EP 150 – REVITALIZATION IS POSSIBLE BUT MAY NOT BE PROBABLE
The Bootcamp guys are back, discussing the realities of Church Revitalization. In this EP they break down the idea that it is possible to see a church revitalized but it is often not probable.
- It may be wrong to assume that revitalization is the best option
- Churches often will choose the revitalization option when they want to avoid making the necessary radical changes
- How can a church determine if they should revitalize?
- Confirmation from the word of God
- Affirmation of the Holy Spirit
- Unity among the Body that God is leading the church to chose this
- Church revitalization requires hard work-Pastors and leaders do their part, God does his part.
Are you currently revitalization a church? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line, leave your comments and help the discussion continue.
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JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at the bootcamp, live from Alpharetta, Georgia here, getting to hang out with all of our other Nam staff that’s right for the week. And, uh, we gotta be away from our families and our puppies and our bunnies. . But we’re here serving you the boot campers, because we love you.
Bob Bickford: We are so excited to be, uh, face to face is one of those few times in the years that Jimbo and I get to, uh, spend some time actually in the same room.
And, um, this is ground zero for the COVID outbreak at the replant summit. Yes. Of, uh, 2021, I believe last
JimBo Stewart: was it last year? Yeah. Yeah. The summit last year when yeah, Kyle and you mm-hmm and then I got handed. Everything and you just left
Bob Bickford: he was like, I committed a crime. I had to leave quickly. Oh, Kyle Biman was patient zero.
And interestingly enough, Jimbo, [00:01:00] Kyle’s not here because you know why he was, he’s got exposed to go. So he’s quarantined him. And, uh, we miss him, uh, being here, but, uh, here we are in the same hotel where I. Kyle spent about a week and a half maybe. Yeah. Uh, locked in a room and,
JimBo Stewart: uh, I think he’s probably grateful to, it’s a nice hotel.
Oh, be. But he’s probably grateful to not be in this hotel again.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. And this hotel, Jim, but is it, is it this hotel where, uh, the replant summit participants are gonna be staying
JimBo Stewart: in this? Is it? Yeah. All right. This is, and so just so you know, uh, if, if, if you are one of the ones that got a free hotel, those are gone by the way.
Yep. Uh, then this is the, the Avalon. Alpharetta is, is most likely where you’ll be staying and it’s man, it’s really nice. They give us a sweet RDE. Yeah. Uh, and so you, you’re gonna feel like you’re living in luxury.
Bob Bickford: So for those of you who show up here and you see the swans, and this is, this is a high end area, Jim, it is, there’s got like Tesla and a Mac store and like Lululemon and like all of these other places that I had no idea what they sell, but [00:02:00] they’re high end.
Yeah. Just so the, I want the. Listener to understand it’s cheaper for us to house people here because of the deal we get yeah. Than down the road at the genie. Uh, Name brand rec I want recognized hotel where you think I’m gonna save some money by going there. Yeah. It’s cheaper to do it here because we get such a good contract.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. They give us such a good contract. So, uh, I mean, I’m looking forward to seeing guys at the replant summit. It actually, won’t be too late for people to sign up. If they’re listening to this podcast, uh, the day it goes out, um, we got a few, couple weeks more that you can register for the replant summit.
And we’d love to see you there. We’ve got, uh, close to 200 registered right now. And, uh, looking forward to seeing everybody, for sure. Great
Bob Bickford: breakout for the wives and yes. Uh, so we’re super pumped about all of
JimBo Stewart: that, man. Let’s talk a little bit today about, um, So we’ve talked about difference between replanting and revitalization.
We had a church planter on talking about the difference between those [00:03:00] things. Uh, one of the common issues that we see, uh, you and I both as we’re out working with churches, and as we have seen from others that are serving with churches, uh, sometimes we assume that revitalization is always. The right option and not replanting.
Like, it seems like it’s hard sometimes for churches to recognize when do I need to really see that I need, we need to be replanted versus revitalize. Sure.
