Finding clarity is often difficult in a church revitalization. There is a temptation to focus on programs. Church members have their own ideas of how to “turn the church around.” Finances. Facilities. And fannies in the seats. All of these call for our attention. Finding clarity can be incredibly difficult.
I shared with our church a couple of Sundays ago that I am counting Covid as a blessing. Yes, I realize it is a terrible disease. People are dying. My own father-in-law spent a month in the hospital. A week in ICU. And is now recovering in what we hope is a short-term facility. It is a terrible disease. But it has also been a blessing for the church. At least for ours. It has given us clarity.
My friend, Heath Walton, is the associate pastor of the First Baptist Church of Talladega, AL. Heath grew up at FBC. I was his pastor. Heath gets it. He has clarity. So does his pastor, Robert Klotz. Recently Heath posted,
Church revitalization is not about being attractional, but faithful. In fact, the attractional model is precisely the reason that so many churches are now in need of revitalization. Renewed priorities should take precedent over new paint. The preaching of the Scriptures should take precedent over pragmatism. Prayer should supersede pushes for publicity. I’m not saying it’s bad to update facilities, to plan activities which families can enjoy, nor to advertise service times. I AM saying that if those things become the ultimate things, there is a problem.
During the pandemic pause many churches have discovered clarity. At Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, where I serve, we have rediscovered…
The Value of Gathered Worship
I remind our folks often. What we do on Sunday mornings in gathered worship is the single most important thing we do as a church. We bring glory to God as we exalt him. We equip and encourage the church. And we send our people out to extend the gospel. We spend more time preparing for gathered worship than anything else we do. We focus more resources on gathered worship. And gathered worship was the first thing we relaunched as we emerged from quarantine.
Gathered worship is so important, we never really stopped gathering. Yes, we moved from the worship center to our back porches, kitchen tables, and living rooms. Our televisions, computers, tablets and phones became the new pulpit. But we gathered to exalt the Savior, equip and encourage the church, and extend the gospel. This virtual gathering has become so important that we will continue using it in the future.
The Value of Growing in Groups
Thom Rainer estimates that as many as 20% of our pre-covid church members will not return post-quarantine. Over the past six months they have discovered that they don’t need church. These are cultural Christians. Most were not connected to small groups. They did not have deep roots in the church. And it has been easy for them to disconnect.
On the other hand, those who were connected to groups remain connected to the church. At least that’s what is happening at the church I serve. And I hear it from other pastors, too. Our groups have not met in person since March 8th. Some groups have met online since then. Others have not. But the groups have continued to function. Just last week I spent time with one group that met on the front lawn of a member. They spread out. Shared a meal. And told stories. Groups are so important to the church, that we will resume in person meetings as soon as possible.
The Value of Going to Make Jesus Known
Churches needing revitalization have often failed to practice this value. As my friend Heath observed, they practiced attractional church growth instead. But the Great Commandment tells us to love our neighbor as ourself. And the Great Commission tells us to express that love by making disciples among our neighbors.
The past six months have given us many opportunities to make Jesus known among our neighbors by meeting real needs. Collecting food. Distributing food. Inviting neighbors to engage in online worship. This week Kingdom Family Christian Fellowship in partnership with Huffman Baptist, where I serve, is starting a remote learning opportunity for Birmingham students who need help with virtual learning. We are providing internet access and educators to assist the children from 7:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon.
The Pathway Forward
Finding clarity has been one of the blessings of the past six months. The post-quarantine church is likely to have fewer people and fewer financial resources than before. We must maximize value. Don’t be in a hurry to restart everything you did before. Push all of the resources you can to gather, grow and go. It might make all of the difference in the world.
Rob Paul is a church revitalization strategist with over three decades of experience serving established Southern Baptist churches in pastoral ministry. He has helped churches in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to experience revival and revitalization by God’s grace and for His glory. He is currently serving as the senior pastor of Huffman Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL. To find out more about Rob Paul Ministries and the work of church revitalization, visit http://robpaul.net