Church Revitalization

Meet the pastor who’s on a mission to save thousands of dying American churches

"Pastor Marzahn, 55, believes helping churches find new ways to generate income, like sharing their buildings with other churches or finding completely new congregations to take over old buildings is a better response than selling dying churches to for profit developers who have no vested interest in cultivating Christian communities." - Christian Post

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A Biblical View of Church Revitalization

by Marshall Fant III

What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “church revitalization”? Do you think of it as the next popular ministry? Or as a program replacing church planting? Or maybe you think of other “re” words like refocus, realign, rebuild, or renew. Perhaps it is better to ask, Why should we even be interested in church revitalization? Why not just let dying churches die and plant new ones? I propose to you that we should be interested in church revitalization because Jesus is.

Jesus’ Promise to Build His Church

Before we consider what the Bible says about church revitalization, we must first examine Jesus’ promise to build His church. Matthew 16:13–20 tells us that Jesus intentionally journeyed to Caesarea Philippi to give this promise. Caesarea Philippi is located about 30 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus based His ministry. Caesarea Philippi was a Roman city with a pagan culture that worshiped the Greek god Pan. It would have been a striking location to make a promise about Christ’s church. Jesus intentionally took His disciples with Him.

The setting provided a teaching time for them. Others may have been with Jesus, but the passage emphasizes His disciples’ presence. Though these men had been with Jesus for about two and half years, they needed to grasp what was really important. Then Jesus intentionally asked, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (v. 13).

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Four Lessons on Church Revitalization from John Knox

"As Knox walked into the formal church meeting to discuss these issues, he felt confident given the clear majority who supported his views. However, Knox’ opponents had a plan: 'Enough of them had engaged in the cut and thrust of cathedral chapters or college politics to know the group tactics of manipulating the agenda, stage-managing walkouts and block voting. In this company, Knox was a raw novice and he made a series of tactical errors.'" - 9 Marks

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Checking the Pulse of Your Church

By Marshall Fant. Republished with permission from Sowing & Reaping, Spring/Summer 2018.

Is your church a healthy church? If so, how do you know? If not, what should you do about it? By dictionary definition, health is “a condition in which someone or something is thriving or doing well.” To know whether a church is thriving or doing well, pastors and church leaders need to be willing to take an honest look at their ministries. Do you have an accurate view of your ministry, and are you willing to ask the right questions to get an honest evaluation of it?

Pastor John described his ministry to me as “having a slow leak.” Over the last two or three years, a key family moved away, attendance decreased, and members hesitated to fill leadership vacancies. Pastor John needs to ask himself some questions about his philosophy of ministry:

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Revitalization in Rural Churches, Part 2

Republished from Voice, Jan/Feb 2018. Read Part 1.

Deal with Unresolved Conflict

We can learn valuable lessons about dealing with unresolved conflict from the example of Nehemiah in 5:1-13. To truly lead restoration work we have to be willing to deal with unresolved conflict. There is probably no greater need in rural restoration work than to become proficient in the skill of conflict resolution. In the rural setting, after a time of evaluation, it will often become obvious that unresolved conflict is a major cause for decline.

You can’t ignore conflict, because it will not simply “go away.” For a while the tension in a situation or relationship may subside, but unless the root issue is understood and worked through, it’s only a matter of time before the conflict will rear its ugly head again and this time with much more intensity. Unresolved conflict severely impacts the testimony of a church in the rural setting, so be willing to rely on the One who breaks down walls. Fulfill your calling as a peacemaker.

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Revitalization in Rural Churches, Part 1

Republished from Voice, Jan/Feb 2018.

One of my favorite pastimes is driving across rural America and looking at old country churches. It pains me when I see those time-worn yet beautiful church buildings being neglected while nature and the elements take over and lead to their eventual ruin. My passion for old church buildings led me to purchase one particular church building in rural Western Nebraska five years ago. The little church had closed a year earlier. My grandfather John Miles had been the last pastor of the church until he passed away at age 92 and the church eventually closed. The building has nostalgic value to me.

Since purchasing the old church building, my wife and I and some talented friends of ours have been restoring it so that it could become our home. This summer we finally completed this five year process of patiently restoring a church building that was in decline and we moved in.

I have a similar passion for restoration when a local body of believers find themselves in a state of decline. It is difficult to see a local church that is in various stages of decaying or dying. I’ve had the tremendous privilege of pastoring in rural settings and being a part of what I like to call “restoration ministry.” I’ve had a front-row seat as I watched God infuse life into His people in these localities.

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