Bob Bickford: So kind of an analogy is. Uh, diet change versus heart surgery, right? Mm-hmm so to speak. So a little less salt on the French fries, not, not as much gravy on the, uh, what’s that egg in a hole, or what is that one saying?
There’s no gravy on your egg in a hole talked.
We can see, I thought,
JimBo Stewart: if you put gravy on your egg at a hole, you probably
Bob Bickford: got issues. All right. So anyway, but it’s like, most people [00:04:00] want to choose revitalization because it’s the least invasive. Yeah. Right. And it’s we still can do it ourselves. We got a shot. So one of the things I will say to, to a church is, and because invariably, they say this well, Jesus, didn’t he say that all things are possible.
He did. He, he said it. He said it, but here’s what I say to them. Hey. Um, all things are possible, right? Revitalization is always possible always, but here’s the key sometimes it’s just not probable. Yeah. Possible. But not always probable. Yeah. And, and Jimbo. I was consulting a church a couple of weeks ago, um, in, uh, south of St.
Louis, a church that lives in a village. So in, in Missouri, there are, you know, towns and cities and villages are kind of these unincorporated, like a group collection of houses. And so this was a, a very rural, uh, congregation Jim. They were down to five people, the pastor and his wife made up. Two of the five, [00:05:00] a long time church lady, and then another, uh, couple that had moved in, they just lost two, uh, parishioners to, or congregants to death.
Like they died. And, uh, so five people hanging on to, to, uh, try to see what they could do. And so we. Went through the process of kind of looking at their data and examining their context. And we came back with a conversation and said, look, um, you probably need a partner to come in here. Yeah. But like Reva they’re they’re of the age where they can’t drive at night, they can’t walk to do visitation.
They can’t do all the things to reach their community that a church might do. They have just a little bit of money in the bank and they have people who don’t attend the church. Sponsoring them basically sending money in to keep this church afloat. Yeah. So is revitalization possible? Yeah. Yeah, it’s possible.
Is it probable? No. And so I think that the hard part for me is, and for a lot of churches is coming to understand what [00:06:00] does that really mean for us in our context?
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think of, so I was just reading, I’m reading through experiencing God book right now. Uh, Henry and Richard Black be and Claude king and, uh, on Monday mornings, my wife and I do a Facebook.
Kind of live to talk through a book and that’s the one we’re doing right now. And the one we did this week, it tells the story of when Henry felt called to move from Los Angeles to Saskatoon, to this church with 10 people. And, uh, they not only wanted to see that church come back to life, but wanted to plant new missions all over Canada.
And, and it’s really this incredible story in the chapter. And I thought about even this conversation, um, with that, and part of me was like, You, you could read that and you could go, well, this is, this is what we’re gonna do. Right. And, and man, I, I would love to see that happen, but you also recognize, like there’s a reason that Henry Blackaby was able to then write a book.
That became like world renowned for, for generations.
Bob Bickford: and let’s not [00:07:00] forget this fact he’s Henry
JimBo Stewart: Blackaby. Right. That’s what I was saying. Like, this is, this was a unique scenario. Yeah. Right. And, um, and so I was thinking about this situation the other day of how do we, as, as we were talking to a church, Because I’m an internal optimist Bob.
And so there’s a part of me. That’s always like, man, let’s just go for it. Like I, that’s just always my inclination, like, sure. I don’t know how we’re gonna make it work, but let’s make it work. and let’s figure it out. Um, And so I started asking myself this question, cuz, cuz even with that, with that mentality, when you say, well it’s possible not probable, that kind of even guides me to go more than let’s make it happen.
Like yeah, you said it’s you said it’s possible. You just said it’s not probable, which means it’d be even cooler if it happened. So let’s do
Bob Bickford: it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But you are a different kind of leader. Right. And, and this is, I think goes to the heart of, of what we’re um, At least highlighting as, as a reality, right?
Yeah. So, [00:08:00] um, when, uh, when we were consulting a church, another church, a different church, um, There were seven people in the church. Two were the pastor and his wife, all senior adults. They all did not live in the area. They came out from way outside the area, into the city and, and were part of the church.
