The Task of Church Revitalization (Part 1)

by Dr. Terry Rials

The church in America is in big trouble – that’s what all the experts are saying. The church has been in a serious decline for a long time. Scholars cannot even agree upon when the decline began, but Southern Baptist Churches have experienced a steady decline in baptismal rates since 1956, its banner year. It has been sliding downhill since. In the last decade, Southern Baptist Churches have seen church membership decline by 10%, Sunday School decrease by 15%, baptisms drop over 30%, and the number of people joining Baptist churches plummet by nearly 50%! It’s easy to talk about the churches somewhere else who are experiencing this, but this phenomenon is hitting too close to home. We have this problem right here in our Association. As I look at the statistics, it’s happening to nearly ninety percent of the churches in the Association, maybe even to the one to which you belong.

What are we doing about this steady decline? Some sit around and talk about the ‘good old days’ and do nothing because they don’t agree with what is happening. Some ascribe blame and we’ve seen plenty of that. Some blame those who hold to an old, outmoded traditionalism, which isn’t working anymore. Some blame the mega churches of stealing members from smaller churches. Some blame their pastor or denominational leaders for the decline. Some blame the lack of door-to-door evangelism, the lack of churches holding revivals, the lack of discipleship training programs, or failure of the church to keep up with culture. The truth is – there is enough blame to go around. For many of you, this is the first time you’ve heard of this problem.

As in the days of Nehemiah, we need to look around at our crumbling walls and discover that we are a reproach to the name of our Lord (see Neh1:3). A reproach is a condition of shame, an occasion given to the enemy for him to exult in our defeat. Every Sunday with an empty parking lot, an empty building, and empty altar is a reproach to his name. We need earnest repentance, honest admission, and public confession (Neh 2:17). The problem is with us, all of us.

The good news is that leaders are addressing this problem like never before. We learned that it doesn’t come from a national movement; we’ve seen plenty of those in the past fifty years. The Church Growth Movement, the Church Health Movement, the Missional Church Movement, and the Emerging Church Movement have each tried to turn-around the church, so far with very limited success. The real pattern for success is the biblical one, alluded to by famed preacher G. Campbell Morgan, who metaphorically challenged young preachers to put their sailboats out into the water, put up the sail and wait for the wind to blow. We need a movement of God, but the wind of God isn’t blowing.

In the next five articles, I would like to explore the journey of leading churches back to vitality and life. We’ll explore how to set the sails and wait for the wind of God to blow.

Giving Our Best and Our All!

by Tracy Jaggers

I just finished perusing a 60 page article entitled, Effective Leadership in the Church. I was disappointed to see that it reiterated the same old list of managerial requirements I have seen proposed for years that fits almost every type of business.

The church is not a business. It is a family! But, it pains me to say, I am seeing more and more “leaders” that are treating their church as though the flock owes them everything. Some have an attitude of a sheep-shearer, rather than a shepherd! They give only as much passion and energy as they would an hourly position at the local Chick-fil-A (as a matter of observation – I think most employees at Chick-fil-A are more committed to the mission of that restaurant than some pastors are to the Master of the church).

You may say, wow Tracy that seems a bit harsh. I challenge you to look at the ineffectiveness of Southern Baptist churches nationwide and convince me I am wrong. 70-80% of our churches (nationwide) are plateaued to dying. God, forgive us for ceasing to be a hospital to a hurting and dying world, much less the struggling and impotent church.

Let’s look at what effective leadership IS! Is it:

  • Great oration of the Bible?
  • Teaching lectures with no thought of transforming the lives of those who “listen?”
  • Moderating “peaceable” meetings?
  • Directing fun and/or labor-intensive mission events?
  • Printing and sending out slick-looking communications?
  • Striving to maintain a happy flock?

