Revitalization Pastors – Part 2


In the post, Revitalization Pastors – Part One, we looked at the first 5 characteristics possessed by pastors who lead churches to experience significant revitalization and health.  In this post, we will look at 5 additional characteristics.  These 10 characteristics are listed in random order and all are equally important.

10 CHARACTERISTICS OF A REVITALIZATION PASTOR

6.  Revitalization pastors demonstrate dependence on God.  This should not surprise anyone!  The Scriptures clearly teach our need for the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives.  Revitalization pastors seem to understand this fully because they consistently spend time with God in Bible reading and prayer, they often cry out to God for His blessing on the ministries of the church, and they lead the church to give God the glory when they experience a spiritual “win” as a congregation.

7.  Revitalization pastors are Lifetime Learners.  You’ve heard the saying “leaders are learners.”  We would add the saying “revitalization pastors are readers.”  Even those who are not avid readers find other ways to learn.  They often listen to other pastor’s sermons, attend conferences, participate in state convention growth opportunities, and meet with other pastors to learn best practices.

8.  Revitalization pastors develop leaders and laborers in the church.  Revitalization pastors agree with the Apostle Paul that one of the main roles of a pastor is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12, ESV).  As a result, they develop a leadership development strategy for the church, regularly delegate ministry responsibilities to trusted people, and personally mentor a group of men in the congregation.

9.  Revitalization pastors lead the church to celebrate wins.  They celebrate wins by showing appreciation to church volunteers who serve faithfully.  They sometimes ask for testimonies of where people recently saw God at work.  They regularly focus on positive things that happen in the life of the church.

10.  Revitalization pastors lead the church to implement change.  Revitalization pastors spent time thoroughly explaining the reason behind a needed change and invested extra time with people who were slow to accept a needed change.  They bathed proposed changes in significant prayer and resisted moving too quickly when making a major change.

Revitalization pastors come in all shapes and sizes, but they share these characteristics.  There is a desperate need for Godly leadership in the local church.  It is not enough for a pastor to develop a vision for revitalization, but he must LEAD the people to fulfill that vision.  In many cases, it takes years to see stagnant churches become vibrant and healthy, so revitalization pastors tend to have longer tenures.  Many studies show a relationship between pastoral tenure and church health.

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Revitalization Pastors – Part 1

Over the past few years, the Regional Consultants of the Church Consulting and Revitalization Team and I noticed that pastors who successfully led their churches to experience revitalization possessed consistent characteristics. We developed resources on this topic and recently wrote a book that should be released soon. The list only scratches the surface, but these ten characteristics stand out to us. I will detail these in a two-part blog post. Here is part one:

10 CHARACTERISTICS OF A REVITALIZATION PASTOR

1.  Revitalization pastors lean into conflict.  Some pastors avoid conflict at all costs.  They may develop a brilliant, God-given vision for the future of the church, but they scrap it just as soon as one or two people are critical.  Revitalization pastors do not necessarily like conflict, but they are willing to face it in order to fulfill the God-given vision.

2.  Revitalization pastors are willing to take risks.  It’s risky to help a church understand that they are being ineffective.  It’s rarely pleasant to confront difficult people or to seek restoration of a broken relationship, but revitalization pastors do what’s right instead of merely doing what’s easy and convenient.

3.  Revitalization pastors work hard on church relationships.  As a child, most of us learned the little hand visual that accompanied the saying “here is the church, here is the steeple, open the door and here are the people.”  As adults, we know that the symbolism is lacking because the church is not a building; the church IS the people.  Revitalization pastors understand that building a church means building people.

4.  Revitalization pastors take the lead in evangelism.  A church cannot be revitalized without reaching new people with the Gospel.  A revitalization pastor places emphasis on evangelism and leads by example in this area.  Methods of evangelism vary from church to church and community to community, but churches experiencing revitalization are making new converts for Christ.

5.  Revitalization pastors lead with a vision.  Visions are sometimes written, sometimes spoken, and sometimes written and spoken!  Revitalization pastors have a God-given vision for the church’s future and they share it regularly with the church.

For more information please contact me.

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5 Keys to Being Healthy During a Crisis

Last week I struggled emotionally with the situation and outlook caused by the Covid-19 epidemic. This crisis is unprecedented in our lifetime and we’re all trying to respond well. Pastors face a unique challenge trying to minister to their congregation when they cannot meet in person. Since challenges are a normal part of life, how can we stay grounded and healthy during a crisis?

5 Keys to Being Healthy During a Crisis

1.  Love God. Regardless of what is happening in life, nothing will substitute for loving God. According to Jesus, this is the highest commandment on which all the other commandments stand (Matthew 22:37). Just like in marriage, loving God requires discipline and focus. Practicing spiritual disciplines like Bible intake and prayer help to fan the flame in our relationship with God. We will have ups and downs during a crisis, but we should work hard to keep our relationship with the Lord fresh and strong.

2.  Love your family. God created the family before He created the church. Pastors and spiritual leaders often neglect their family in order to serve the church, but that does not please the Lord. I’ve certainly been guilty of this. It’s challenging at times to have the proper balance in this area, but it’s vital that we do. Covid-19 social distancing requirements have temporarily changed the way we gather as a church, but the priority God places on family remains the same.