And so we met him at the Panera bread company in St. Louis. We just called the bread co. So we rolled in there and the guy had one of the biggest three ring binders I had ever seen in my entire life. And he had printed page after page of blog posts, Facebook posts. Leadership church leaders, articles, all it’s, anybody’s written on revitalization.
He had printed it off and put it in the notebook. And so he just starts turning pages and flipping like, it’s a, that gets a playbook, like an NFL kind of playbook. Yeah. And he’s like, okay, well, well we swept left that didn’t work. Yeah. Yeah. Here’s what we’re gonna do. So he just started lining it up and I’m like, I’m like, Hey brother.
So I ask him, you know, how many people are in your church, what’s average age, et cetera, you know, all those sorts of [00:09:00] things. Do you live in the community? Know, do you know your community? No, not really. And I just, you know, I just said, Hey bro, like you are trying to run NFL plays and you’ve got like maybe a, the, the resources you have and the people that you.
Are not able to run those plays. Mm-hmm like, you just can’t do it, right. Yeah. Because, cause they can’t get out in the community and visit, right. Yeah. They, they don’t live there. They don’t know those folks and, and mean they could, but physically some, most of them couldn’t do it. Right. And so I, I think they’re.
There is a place where you have to, to look at some reality. And again, you know, I’m thinking, you know, well, Jesus and the fish and, you know, it’s like, we just give him our little and all that kinda stuff. Yeah. Which is a hundred percent true. But Jimbo, I don’t think that there are many people who are down to a state of like critical decline where it’s just a handful of folks that can turn it around.
I, I think it is possible, but it’s just not
JimBo Stewart: [00:10:00] probable well, and I would say is, look. If the holy spirit makes it really clear. And in the same chapter that Blackaby introduces this story, he talks about the importance of not just going off of your gut. Yeah. He talks about if we’re gonna follow God’s will there’s a few things.
We need one. We, we need a prompting of the holy spirit. We need it confirmed in scripture. And when it confirmed with wise counsel. Okay. That’s that’s the three things that black CBE kind of emphasizes in this chapter? Well, it, it got me think. Because I thought, what is a biblical story of, of us kind of assuming and go in the wrong direction.
And I don’t want to use this analogy cuz it’s offensive to use this analogy. I think
Bob Bickford: uhoh listener warning
JimBo Stewart: but the, the story that came to my mind is Ishmael. Okay. Right. So, so Abraham and Sarah, I have gotten a promise from God that they will have descendants that. Or more than the, the [00:11:00] stars in the sky, but they’re getting old and, and they’re realizing the probabilities are decreasing, but so they come up with their own plan and here’s the thing.
Does their plan technically somewhat accomplish the beginnings of a goal? Kind of, I mean, it produces an offspring, but God’s very clear that this was. How this was what, like this, this, there was a, there was a right way to do this. Yeah. And they jumped ahead of what God wanted and assumed that they had a way to figure out how to do it.
And then the other one I think is, is Moses striking the rock and just keep doing the same thing. And, and maybe it’s gonna work the reason, I think maybe it’s offensive. Like, I mean, it’s a really messed up situation. How Ishmael comes to be. , but it’s kind of messed up when we ignore wise counsel and we just go off [00:12:00] our gut and we just go, well, then, you know, it’s, it’s like we’ve left it completely in, God’s like on God’s responsibility to revive this church without us having any part of it.
And it’s one thing to put things in God’s hands, which as we should and put ’em at the feet of the cross, but ever since. Adam and Eve were created, God has always chosen to work through the obedience of his people. Yeah. And, and so the question I think we have to ask is not even. How probable is. This is, I mean, is, is God, is God giving us a, a direction here and, and is God called us to, because if God says, Hey, Henry Black could be type, guy’s gonna show up and we’re gonna see God do unbelievable things.
And you’ve heard that clearly, then man, didn’t do it, but I would not March into the red sea, just assuming God’s gonna split it. Unless God said, Hey, I need you to walk into the red sea [00:13:00]and I’m gonna take care of you. All right.