OR, is it:

  • Instilling the Word of God in such a way that people are compelled to respond with new thinking and holy living?
  • Discipling followers so they disciple others? [If we expect little, we get little!]
  • Revealing to the family – the anointing, direction and goals the Holy Spirit has birthed in you through penetrating prayer?
  • Painting a vision of hope and victory by joyfully sharing and modeling the gospel?
  • Being a person of integrity?
  • Keeping the vision of the Lord in front of the family at all times?
  • Working alongside your flock in local and worldwide evangelistic efforts? [BEWARE: You may get some sheep smell on you!]
  • Protecting the flock from the enemy’s schemes and exhorting them to consistently stay unspotted from the world?

What do you want for your family? I pray you want the best! I desire all to be saved by the Lord and eventually, all of us enjoying heaven together. I have heard pastors admit they give only 60-70% effort – no wonder there are 70-80% of the churches that claim to be plateaued to dying.

Lord, may we never be guilty of just giving a little when you gave Your all! Help us to be grateful children, and sold-out shepherds until we see You face to face!

Healthy Teamwork

Team-work

Unified Focus and Commitment to the Core Values of the Church

The Key to teamwork is having a common goal and loyalty to the values and direction of the church. Who sets the goals may differ from church to church but the principle is universal. An effective team is committed to accomplishing the goals. Team does not have the letter “I” in it. We must work as a single unit to complete a common goal.

Mutual Involvement

In order for a team to be successful, every member must pull their own weight and no one must bear the burden alone.

Effective Communication

A team must dialogue. Dialoguing means, in a group of two, two people must talk and two people must listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a “ratio” reason! Issues within a team should be handled through face-to-face communication. There is no sure proof of correct understanding in emails or text messages alone.

Decision-Making with Mutual Appreciation

A team should have a defined hierarchy with mutual interaction and appreciation. Teams have a coach, but not a lord or king! Joint decision-making is healthy (“In the multitude of counselors there is safety” – Proverb 11:14; 15:22; 24:6) Members of the group should be respected for their ideas and areas of expertise.

Efficient Search for Ideas

Brainstorming is one way that groups come up with possible solutions and new processes. An effective team determines problems and needs; investigates the cause/source; offers possible solutions; synthesizes the ideas and determines healthy options for the good of the body.

A Positive Attitude

Negativity is like a black hole sucking the life out of a group, but a positive attitude gives hope and passion to the situation. There are stacks of evidence revealing the benefits and motivation found in pep rallies, cheerleaders and home-field advantage. We flourish when we are cheered on, given a word of encouragement, or a simple pat on the back for a job well done.

Remember, no one man can take the place of an entire team, except maybe Peyton Manning!

 

 

Does God Expect Every Church to Grow?

by Tracy Jaggers

 

I just completed speaking for two Church Revitalization Labs with the Southern Baptst of Texas Convention. During the first lab I was asked by a pastor, “Do you believe God expects every church to grow numerically?” My first response was to thoughtlessly blurt out, “Yes,” but I restrained myself and responded cautiously by asking if I could get back to him during the next break. Between that question and the lunch break, I researched for the biblical response, and here is how I answered: I firmly believe….

1)    Every God-called pastor sincerely wants his church to grow.

2)    The Great Commission verifies that this is the mission of the church.

3)    A lack of growth is not natural – someone who is mentally and/or physically challenged is known to be abnormal and is diagnosed with a type of disorder.

But What May Be Hindering a Rebound in your Church?

1)    A pastor who wants to be the sole care-giver – the church is a body that is expected to work TOGETHER. You and I are not to be Lone Rangers.

2)    A Lack of Vision on the part of the leader and/or congregation.

3)    A Lack of Planning, Strategy, Process, Systems, etc.

4)    Workers who are untrained and/or unempowered to do the work of the ministry.

5)    A leader who Micromanages – nothing happens without his approval and therefore, nothing happens!

6)    Too many meetings, or worthless, unproductive meetings.

7)    A lack of adherence to the mission, values, vision and purpose of the church.

