Something powerful happens when people and churches work together.
Beyond our commitment to scripture and passion for the gospel, no other characteristic better defines Southern Baptists than cooperation. We combine our resources and coordinate our efforts to shine the gospel light around the world.
At the same time, regardless of size or location, in every community, thriving churches serve just down the street from declining churches. It’s a mission field, right in our own backyard. As pastors and church leaders, we have a responsibility to give strength to and gain strength from one another.
John 15:1-2 describes the seasons every church experiences. A God-inspired season of growth is followed by a God-designed season of decline that leads to a God-prescribed new birth and fresh life. John 15:2 is clear. Because we’ve grown, God prunes our growth that we may bear more fruit. He breaks our success, to make room for what’s next.
But there’s a challenge. In the time of pruning, we’re tempted to pull back, isolating ourselves. We’re reluctant to ask for help or uncertain how to offer it. Even the language of pruning is uncomfortable. To hear “revitalize” or “replant” feels like the church equivalent of a terminal diagnosis. Words like these are frightening because they come loaded with misunderstanding. Let’s clarify their meaning and celebrate the potential God is sowing.
Renewed life from existing conditions.
Within existing conditions, a church adjusts their vision, values, methods, resources, and people to bring renewed life into their congregation. Generally, this occurs when a church rediscovers or recommits to their God-inspired purpose as they realign their practices to bring that purpose to life.
New conditions from existing life.
A church implements creative ways to use their existing talents and resources like never before.
Examples include offering new services for a changing demographic; opening buildings for uses beyond regular church activities; direct partnerships with local schools, businesses, and municipalities to provide needed services to the community.
New life from new conditions.
A church humbly surrenders their existing strategy, structure, and systems to become a new church with a new name, leadership, bylaws, and methods.
Declining churches often pray that God would bring new people. What if the answer to that prayer is another local pastor or planter who already leads a congregation filled with people new to them?
A necessary ending.
While no one wants this outcome, there comes a time for a dignified and noble end. None of the churches addressed in Revelation exist today. The congregations Paul began have given their last full measure of devotion. Yet the story of their faith has inspired generations. The seed they sowed has grown to cover the earth with His glory.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Yet, when people (and churches) are in crisis, their first phone call is to a friend. God is redeeming, rescuing, and coming for His church. At her weakest, the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. As those entrusted with her care, let’s build lasting friendships that become significant partnerships between our congregations and encourage one another when God brings a church through a season of pruning.
This is the goal of the Church Strengthening Initiative, to equip leaders to love and lead people through the transitions necessary for their church to become faithful to its God-inspired mission. We’re praying that God would raise up a network of pastors and church leaders who stand ready to help declining congregations become thriving churches.
Our first training is May 4th, 9:30am to 4:00pm at the Baptist Building. Lunch is included. During the training, participants will learn how to evaluate, equip, and encourage congregations to take their next step of faith. The training includes basic coaching skills, the spiritual foundation of revitalization, and tools to help churches see their current condition, dream about a preferred future, and create a plan to act.
Register at https://oklahomabaptists.org/CSI-Training