Bob Bickford: So counterpoint to that, right. Let’s hear it is, um, we tend to spiritualize a lot of things.
Yeah. Right. And so fir first and foremost, I don’t think we could ever roll into a church. And presume to know as an outsider who participates minimally in interacting with that group of people. Yeah. And their leaders, what God would be saying to them. Right. Yeah. I think that’d be, that’d be a mistake.
Yeah. Right. But I think we do have a, a experience and background to be able to ask probing questions. And to make observations about what we see. Yeah. Right. And so I think the congregation sometimes congregations and leaders sometimes over spiritualize their decisions by saying, well, the Lord is doing some things.
Okay. What is he doing? Mm-hmm [00:14:00] right. But we had a family that visited, you know, Last week or three months ago. All right. Well, did they stick around? Well, no, but we had a visiting family three months, so I think the Lord is doing something. Yeah. Well, I wanna be very careful to, to, to speak either in, in affirmation of that or contrary to that.
But I, I think the three things that you highlighted that the, the confirmation of the word of God, the holy spirit in the community of faith. Yeah. Believers, like that’s really key. Yeah. Right. And so you can, you know, you can go on that for a long time believing, and, and the other thing too is, is the guys who, and I made a tweet this, uh, I, I, I had a tweet made a tweet.
What. Tried to tweet you tweeted. I tweeted, sorry. Yeah, I think you just say you tweeted and I’m getting old Jimbo that’s alright. Okay. Um, double Nicks. Yes, double Nicks. Um, so I tweeted this week about, uh, uh, Some [00:15:00] people just think you just get right. You get the right leader and then everything’s gonna turn around.
Well, there’s a, there’s not a single source solution to a church that’s been in decline for decades. Yeah. Right. There’s multiple issues. And so you need more than a leader. You need more than just a ready church. You need more than the right context. You really need the work of God. Yeah. And so, so we also see that there has to be a humility in the body.
To go before the Lord and to look honestly at where they are. Yeah. And maybe where the Lord is leading them, but also to do an honest evaluation of, of what their level of obedience and faithfulness and surrender, uh, is for the moment. Yeah. Right. So the church I was consulting, we were saying, okay, let me ask you a question.
If you were all, uh, if you all had reached young people and stayed, uh, you know, At a, at a healthy level of attendance and membership and activity admission, [00:16:00] how would the church look different? And so they begin to list off all these things like, well, we probably have screens, we probably have these kinds of ministries.
We probably do midweek. We, the building would probably refresh and painted and all these sorts of things. And I say, okay, great. So if you’re gonna reach young people, And young families now, are you prepared to embrace those changes and they paused, right? Yeah. Cause they didn’t know if they were ready or not.
Yeah. And then another question, if you have some kids show up who’s who among you is gonna be ready to handle. Uh, children’s ministry. Do you have a plan like who who’s gonna do that? Like yeah. What do you need to change in the building? Is your, is your kids’ classrooms, are your kids’ classrooms? Are they, are they clean and safe and ready to go?
And, and if they’re not, how are you gonna do that? Right? Yeah. Are you gonna, how are you gonna prepare that among yourselves? Cause they, they were resistant to outside partners coming in, helping them and so they didn’t, they couldn’t imagine how they would get ready and prepare for God. To bring them what they hoped God would bring them.
They just were kind of [00:17:00] hoping and thinking and praying, well, maybe some miracle’s gonna happen. Yeah. Like something’s gonna happen. Well, I, I think yes, but one of my favorite passages, the second King’s three. The Kings come together and they go fight against Moab and God leads him to a desert and the desert’s, you know, dry and, and, uh, everybody starts complaining, you know, like, uh, what, why did we just, why did we come out here that, you know, just to die together, you know, and all this kind of stuff.