8)    An Internal focus rather than an external, community-centered focus.

We usually falter and fail because we’re not growing in maturity and unity. In a speech given to the Presbyterians for Renewal, Mark D. Roberts, Executive Director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Seminary, pastor and author, said, “One cannot read Ephesians with an open mind and not conclude that the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be growing in size as well as strength.” I concur!

Ephesians 4:14-16 says, As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Even Jesus, in Luke 2:52, “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and favor with men (italics mine).” As our perfect example, we see that He grew in all aspects as well.

Growth is not confined to one dimension of the Body of Christ, just as it is not confined to one dimension of our own individual life. If we grow physically, but not mentally, we are abnormal. If we are not growing physically, mentally, socially, relationally, etc. we are looked upon as abnormal. We, as the Body of Christ, are to be maturing/growing spiritually, socially, relationally, evangelistically, economically, numerically, etc. in unified effort.  The church that is not growing in every aspect is abnormal and has a problem that must be diagnosed and corrected.

The Bride who is maturing and unified in obedience to Christ WILL GROW in all aspects into Him Who is the Head. Let’s get GOING and GROWING for the Kingdom.

Blowing Your Church Off the Plateau

by Tracy Jaggers and Dr. Gary L. McIntosh

Many churches in the US are listed as declining or stagnant (plateaued). The declining church is easy to recognize – the parking lot is empty and the pews or chairs are vacant. But how is plateaued defined and how does a church blow themselves off the plateaued status?

Plateaued is defined as: reaching a level, period, or condition of stability or maximum attainment. Should the body of Christ ever allow this definition to be used of a local church? Of course not! The church must never allow herself to be known as “plateaued;” if this is actually a real position. The church must always be growing, yet about 29.9% of the churches around us affirm that they are declining and another 44.3% say they are plateaued or stagnant *. This is alarming! Here are a few possible causes for churches plateauing and ways to blow your church off its plateaued status.

REASONS:    1) Plateaued churches usually have high leadership turnover.

2) Plateaued churches normally emphasize fellowship over evangelism.

3) Plateaued churches rely on older programs and events, and lack creativity.

4) Plateaued churches are committee or congregation-driven rather than

leadership-driven. Those with the vision should usually lead.

WAYS TO BLOW YOUR CHURCH OFF THE PLATEAU:

1) Churches must commit to trust and follow growth-minded leadership.

2) Think, act, react and live like you want to grow!

3) Start or do something new; think outside the box!

4) Publicize using various methods – websites, blogs, mailers, twitter, email…

5) Focus on those outside the church (on the lost); “for such were some of you.”

6) Get every member involved somewhere. No excuses!

7) Expand, remodel, put out more chairs–plan/prepare for/expect them to come.

8) Be a Great Commandment and Great Commission church.

9) Light the fuse and run with the explosion!

*http://www.ronniefloyd.com/blog/8105/southern-baptist-convention/fewer-sbc-churches-growing-more-sbc-churches-declining/

Readjusting Your Church’s Focus

You-must-focus-How-to-memorize-the-Quran...1-410x307

by Tracy Jaggers

People normally resist Change. Why? Because it is uncomfortable and inconvenient. It can be dangerous as well – dangerous to lead and dangerous to live through. It is difficult, emotionally draining and usually carries numerous fears. But it is high time that we get off our couches of ease and join the ranks of God’s risk-takers. The church has always thrived under persecution and we are beginning to see an opportunity to thrive staring us in the face. But, if we keep on doing what we have been doing, we will keep on getting what we have been getting – and to me, that is unacceptable.