3.  Love people. No, they’re not perfect. Yes, they will disappoint you. Yes, you will disappoint them! But, make your mind up to love the people that the Lord places in your life. Pray that you will love them like Jesus. Love those who agree with you and those who don’t. Love those you enjoy being around and those you do not like. God will bless a person who loves others as we are instructed (Matthew 22:39).

4.  Love the Bible. Many of us say we have a “high view of Scripture,” but we do not give the Scriptures a high priority in our lives. We don’t read the Bible regularly and we don’t communicate the Bible accurately. We should make this one of the marks of our ministry. When people look back on my ministry, I want them to say “he always preached God’s Word with passion and accuracy! He was committed to the Word of God!”

5.  Love yourself. I’m not suggesting that we become weak in the knees when we look at ourselves in the mirror. I’m simply suggesting that we take care of ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Not only should we practice spiritual disciplines, we should practice physical and emotional disciplines as well. Follow the Covid-19 guidelines that are recommended. Eat right, exercise, sleep, rest, recharge, etc. It’s so easy to neglect this area of life when we’re under pressure, but we will not be fully effective in the other areas if we do. Truthfully, we may inadvertently shorten our life as a result which also shortens the years we have to serve the Lord here on this earth! That would be a tragedy because it would mean that we were bad stewards of the life God gave us.

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3 Ways to Respond to a Challenge

Did you know that only one miracle is mentioned in all four Gospels? Do you know which miracle it is? It is the miracle where Jesus fed a large group of people by exponentially multiplying the lunch of a small boy. I have often wondered why this miracle is so important that the Lord included it as many times as He did.

One day in preparing to preach from John’s account, it hit me that Jesus described how three different people responded to His challenging question, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (John 6:5).

3 Responses to Jesus’ Challenge

1.  The response of Philip. How did Philip respond? He took out his iPhone and fired up his food preparation app and did the math. The story tells us that 5,000 men were present, so the number was probably 10,000+ when the women and children were included. Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii (8 months wages) worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little” (John 6:7). Then notice what Philip did next. He dismissed the challenge immediately. He gave up without trying. And, he didn’t even consider God in the equation.

2. The response of Andrew. Andrew’s reaction was an improvement, but not much of an improvement. He inventoried available resources and said “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” (John 6:9). After that he dismissed the challenge and he seemed to also leave God out of the equation.

3. The response of the little boy. Interestingly, the little boy is almost invisible in the story. We know nothing about him or his family. We don’t even know his name. All we know is that he was willing to share what he had. I don’t believe for a minute that he was the only person there with food. You mean to tell me that no one had a PB & J? A can of Vienna Sausages or Beenie Weenies? A bologna sandwich? A granola bar? Or a Snickers? Surely others had food, but he is the only one in the story who shared it with the disciples. God took his small gift and used it in a marvelous, miraculous way to feed everyone who was present that day.

Are you facing a challenge? How about your church? If so, then you’re normal. We all face challenges on a regular basis. This is earth, not Heaven. We have not arrived yet. How will you and I respond to the challenge we currently face? Will we respond like Philip and dismiss the challenge immediately? Will we respond like Andrew and take an inventory of what we can do? Or will we respond like the little boy and give what we have to the Lord and trust Him for the results?

Prayer: “Lord, please help me to respond like the little boy in the story with the challenges I face!

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3 Common Areas of Prejudice

In Galatians 3 the Apostle Paul mentions three common areas of prejudice that the churches of Galatia faced in his day.  Prejudice was present in that day and discrimination was often the result.  Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul:

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  Galatians 3:26-29

Keep in mind that the Apostle Paul founded the churches of Galatia on his second missionary journey and revisited them on his third missionary journey.  Although some Biblical scholars believe that the Book of Galatians was written earlier, most believe the letter was written around 58 A.D. Ten years earlier, the Christian leaders gathered in Jerusalem to discuss some of these same issues (Acts 15).  Some Jewish believers, called Judaizers, taught that Gentile Christians had to follow certain Old Testament regulations in order to be saved.  They were prejudiced towards the Gentile believers and demanded they look and act like them.

The Apostle Paul seems to be addressing this issue ten years later in this letter. Bias, prejudice, and discrimination never completely went away. They were still present ten years after the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) where they addressed the issue and they’re still present today.  Even worse, they’re still present in the church!

Let me ask a few questions.  Are you prejudiced towards….

  • Christians of other races?
  • Christians from different income levels?
  • Christians of the opposite sex?
  • Christians of different ages?
  • Christians who prefer a different worship style?
  • Christians who prefer a different translation of the Bible?
  • Christians who prefer a different type of music?
  • Christians who dress differently when they come to church?
Prayer:  Lord, please examine my heart!  Bring to the light every hint and every act of prejudice in my life.  Expose me!  Convict me!  Forgive me!  Change me!  Amen.
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3 Keys to a Successful Year

Success

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14, ESV

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi, he gives us insight into his personal walk with the Lord.  You could call it a “formula for success” or as I prefer, “keys to success in our walk with the Lord.”

