Revitalisation: Costly but Vital
True partnership between churches is costly. It can involve ‘giving away’ valuable pastor time, some of your church’s best people and a chunk of resources. So why bother? Mark Herbert, a member of FIEC’s Church Revitalisation Team, explains.
In striving to ‘reach Britain for Christ’, FIEC now has more than 600 churches. Even better news is that we are continuing to grow, and many of our churches are growing, too. But did you know that around 15 per cent of FIEC churches have indicated that they need urgent help to be revitalised?
Revitalisation is the process of helping a struggling church to work towards laying healthy foundations and being equipped with the building blocks so that it can flourish once again. This process often takes place as a partnership, where a stronger church provides resources, leadership or vision. Most often, effective revitalisation requires a combination of all of these.
Each time we meet, FIEC’s Church Revitalisation Team (CRT), led by co-ordinator Phil Walter, tracks the progress of the ‘15 per cent’, and we do our very best to support them. We work hard to connect the right people and churches with those who are struggling, and it’s a real privilege to see some of the fruit that results from those connections.
Over time, the CRT hopes to see its caseload reducing. Not because churches will stop struggling (although we pray that could be the case), but because we want to see more churches connecting and supporting one another in organic partnerships. This will only be possible when more churches catch the vision to be interested in the health of not only themselves, but other churches also.
Although FIEC churches are independently governed, we must all work actively to be interdependent with one another – in partnership. This is what belonging to FIEC is all about.
Revitalisation will have obvious benefits to the struggling church but will also richly bless the supporting church(es). Every church needs to constantly review it’s own situation in order to prevent the danger of plateauing and then the dreaded decline. No church is immune from this. Having an outward-looking vision helps to ensure your church remains healthy.
Encouragingly, more than 6 per cent of FIEC churches have expressed to the CRT an interest in helping to revitalise struggling churches. But if we are to truly reach Britain (with its population of around 65 million) for Christ, many more ‘healthy’ churches will need to take responsibility to build other ‘healthy’ churches.
As the summer approaches, you may be contemplating a spiritual MOT as a church. Perhaps you’ll be doing a self-appraisal, holding a vision day, a prayer week or an elders’ retreat.
Whatever the shape your spiritual MOT takes, as part of it, why not carefully and prayerfully consider your church’s attitude towards helping other churches to flourish?
Philippians 1:3-5 reminds us that partnership is a joy: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…”
Paul also challenges us in Philippians 4:15 that partnership is a responsibility: “…when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only.” His expectation was that other churches would have offered support.
Involvement with others
As you reflect on the extent to which your church helps (or could help) other churches to flourish, you’ll need to consider several factors. These will include your church’s size and its own resources, as well as the attitude of your church towards sacrificial partnership. Can I encourage you to be intentional in the questions you ask of yourselves?
How do your pastors spend their time? What’s your church’s prayer life like? What issues do you, or don’t you, speak about at members’ meetings? What’s your church’s culture, values and vision? And, of course, what provision is made in your budget to ‘give away’ to bless other churches?
Think also about your own attitudes. Is there anything in your heart that is holding you back from taking more risks? Is there anything in your heart that is preventing healthy change in your church?
Yes – true partnership is costly. Yet the Apostle Paul calls us to “excel in the grace of giving” (2 Corinthians 8:7). What might that look like for you?
Here are a few thoughts to chew over:
- Gospel growth. Is my church concerned with Kingdom growth, or just our own church’s growth?
- Leaving our comfort zones. As one pastor has put it: “the church that will change your life is the church that challenges you to grow.”
- Spiritual growth. Learning to depend on God more. Growing in humility and the ability to listen and learn from others.
Of course, agreeing that partnership is important is only the first step. Without intentionality, it rarely happens so can I encourage you to take action by:
- Mapping your area in order to become more aware of local needs and opportunities.
- Approaching a local church and asking how you could pray for them.
- Rethinking your vision and values. Remember that your church’s culture will shape its behaviour.
- Start praying regularly at your weekly gathering for the courage to do something.
- Carve out some time to stop and think, not just about what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it. The answer to this may shape how you help others.
In summary, I’d encourage you to think of one concrete action and commit to it. If all 600 FIEC churches did this today, consider the impact it could have!