And so is there a prophet of the Lord to me inquire him? And so they, they pray and, uh, they inquire the prophet and the prophet says, make this valley full of ditches. Right. And what does. What does that, you know, think about Jimbo. If you’re in a desert, like I was in San Antonio a couple weeks ago, Jimbo, it was so hot.
I couldn’t even think outside it was just like, I mean, we took Daisy and she was like, what did you guys do? You know? Like, it was just, I mean, it was crazy hot, but like way hotter than that, no water in a desert, [00:18:00] you gotta dig ditches. And, and why are we digging ditches? This doesn’t make any. And, uh, second Kings three said, you’ll neither see wind, wind nor rain, but this valley will be full of water.
Right? Mm-hmm so they go to sleep, wake up the next morning. And as the sun is coming up over the mountain, water’s in the ditches and the. Opposing army sees it and they see the red in it. They think they’ve all killed each other. There’s bloods all over the ground. Right. And so then they, they come over, you know, kind of just like, if you already think you’ve got this one, you’re coming over, not ready to fight.
And so then the, the Israel, and so they, and Juda, they rise up and they go against them. Right. And they, they take out the army and, uh, and so great picture he’s had, but what did they have to do? They had to dig the ditches in preparation for the water to be. Given to them so they could drink it, but also, so they would give them a victory.
And I think what I see is a lot of churches don’t want to dig the ditches. Mm. [00:19:00] They just want God to show up and do something for them. Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. I think that’s what I was trying to say far less eloquently than you just did. Well, I don’t know about that. what, uh, of, you know, I think sometimes when we, there’s a laziness to saying, well, God’s just gonna come through with a miracle.
Um, I mean, if he’s told you that, but, but almost always that’s God speaks through his prophets and speaks through his, his spirit in ways that says like, Hey, go dig a ditch. Yeah. Hey, bring me those sister and fill ’em with water. Yeah. Bring me to five loaves and the two fish. And then you are gonna do the work of breaking it and taking it out to every, like, he always brings us in as co-laborers co-heirs in, in, in the process.
And. So even I think of. The whole residence to partnership. I struggle with that, cuz partnership’s such a biblical idea. And even if you look at the Blackaby story in Saskatoon, part of [00:20:00] the miracle, there was not Henry Blackaby. It was, it was that Henry is like a George Mueller type praying guy and he would pray and people would just show up.
And these partners would like, like literally these people would just show up and. Checks would just show up and mission teams would just show up. And, and so it wasn’t that God did all this through Henry Blackaby. It’s that God Henry Blackaby prayed and he sought the Lord. And then the Lord provided partners that church didn’t become healthy just under the leadership of Henry Blackaby.
Yep. That’s a good perspective. That’s that? God provided partners and man, I don’t, I don’t know. I just, I would love to see a day. When partnership is not seen as a negative when, when we just like to go, oh, we’re you don’t have to think, oh, we’re so sick that we need partners. That’s one way to look at that.
The other way to look at that is praise God. We are part of the body of Christ universal, [00:21:00] and there are other. Brothers and sisters that love Jesus. Like we love Jesus that preach the gospel. Like we preach the gospel and they want to help us. And in a Galatians six moment, we’ve got a burden that’s too heavy for us to carry.
Yeah. And, and so others are gonna come help carry that and therefore fulfill the law of Christ. Love it. That, that that’s what, like, that’s, I. In my mind. I’d just go. Cause when I was pastor replant, man, I looked for partners everywhere. Yes. Everywhere.
Bob Bickford: Yes. Cuz as a re planter, we know man, we’re sick.
JimBo Stewart: Like man, I need partners bro.
Like. We did so many things with so many churches. I didn’t even care if they were healthy. I just look let’s. So we, we had worship nights where there was like seven churches and there would only be 85 people there, but we would, and, and the reason I did that was like, cuz worship seven small churches. And none of us could have a worship night with 85 people right now.
But if we all come [00:22:00] together yeah. Then we could have, how fun would it be for 85 people to be together. And we’re not trying to compete with each other. And there’s, we’ve gotta move away from competitive thinking. Yeah. And, and, and, and part of competitive thinking that we don’t often think is competitive thinking, is that.
