders, launching ministries, and so forth.
- The Lord sends the harvest.
On the right side of the curve…
- The church (the people) change as they grow in Christ, move to other places or step into eternity – and the community where the church serves changes as well.
- People devoted to those systems and structures talk more and more about the times when everything was clicking and default to thinking, “if we just do that, better, things will turn around.”
- When it does not, they begin to question their pastor, the people around them, sometimes even the Lord.
- People take sides on what to do, and divisions create disunity in the local body.
- Those inclined to avoid conflict drop out or move to other congregations.
- The church dies.
A Healthier Image
But that story is not the only story that could be true for your church! Here is a healthier image:
Somewhere between the most fruit-bearing years of service on the left side and the early decline on the right side, the church receives an infusion of new life, fresh vitality, and energy.
This is church revitalization!
It is a process that involves not a few actions.
There are, of course, more radically invasive options further down the right side of the curve.
A church might restart in one of at least three ways:
- They might be fostered by another congregation – submit to their leadership, become equipped by them, and – after an agreed season – step out on mission again.
- They might be adopted by another congregation and become a new campus/area for that church – submitting to the mission they are on, the structures they use, and so forth.
- They might “marry” another congregation, merging with the other to become a whole new one – a new church from top to bottom – name, resources, leadership, and so forth.
A church might also replant. In this way, the old church closes, and a new church with a new name, a new planter-pastor, a new core group, and so forth emerges on the other side. A missional kingdom community is still in that location – just not the one you are currently a part of.
But church revitalization happens before these options are the only option.
Church revitalization is the infusion of new life in the very people who are the church right now! It is waking from a slumber that, if not addressed, risks the loss of mission for a church and possibly the witness of the kingdom in a town.
It is bold and courageous.
It is comprehensive – revitalizing the spiritual life of members, the missional dream of the congregation, and the structures/systems that move forward on mission.
It is an awakening.
The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s (BCM/D) Church Services Team’s response to revitalization is a pastor/church cohort called AWAKEN, a 10-month action-oriented covenant journey, with a cohort of other BCM/D pastors and churches. The process is roughly five months of content exploration and discovery, followed by five months of coached implementation.
Several Maryland/Delaware churches have experienced revitalization through AWAKEN. Allen Memorial Church (AMC) in Salisbury is one example. Dr. William Warren, the senior pastor of AMC, emphatically supports AWAKEN. “We implemented the AWAKEN process, and it worked. It was the spark our church needed,” he said. “We used the process to pull lay leadership together into a group to pray about God’s direction for the following year. We did several projects out of our planning.” Warren said the church is still benefitting from the process. “Every pastor should do this,” he shared.
To find out more about the upcoming group, visit the BCM/D’s website.
The Lord does not desire for your church – for any church – to sleep through mission. AWAKEN, and accept His invitation to make disciples of all people.
Randy Millwood serves as a church services consultant at the BCM/D.
Cover Photo: by Sakura (https://flic.kr/p/GgKw).