It is a mistake to neglect the power of personal touch when leading a church toward revitalization. As Mark Clifton points out in Reclaiming Glory, loving the church’s existing members is one of six imperatives for a pastor who is leading revitalization. And personal touch is one way to show your love.
My first church out of seminary was a small family chapel in rural, southern Mississippi. I can’t tell you how many mistakes I made with that church. But they loved me anyway. They loved me because they knew that I loved them. And they knew that I loved them because I showed them. I visited them in the hospital. I sat on their front porches. We ate together. We laughed together. We cried together. We prayed together. We played golf, softball, volleyball and basketball together. I showed them that I loved them. As a result, they let me lead.
Shepherding the church well requires that we love church members. That is true for all pastors. It is especially true in church revitalization. Through the power of personal touch, revitalizing pastors can show church members their love. And by showing their love they offer their members…
Once a church recognizes and accepts the reality that they are dying, they are usually overwhelmed with discouragement. I have never met a church member who wanted the church to die on their watch. Many existing members of a dying church can remember when the church was thriving. They remember better days. And they long for better days ahead. They just don’t know how to get there. They are discouraged. And it is the responsibility of their pastor to encourage them. Listen to their stories. And remind them that there is hope. They need encouragement. They also need…
They are members of the body of Christ. God has placed them in the body according to his design. Accordingly, every member is important. Every member is vital to the success of the church. Often the existing members of a struggling church blame themselves. While they may bear some responsibility, they need the assurance that they still matter. When a pastor makes a commitment to demonstrate love by the power of personal touch, he gives them the assurance of their worth. He shows them that they matter. In turn, this allows him to lead them to experience renewed…
More than likely the remaining members are struggling to keep the bills paid and the doors open. They are tired. And they often have little or no joy. In this situation the pastor’s job is to remind them that their true joy comes from Jesus. He does this by doing life with them. Preaching the gospel. Teaching the gospel. Living out the gospel. He does this by reminding them of what Jesus has done for them. As Mark Clifton wrote in Reclaiming Glory, “Help them see that true joy will come as they experience the gospel and pass it on to future generations.”
I am in the early stages of leading a church toward revitalization as a transitional pastor. Several weeks ago I was having lunch with a church family. After lunch they drove me around the community telling me stories of who lives where. This person goes to this church. That person used to go to our church. You get the picture. As I got ready to head back to the church for our Sunday evening service, the lady of the house asked if I had been given a key to the church. I assured her that I had. Then she explained that they used to leave the doors unlocked. She said that the church leadership believed that the church building existed for the benefit of the community. So they left the doors unlocked in the event someone needed a place to rest or a place to pray.
The revitalization strategist in me wanted to shout. The church leadership believed that the church building existed for the benefit of the community. It wasn’t merely a place for Christians to gather in a holy huddle. It existed for the community. Had I not spent the afternoon with that couple, it might have taken me months to learn that bit of information, if I learned it at all. I might have missed out on an amazing opportunity to tie the church’s future solidly to its past.
Joyful church members who have been assured of their value to God, the church, and their pastor and who are continuously encouraged to embrace the future with hope are more likely to succeed at revitalization than those who remain discouraged, defeated and dejected. They are ready to be led. And the pastor who understands the power of personal touch is more prepared to lead them.