We don’t need outside partners to come in because we’re not that bad or they’re gonna take some control away from us. So they’re yeah. Look, cooperation takes sacrifice. Mm-hmm it always does. It always will. Mm-hmm um, but that, I mean, sacrifice is part of following
Bob Bickford: Jesus. Yeah. Part of and sacrifice. I is.
and this is where I think the church that we were doing, the consultation with really struggled sacrificed with preference. Yeah. How are we gonna do things like, so, um, one of our children, um, will have a physical need. Um, and, um, you know, when you’re not feeling well, you’re kind of sick. What do you do?
You go to dad? Do you go to mom? Well, most kids go to mom, right? So they go to mom and mom’s, you know, Barb’s got, you know, all [00:23:00] these home remedies and all these things that she’s does and all this kinda stuff. So. One of our kids would say, you know, mom, I don’t feel well. So she’d come to the child and, and say, well, um, I’ve got, well, I’ve got this.
And uh, I think this would help you. No, I don’t wanna do that. Okay. Well, I’ve got this and I think this would help you. No, I don’t wanna do that either. I got this and I think this would help you. No, I don’t wanna do that. So geez. Okay. That child of ours, all that child wants to do is just complain about being sick.
They don’t want to receive any help. Yeah. I don’t wanna do that. It’s like, like, yeah. Okay. So, so she’s taken a different approach. She has to take a different approach and she has to draw it out, so, okay. Well what do, what, how can I help you? Right. What can I do? Yeah. Right. And so when we talk to a church that’s struggling, or even if you’re, uh, bootcamp listener here and your, your church is struggling.
You might could say, well, what should we do? Or what can we do? Let’s [00:24:00] think about some options. And then Phil, most churches don’t though that are in decline. They don’t have a, a whiteboard Jimbo. They still have the chalkboard mm-hmm so go to Walmart, get some chalk, go to hobby lobby. I think they have chalk there.
Hobby lobby. Yeah. And get the chalk and then write on the chalkboard and what, what are options? What can we do get ’em move it, right. Get ’em thinking about what the options are. And. Looking at those options thinking which of these could we do better if somebody was here to help us yeah. Do this right.
And still you’re starting to get them to move forward in momentum. Right. Yeah. And rather than just saying immediately go into partnership. Right? Yeah. Which of these could we do? Which of them could we not do which of them could we do if we had a partner. Right. And why don’t we try that just as an option, like, like try to reach our community with a partner.
Yeah. And see what happens and, uh, do community outreach. So I think, is it possible to revitalize a church? Yes. Is it probable. Depends sometimes. Right. Sometimes [00:25:00] depends on the, on the readiness of the congregation, on the spiritual work that’s taken place. And, uh, and so I think we want to encourage our listeners just to remember, um, if you’re in a tough spot, in a tight spot and you’re thinking, man, I don’t know if it’s possible.
It’s always possible. Is it probable? Needs to be seen. Yeah,
JimBo Stewart: I guess, I guess I would wanna say maybe the default should be who are the partners that can help us figure this out? Mm-hmm like, I, I just think that should be a default question from the beginning. Um, like where, where do we have people that could help us do this better?
It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to become a campus of somebody or, or change your name, or, but I don’t know why you would try to do it alone. Like I just can’t Ima that’s just not in my mindset. I can’t imagine trying to do that alone. And look, I don’t know that there’s anything that will kill your probabilities faster than holding onto preferences.
Mm-hmm , that’s pride, pride. I mean, that’s pride, pride and holding onto [00:26:00] preferences will kill your chances. Mm-hmm uh, is God, God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. And, um, I don’t, I don’t think we wanna be opposed. By God. Nope. And so approach it in humility, man, and figure out partnership.
Don’t don’t assume that self-guided revitalization is the right answer or, or even the only answer, um, default to a posture of partnership. All right. Boot campers. It’s great to have you with us. I hope that we get to meet you in person at the replant summit later this month, uh, hit us up if you’re gonna be.