Brandon Moore, Church Revitalization Specialist, Missouri Baptist Convention
My son has come to love one of my favorite childhood movies: Robin Hood. The legend surrounding his feats of archery are amazing. He always hit his target! No one could top him, but imagine Robin Hood was traveling through the countryside and came across a barn painted with targets each with an arrow directly in the bullseye, some in nearly impossible spots to hit. Stunned by a possible rival archer present in the middle of nowhere, he asks a boy nearby who the archer was? Sheepishly, the boy responds, “It was me.” Now he had to see this kid in action. So the boy grabs his bow, fires his arrow, and—BAM—hits the side of the barn far away from any targets. Then he runs up to the barn, grabs some paint, and paints his target right around that latest arrow. Robin Hood would have been simultaneously disappointed and relieved that no true rival existed.
What does this story have to do with church revitalization and replanting? Quite simply, if we don’t identify God’s target for our churches, then we’ll have no real way to measure whether churches need revitalization or are experiencing true revitalization. We’ll jump from fad to fad wherever success seems to be, circle it, and declare that this must be revitalization. Churches can convince themselves to continue with ineffective ministries or assume they are OK because, as results change, they simply change the target. Thus, if we aren’t clear about the target, we can’t come alongside our churches to pursue revitalization/replanting.
Over the next several posts, we will talk about what the target is (see below), how the target fuels our pursuit of revitalization, and how to recognize and facilitate conversations with churches that are missing the target.
What’s the Target?
God has created His people with purposeful identities grounded on vital foundations and built through key structures. These will manifest in different ways in different contexts, but these identities, foundations, and structures are what define God’s creation of the church and the target for which we must aim in church revitalization/replanting. Below is a short summary (not intended to be an exhaustive list) of each core identity, foundation, and structure. Check out the summary and learn more about markers of these by checking out the Missouri Baptist Revitalization Network (MBRN) Health Survey. (click for attachment)
- Local churches are created as worshipers of God to reflect His character, gather to worship Him together, and serve Him above all else. They must be centered upon Jesus and the Gospel in all they do, and they are to find their power in the Spirit.
- Local churches are created as family with one another. The community of believers is called to sacrificially love and serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, forgive one another, encourage one another, and even rebuke one another.
- Local churches are created as missionaries to the world. Every church is called to make disciples faithfully and boldly in her local context and to partner in missions efforts to make disciples of all nations.
- The good news about Jesus must be the center of every local church. Believing and applying the Gospel is our only hope for salvation and church revitalization. Churches must never move on from the Gospel but be saturated by it.
- Scripture is the inerrant, inspired Word of God. The Bible is the sufficient source for life and godliness as well as for the revitalization and replanting of churches. Thus, the faithful, clear preaching of God’s Word is essential.
- God intends to do greater works through us than Jesus did (John 14:12-14), and prayer is the primary means by which He keeps us reliant upon Him and enables us to do His works in power. The Spirit empowers revitalization through prayer.
- While every church member is a minister, God gifts the church with pastors as servant leaders who provide oversight of souls, sound preaching, godly examples, and overarching leadership and direction for the church. Also, God provides deacons as leading servants to care for the church’s unity and physical needs.
- Every believer is called to covenant with a local church through membership in order to live out the one another commands of the New Testament, submit to specific pastors’ leadership, and be accountable to a particular congregation as they seek to persevere together in pursuing holiness and God’s mission.
- From evangelizing the lost to building up the saints, churches are called to make disciples, and healthy churches will have intentional strategies and structures to involve people in discipleship no matter where they are on their spiritual journey.