Revitalization leaders may not be the leaders of the renewed church. Read that sentence a second time. The pastor who leads a church through the process of revitalization to new life, may not be the leader that God chooses to lead that now stable and flourishing church into the future. The unique gifting and pastoral heart needed to bring a church from decline to health may not always be the same gift set and disposition needed to serve a church in healthy times. For this reason, the Revitalizationist should commit to two principles in their renewal ministry. First, commit to building leaders for the future and second, commit to leadership development and discipleship as an integral part of your renewal work.
Both of these principles should apply to every leader in every ministry. Every leader in every level of God’s church should commit to naming and training the next generation of leaders, and do so with a self-sacrificial attitude. The overarching principle that should guide this commitment is to always do what’s best for the objectives of the church. Even in a healthy and flourishing body, there should be a plan in place for a pastoral transition to ensure that the church continues to be a blessing to its community going forward. Church renewal requires a special pastoral temperament and a different gift mix. In your commitment to doing what’s best for Christ’s church, a vision of that congregation in a healthy state may reveal that a different leader would be a greater blessing for the future. During the stresses of revitalization, it is also tempting to set this aside and worry about new leadership after the church has returned to health. You might say that there’s too much work to do, that there is not time to be training someone under fire, but, in reality, there’s no better time to raise up leaders for the future.
Your commitment to identifying, recruiting, and discipling young leaders during a revitalization blesses those people with a unique experience. These leaders will have opportunity to be in the thick of the ups and downs of the renewal process and they will be experience ministry that they may never see anyplace else. Developing leaders can be exposed to those things that brought about the decline in the church, learning to differentiate between internal causes and external demographic changes. In being exposed to these things, the leader will have opportunity to look critically at the ministry direction and efforts in the years before revitalization started, and learn how to avoid any of the pitfalls in the ministry they will lead in the years ahead. Young leaders can be discipled in biblical church structure, worship and discipling people on their own. The revitalization pastor needs to look at this as a unique opportunity to shape the leadership for flourishing.
Committing to working yourself out of your current call is a test of your faith. If you have discerned that God called you to revitalize, won’t you also trust that God has plans for your future as well? It might be mildly disconcerting to consider that eventuality after all the love, labor and heartbreak devoted to renewing the church, but we remember who we serve and who that renewed church belongs to. The relationship between Apollos, St. Paul and God is a useful meditation [1 Corinthians 3:6-7]. The Revitalizationist pastor is not alone in this either; these principles should guide every level of leadership within the church. Wartime elders and ministry leaders in the trenches of the renewal process should also commit themselves to discerning and raising up the elders and ministry leaders of the future. For all involved, could there be a greater blessing than being used by the Lord to bring new life into his church and then, if called to do so, to step back and simply be a part of the chorus that praises him for what he’s done?
The North American Baptist Conference has four principles that guide ministry throughout their churches. These principles [called End Goals by the NAB] are interwoven and intended to be understood as a whole. Ministry flows through each of the principles to form a holistic, missional philosophy of the Church in the world. The thoughts above are an interaction with End Goal 3: NAB Churches will develop spiritual leaders. In an article written by Executive Director Harry Kelm, the following appears:
As a conference, we must be committed to identifying, encouraging, equipping, and engaging the emerging spiritual leaders God is raising up. We invest in these emerging leaders by encouraging the growth of their abilities and the godly use of their giftedness. |Onward Spring 2023
Besides church planting, these principles should also guide revitalization efforts. As with the church plant, the legacy church has a place in being and proclaiming the gospel to their community. Use the principles to evaluate the alignment of your church’s ministry and leadership with the vision embedded in the Goals. Teach them and shape your efforts to reach your community and the world with the love of Christ and the hope of shalom.