For bright young things contemplating a call to pastoral ministry, church planting is where it’s at. Alternatively, service in an already large and thriving work is often pursued. Why bother trying to turn around a dying church when you can start a new one? After all, isn’t the gospel about new births and fresh starts? Certainly. But let’s not forget that the God of the gospel is also the one who raises the dead.
Where villages, towns and areas of cities are devoid of evangelical witness, there is certainly a case for church planting. No argument there. But, in many cases, communities could be reached with the gospel more effectively by the revitalisation of existing churches.
Not an easy task, admittedly. Struggling churches are often small, demoralised and disconnected from their neighbourhoods. A stuck-in-the-mud membership may be reluctant to embrace change. Considerable ‘cons’.
But there are ‘pros’ too. An established work is likely to have its own buildings, at least some presence in the local community, and a group of seasoned Christians who may be longing to see the Lord visit the church afresh by his renewing power.
John James writes from his first-hand experience of church revitalisation at Crossway Church, Birmingham. But this is no ‘this is how I did it: go and do likewise’ manual. James knows that there are no silver bullets or copy-and-paste programmes for turning around dying churches. It takes the grace of God at work in pastor and people, as well as the faithful application of biblical principles of church life.
A leader involved in revitalisation ministry is going to need bucket loads of God-given grit, determination and stickability. Not to mention the patience and wisdom required to know how best to implement change without alienating established church members.
Leaders mustn’t shy away from conflict, but they also need to ensure that the church is united behind a common vision for reaching their community with the gospel.
In a way, all pastoral ministry is revitalisation ministry, along the way of the cross, whether in churches large or small. Ultimately, it is only the risen Jesus who can breathe new life into dying churches by the power of his Spirit. This book helps us to see some of the biblically sanctioned means by which our Lord may do just that.
This book provides valuable advice and counsel for people who may be thinking about engaging in church renewal ministry. It gives welcome encouragement to those already involved in that difficult yet rewarding work.
Re-establishing a vital gospel witness in every community in the United Kingdom is going to require thriving gospel churches in every community. Who will say, ‘Here I am, send me’?