Ministry Leadership

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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Should Divorcees Be Forbidden to Teach or Lead in Local Churches?

The constitutions and bylaws of independent Baptist churches commonly include language that forbids divorced persons from teaching Sunday School or holding church office. The restriction is so common that of the dozens of church constitutions I’ve read and filed, only one or two lack some version of it. Since many churches with these restrictions have some history of conflict over them, the topic also tends to be seen as a minefield—best to fence it off and leave it alone.

But these same church constitutions and confessions of faith also strongly emphasize the authority of Scripture, and one question should always be welcome: Is what we’re doing biblical? Is it compatible with Scripture and the revealed nature and purposes of the church?

Let’s consider some arguments pro and con.

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When Followers Don’t Follow: The Limits of Persuasion

Read the series so far.

Parents, spouses, teachers, team leaders, ministry leaders, and others are often not content with gaining short-term outward compliance from those in their care. They understand that a deeper and more enduring understanding is better, whenever that’s achievable. It follows that they should reach early and often for the tool of persuasion.

But persuasion is sometimes ill suited for the task at hand. At least four situations call for a different approach, either foregoing a persuasive effort to begin with or setting it aside for another day—or possibly tabling it indefinitely for a particular audience.

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When Followers Don’t Follow: The Art of Persuasion

Though many of us don’t think of ourselves as leaders, we all find ourselves in situations where we’re responsible to some extent for “getting other people to do things” (or stop doing things). In that sense, we’re all leaders occasionally.

Previously, I introduced three primary tools leaders have at their disposal (coercion, persuasion, and influence), overviewed how the three differ, and explored some ways we tend to use one of them—coercion—badly (with self-defeating consequences).

Paul’s letter to Philemon draws our attention to the second tool—persuasion—and even a brief look reveals a great deal about what persuasion is, how it works, and why we should try to get better at it.

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When Followers Don’t Follow: A Closer Look at Coercion

Life is stewardship. In a perfect world, everyone would not only recognize that fact, but they would also recognize and accept the responsibilities that go with their individual stewardship. Perhaps people would still need to be told what to do, but they would never need to be coerced. “Do this in order to receive this short term reward” would be weird, and “Do this, or else” would be unheard of.

But that isn’t the world we live in, and people are much in need of leaders to influence, persuade, and yes, coerce.

Coercion, though, is so easily botched! As a result, leaders often lapse into acting like either bullies or beggars, and both errors tend to produce followers who don’t follow. As one who struggles to use the tools of leadership properly (and who has experienced their misuse by others), I believe it’s worth the effort to understand coercion better.

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The Anatomy of a Leader's Heart, Part 2

From Voice magazine, Mar/Apr 2016. Used by permission. Read Part 1.

Our Heart’s Treasures

The second chamber of our lead­ership heart pertains to our treasures. This chamber pulsates in rhythm with the previous one, our thoughts. Jesus, in the process of sculpting the heart of His disciples, said: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). Our hearts follow our treasures.

What exactly are treasures of the heart? A treasure is what we highly value. It is what we define as having great worth. It is what we pursue by virtue of declaration of its value. For example, what is the value of a $100 bill? The actual paper is worth pennies at best. The ultimate worth of the bill is determined by the declaration of the United State Treasury Department. Apart from their declaration, the worth of a $100 dollar bill is not worth any more than the paper upon which it is printed.

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The Anatomy of a Leader's Heart, Part 1

From Voice magazine, Mar/Apr 2016. Used by permission.

All ministry leadership ultimately involves spiritual work in hearts. It is doubtful that any ministry leader in our circles would deny or challenge that biblical reality. But as I have the blessing of serving ministry leaders here and abroad, it has been my observation that the proposition of ministry leadership being ultimately a spiritual work in the heart is too often mentally affirmed but functionally denied.

The key word is process. While a semi­nary student I well remember Prof. Hendricks repeatedly stating, “Process always determines product!” As a young and immature Christian, I had little idea at that time how pregnant that statement was with implication. If the process is natural, the product will be natural. If the pro­cess is spiritual the product will be spiritual.

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Going Rogue

(From Voice magazine, Jan/Feb 2016.)

African elephants are the largest land animal on earth. At 12,000 pounds and ten feet tall, they can intimidate anyone and anything. Elephants don’t worry much about predators.

The norm is to live in herds within a matriarchal social structure. The largest female leads the group of eight to one hundred elephants in a tight family unit. At the age of twelve to fifteen years the males leave the group and begin a new family. There is always a dominant male in the herd, but sooner or later, a younger male will take over, and the older ones are left to wander alone. It is a melancholy scene to watch a great-grandfather pachyderm grazing completely by himself.

For whatever reason, some of these older males go berserk; they go rogue. Unstable males become violent and territorial. They go on a rampage, attacking anyone in their way, destroying crops and vegetation. These are the really scary guys.

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