Nobody I know is more knowledgeable about church revitalization than Thom Rainer is. As long as I’ve known him, he has sought to help the established church regain its footing and force. He continues to help those congregations through his recent work in revitalization, and churches will be stronger because of this work.
At the same time, I am concerned that leaders experience renewal that facilitates revitalization of the churches they lead. Leaders whose fire is re-lit are more likely to invest in the work that revitalization requires. So, church leader who longs for revitalization to occur, I am writing to you.
Here is my simple suggestion for moving toward personal renewal and revitalization: remember what it was like to be a young believer, and then recall what it was like to be a rookie pastor. Even if those days were difficult, I suspect most of us have memories that can reignite the fire. Below are some of my personal memories.
As a young believer, I…
- was amazed as I heard the Word. It was fresh, new, alive, and powerful. I couldn’t wait for Sunday to come, when I would hear more in Sunday school and worship.
- hungered for teaching. I wanted to know all I could about God, and every new truth fascinated me. Wonder consumed me as I learned.
- wept over my sin. Grace was potent in my life. I did not want to disappoint the God who gave me mercy. When I sinned, my heart broke in repentance.
- passionately shared the gospel with others. I did not worry about what kind of response I would receive; I just wanted to tell others what Jesus had done in my life. I’m sure I was at time obnoxious, but my passion was genuine.
- cherished other believers. I really loved them because they really loved me first. They became my Christian family, in fact, because my parents were not followers of Christ.
Seven years after I became a believer, I began serving as a pastor. As a rookie pastor, I…
- prayed continually. To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing as a pastor – so I desperately needed God’s help. From preaching to evangelizing to leading, I covered it all in prayer.
- read Hebrews 13:17 with great reverence. It astounded me that God would ever use me as a pastor, and it almost frightened me that I would answer to God as I cared for the souls of my church members. Responsibility hung heavily over me.
- shared the gospel frequently. That’s what I thought pastors were supposed to do: love lost people enough to tell them the good news, and lead the church to do the same. I would never have imagined a pastor who was not also evangelistic.
- rejoiced in the baptismal waters. Baptizing was an incredible privilege. Up close and personally, I was blessed to be a part as new believers proclaimed their faith through this church ordinance.
- believed the best about the church. They were, after all, the people of God. I believed in them first because the folks in my home church had modeled Christian love for me. Then, the church I pastored loved their “little preacher boy,” too.
My summary is simply this: when I was a young believer, and later when I was a rookie pastor, my life was marked by zeal for the Word, dependence on God, brokenness over sin, love for the church, and passion for evangelism. Where I lack any of these today, I need personal renewal and revitalization. Where I lack one or more, I hinder revitalization in my church.
Where do you need personal renewal and revitalization? How might we pray for you?