In construction you build based on the plans, or you are uncertain what you will end up with. The challenge is having someone who knows how to read the blueprints in order to build correctly. I was recently watching one of the remodeling shows popularized on HGTV. Midway through the project, the main person arrives on the job site to discover the work crew had been “reading” the blueprints wrong. A simple mistake, they had used the inside lines instead of the outside and the room was approximately six inches shorter than needed. None of the custom cabinets would fit; everything was off, building was delayed and costs were going up.
In church revitalization, there are many who think all they need to do is __________ (fill in the blank). We hear this all the time. The “blank” is typically “read this book” or “attend this conference.” However, in reality, the “blank” is the Great Commission. All you need to do is be faithful to evangelism and discipleship. At the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention we have focused our revitalization ministry on preaching and the Great Commission. With this strategy of faithfulness to reaching and discipling, we have worked with churches all across Texas (and North America thanks to our missional partnerships with pioneer states) for the purpose of gospel advancement and revitalization of the local church.
The exciting news for pastors and churches is that the Great Commission provides the blueprint for revitalizing your church as well. The SBTC is here to guide you through the process, and ensure you are reading the blueprints correctly. There are plenty of churches that talk about the Great Commission. There are plenty of pastors who preach biblical sermons. However, the true “reading the blueprint” for revitalization means you are more than just talking Great Commission. You are actually living it. You are doing more than just preaching a biblical sermon, though that is important and necessary; you are also presenting the gospel and extending an invitation. This is reading the blueprint. God’s Word always requires a response and by not extending an invitation you are limiting the response of the people of God to the Word of God. Often times when a pastor hears the word “invitation” he automatically either jumps to an “amen” or he shuts his ears to hear, because that is “old school” and “not how we do things in a progressive, cutting-edge church.”
Look at Nehemiah 8. The reading of the Word of God by the prophet elicits a series of responses by the people of God. First, before the Word was read, they stood (v. 5). Second, they lifted their hands and bowed their heads (v. 6). The people wept when they heard the Word of God (v. 9). God’s Word elicits a response; the need is for the preacher to offer the pathway of response. In the New Testament, when God’s Word is proclaimed and the prophet points to Christ, the Bible clearly indicates salvations occur and baptisms immediately follow. Not all will respond, but the Bible records a response by some. We should look to Peter at Pentecost, Phillip and the eunuch and Paul and his missionary journeys. The blueprint for revitalization follows this path. The pastor must focus on a Great Commission cause and offer a pathway for the people who hear the Word of God to respond. Though I personally prefer an altar call, at minimum the preacher should give specific instructions at the invitation explaining “how to respond” to the message. If the message has been proclaimed effectively, then a response is required.
As we guide the pastor and church through revitalization, we are constantly referring back to the Word of God. This focus brings about renewal in the people of God. Sometimes it is to bring about renewal in the pastor. A fresh fire of evangelism needs to be rekindled in the weary hands and heart of the preacher. Years of tilling the soil often times leaves one worn. Simple reminders of God’s work in the past can once again draw our attention to put our hands to the plow and move forward to once again prepare for the harvest.
Our blueprint for revitalization involves determining the unique evangelism style of your church members and equipping each member to serve within their respective style. It then issues the call to disciple those who receive
Christ in the faith, “teaching them to observe all things…” as Christ instructs through his commission.
The time for revitalization is now. The lostness in Texas is over 19 million. If God once again chose to pour out his Spirit at such a time as this, like he did at Pentecost, we would not have enough pews in Texas to seat everyone who receives Christ. And even running five services per church, we could not hold the decisions in every church. This means we need to plant more churches, yes, but it also means we need to be about the ministry of the revitalization of the local church. Pastor, reach out today and allow the SBTC to come along side you and serve as a guide in the journey to revitalize your church.