THREE KEYS TO SUCCESS IN 2020

1.  Release the past.  The Apostle Paul said, “….But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind….” (Vs. 13).  He is not saying that he actually lost memory of the past, he is saying that he put the past in the proper place–behind him!  He knew that the past can cause us to lose focus on the present and block our vision of the future.  He knew that the past can sometimes riddle us with guilt, lure us, haunt us, taunt us, rob us of intensity and passion, and even cause us to rest on our laurels.  Regardless of what we faced in 2019, let’s learn, let go, and move forward.

2.  Reach for the future.  Paul seems to say, “don’t look back, but BE SURE to look forward.”  He describes it as “…..straining toward what is ahead.”  I can remember running my first 10K race when I was 30-yrs.-old.  Because of my excitement, I started the race at a pace that was too fast for my fitness level.  As a result, my side began to hurt at mile 3 and I desperately wanted to stop and walk.  At that point, I saw my wife standing on the side of the road, so I didn’t want to quit in front of her.  Somehow, I kept plodding along and shortly after I passed the 5-mile marker, I saw the finish line about a mile away.  Something about seeing the finish line lifted my spirits and injected bounce in my step.  I finished fairly strong even though I had almost stopped to walk just a few miles earlier.  Paul seems to say that he keeps the finish line in view and it encourages him to do his best.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, let’s set some goals for 2020–spiritual goals, financial goals, vocational goals, fitness goals, nutritional goals.  Let’s “reach” for those goals day-by-day throughout this new year.

3.  Run for the prize.  What is Paul talking about when he talks about “the prize”?  We know he is not saying that we can live in such a way that we earn salvation because he just said in Vs. 9 that righteousness is “through faith in Christ.”  I believe Paul is saying that he is running for the goal of pleasing Jesus with his life and running for the satisfaction of knowing that he gave his best.  He is saying what he later says in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  If God tarries His coming and if He allows us to live to see 2021, I pray that we will be able to say the same about the way we served the Lord in 2020.

PRAYER:  “Lord, please help us remember the lessons you taught us in 2019, but Lord, help us to release last year and not relive it.  Help us to see Your plan and goals for 2020 and strain towards them in the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Help us to cherish your divine approval as our highest prize!  Be glorified in our lives!  Amen.”

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Old-Fashioned Church

A while back our Church Consulting & Revitalization Team held a planning retreat in the Southern Indiana Amish country. Although I do not agree with much of the spiritual theology of the Amish, I have always respected them for their commitment to the “old-fashioned ways.” I believe that the modern church should strive to be old-fashioned in certain areas.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and would not want to give up my iPhone, iPod, iPad, iCloud, GPS running watch, or any other smart device. I also love a lot of the new music being written for the church today. I prefer indoor plumbing over outhouses, air-conditioning over funeral home fans, and padded pews over pews that make your body go numb, but old-fashioned is still sometimes preferred.

An old-fashioned church is a church fashioned after the Book of Acts!

So, where should the modern church be old-fashioned and what is an old-fashioned church? An old-fashioned church is a church fashioned after the Book of Acts. It is a church with the same priorities of the early church. It is a church that, at it’s core, has the same purpose and focus of the church in the 2nd chapter of Acts.

Characteristics of an Old-Fashioned Church

   42  And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43  Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44  Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45  and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (NKJV)

1.  Doctrine. The church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Vs. 42). Several translations choose the word “teaching” instead of the word “doctrine,” but they can be used interchangeably. The apostles taught the people the Word of God. An old-fashioned church focuses on teaching God’s Word accurately, consistently, and thoroughly. The apostles knew that it matters what you believe, so they led the people to believe God’s Word and sought to teach how Jesus the Messiah was revealed throughout the Old Testament.

2.  Fellowship. The word koinonia in the original language was used several times by the Apostle Paul, but Luke used it only once in Acts 2. The word is usually translated “fellowship” and it indicates that the early believers had an uniquely close relationship because of their connection through the Gospel. Their “fellowship” served as a witness to the world that something was different about them that greatly affected their relationships.

3.  Obedience. The early church continued in “the breaking of bread” (Vs. 42).  Many commentaries believe this included observing the Lord’s Supper together. Although the Passover meal was a long-standing Jewish tradition, connecting the symbols of the bread and juice to the body and blood of Jesus was new. Jesus told the apostles to continue the practice so they obeyed this new command.

4. Evangelism. The passage tells us that “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Vs. 47). This tells us that they were sharing their faith on a regular basis. Many modern church problems could be solved if church members would regain a passion for sharing their faith with those who need to hear the Gospel.

I fear that many churches today do not possess these first four Biblical characteristics. Instead of teaching doctrine, they teach the opinions of man or woman. Instead of experiencing fellowship, they experience conflict and division. Instead of obeying all the applicable commands of the Word of God, they pick and choose the preferable commands that best fit their compromising lifestyle. Instead of focusing outwardly on those who need to hear the Gospel, they focus inwardly on their own wants and wishes. Is it any wonder that many modern churches are not experiencing a mighty move of God’s Spirit like the churches in the Book of Acts? May God help us possess the characteristics of an old-fashioned church.

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