“The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less” — Vaclav Havel

Church revitalization is a journey, to discover God’s unique calling for your church, in the specific setting in which you live. Readjusting your focus is really a call to look at the values of your church and determine first, “are they what God values?” Second, if so, “how can we adapt our church and ministries to meet those values?” Readjusting your focus is a spiritual evaluation process that begins as our church seeks to join our member’s lives and our church’s ministries with what God values. When we are walking in total obedience to the purposes and plans of God, we cannot help but find growth and excitement as we join God in His “thing,” instead of expecting Him to join us in ours. It is uncomfortable to let go of the steering wheel, but when we do, we find that it was never our car to drive in the first place, and God has never had a wreck!

In the process of readjusting your focus, you should seek to determine answers to

8 probing questions:

  1. Why do we exist? Why are we here? What is God’s purpose for us?
  2. Does our past reveal an attitude and plan for growth?
  3. Whom has God called us to reach? Who is our target audience? You won’t reach everyone, but we should be willing to reach anyone.
  4. Who has God shaped us to be? What are our core values?
  5. Where do we believe God is leading us? What is our vision for the future?
  6. How do we need to change our ministry model to meet our vision?
  7. How do we apply our values and vision within our setting? How will we know if we are meeting our goals?
  8. How do we implement these plans over the next 3, 5, 10 years? (Strategic and Long-Range Planning)

“A ReFocused church is a church that has been repositioned to engage in an intentional ministry that births new life—ministry that equips attendees of a local church to reach the unchurched, launch new ministries, and plant new churches… and become reproducing-disciples” – Unknown

10 Characteristics of Spiritual Leadership

leadershipby Tracy W. Jaggers

There is a marked difference between leadership and “spiritual” leadership. There are lots of successful and effective leaders in the business world, but there are few that get people to follow their vision to the grave. As much as I hate to say this, Adolf Hitler could be considered a spiritual leader. He convinced a large German populace to follow his vision for ruling the world. Yes, he was deceived and probably even demonic, but he impassioned people of all ages, even religious leaders, to follow his strategy.

So, what is the distinction here? I define leadership as the power, capacity or ability to lead other people. Spiritual leadership is defined as the God-given ability to set goals and declare God’s vision to the body of Christ in such a way that believers voluntarily and harmoniously join in those goals as their worship offering to the Lord. With that being said, here are the character qualities I believe are vital to successful spiritual leadership:

Listen without mentally critiquing the speaker’s motives or ideas. Affirming the speaker,      as you listen, reveals you are engaged in the discussion.

Expect the best from every follower – don’t be negative. Not everyone will do it YOUR       way. Allow for personal creativity and innovation.

Adjust your ideas and plans to coincide with the Lord’s vision – reject self-centeredness.      Let the process be fluid enough so the Lord can offer options along the way – then        join Him.

Direct all praise for any success to the Lord – this is NOT about you. If you find yourself    angry or disappointed, it’s probably because the goals are yours and not His!

Encourage willing obedience to God’s plans instead of reluctant compliance. Following        the Lord or leading His flock because you have to, is not the same as loving to    serve Him because He first loved you.

Respect everyone – from the greatest to the least; from those “under” you to those “over”    you. Give preference to one another. Never look down on others, because He has         chosen the weak. Publicly acknowledge every follower’s hard work and discipline         or correct privately.

Search for the best way to accomplish the Lord’s plans. Take it step by step – Nehemiah       was a great example of this!

Hold fast to the Word – the Bible must be your Standard Operating Procedures.

Involve every believer in the journey. Let everyone know they are a vital part of the body   of Christ and as such, all should serve. We must never allow anyone to sit on the        sidelines.

Pray fervently for the wisdom, guidance, protection and blessing of the Lord. If it is not       His plans, then it will probably falter or fail. Prayer is the key to success!

Did you find yourself in this list of the productive spiritual leader characteristics? I hope so. We are living in time when it is imperative for us to be competent, productive, and compelling leaders. We must be evangelistically-effective and spiritually-consistent so others ask why we have hope, love, joy and peace. Leaders must mirror the vision the Lord has shown us and we must lovingly recruit every believer to join that vision. We cannot afford to let down our congregation, the lost, or the Lord.