Undermining Revitalization–Part 4

Here’s the conclusion to the four part series on undermining revitalization.

An Alternate Ending

I read an article once that revealed how the endings of Star Wars: The Return of the Jediand Rocky Iwere altered.[1]The original ending of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedihad Han Solo dying. The original ending of Rocky Ihad Rocky receiving money to throw the fight against Apollo Creed. If you’ve seen either movie, Han Solo is one of the heroes of the rebellion against the empire and Rocky victoriously (in a motivational fashion) defeats Apollo Creed. Both are glorious endings.

Today, many churches in need of revitalization are experiencing more of a tragic ending like the original endings of Star Wars:The Return of the Jedi and Rocky I. Such endings are very similar to the ending of the children of Israel in Numbers 14 because of the ten spies who gave a negative report. 

However, we can change the endings of churches in need of revitalization. The endings can be much more encouraging and glorious than we could have imagined. To help rewrite the ending of the stories—from gloom to glorious—I’ve created a code or a set of five guiding principles for all church leaders to follow.

  1. It’s not about me, but HE. Remember, it is not about you! It never has been, nor will it ever be. It is about the King of Glory and making much of Him—not only in the church but through the church.
  2. It is definitely bigger than us, but NOT TOO BIG for God. Turning around a church; jump-starting a church from years of plateau; bringing a church back to life; whatever you call it, revitalization is bigger than one person, or a group of people. It is a task that only the Spirit of God can empower a people to accomplish.
  3. If I don’t check my heart, I can wreck the church. Just because someone has been marked by salvation doesn’t mean they are currently living out their salvation. In other words, people can know Jesus but presently not be obeying Jesus. I think of Peter in Galatians. Paul had to call him out for his behavior that was in direct contradiction to the gospel. Leaders must constantly check their heart to make sure it is connected to and walking with God. I cannot tell you how many leaders that I have come across in my years of pastoring that were “good” people but their heart was in no condition to be leading God’s people—in any way.
  4. If I’m not growing as a leader, I’m holding back the church. Leaders are learners. When it comes to leadership in the church—especially in cases of revitalization–if you want the church to grow (in any capacity) you must be growing as a leader. This principle applies to any leadership position: paid staff, lay elder, deacon, finance committee, personnel committee, etc. Such people in positions of leadership should be reading books and articles (listening to podcasts) on theology, ecclesiology, mission, revitalization, leading change, on their specific areas of leadership, etc. If you hold a position of leadership in the church and you’re too busy or too lazy to grow, you need to step down. It’s just that simple.
  5. It’s a mud-run marathon, not a stroll down Main Street. There’s nothing easy about leading a revitalization. I could get into all the specific difficulties associated with leading a turnaround. But in general, revitalizing a church is a battle. Keep in mind, the devil does not want you to succeed! In addition, the proclivity of the human heart is stubbornness. Thus, revitalization is messy, demanding, painful, and, at times, lonely. Revitalization is like constantly running into a head-wind. To be honest, this is why many churches won’t make it. And they won’t make it because they don’t have the leadership with the backbone to stay the course, to finish the race. They think church should be a place or a people without friction—just an easy stroll down Main Street. Know this: moving in the direction of God will cause friction with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

In closing, churches in need of revitalization can rewrite their ending. But for their ending to be rewritten from one of gloom to glory, there will need to be—undergirding the guiding principles mentioned above—a persistence in prayer, a grounding in the word of God, a commitment to the gospel, and a passion for mission. But rest assure, as this article has contended, it will require a body of leaders undergirding, rather than undermining, the God-given vision of moving forward. The promised land awaits. 


[1]Stacy Conradt. “The Alternate Endings of 28 Movies.” Mental Floss, July 29, 2014. Accessed June 28, 2019. http://mentalfloss.com/article/58013/alternate-endings-28-famous-movies.

Learning from the Government Shutdown

As most everyone knows, our government has been shutdown for two weeks. Although the government has been shutdown many times before, this one (obviously) is fresh on my mind. From history, I believe we can assume that, at some point, our nation’s leaders will strike a deal to end this ordeal. However, I cannot help but draw some comparisons between what is happening within our nation’s capital with what takes place in hundreds and thousands of churches each year; for every year hundreds and thousands of churches shutdown—either literally close the doors or missionally cease to be effective.

I understand I have some limitations when it comes to my personal experience with government, in that I am an outsider looking in, mainly through the online and cable news media. Nevertheless, I believe there are three main lessons we can learn when it comes to a government, group, body, or church shutting down their organization or operation.

1)   A difference of vision will lead a government, group, body, or church to shutdown. There is no surprise that most Democrats and Republicans have a different vision for America. As the USA Today online stated, “Differences between Democrats and Republicans are deepening over virtually every issue, and federal spending is the biggest one of all.” When it comes to differing visions, having differences over primary issues has the tendency to lead to shutting down an organization or body. Or, on the other hand, when one group makes an issue primary, whereas another group believes it to be tertiary, the organization can be on a verge of a shutdown. The national debt is a good example. Many Republicans believe America needs to get its financial house in order and that we cannot continue to raise our national debt without making some major cuts to the federal budget, whereas many in the Democrat party think America can continue the same trajectory of spending without suffering any ill effects. When it comes to churches, there can be differences of vision that can lead to a shutdown. One of the sad realities is many churches even fail to have a vision, which leads them to be in a state of existence. If a church does not come out of a state of existence, they will first missionally shut down, which will eventually lead to a literal shut down. I believe a differing vision some churches face is over the question, “Who is the church, or church, for?” For some, they believe that the church exists for themselves and that people can come and join if they so desire. For others, they believe that the church exists for the world and thus (most) everything they do has the undergirding of the church reaching more people. The reality is that much of the difference of vision within the churches usually is not over theology, but methodology, structure, and strategy—which again goes back to the question, “Who is the church for?” Therefore, either agreeing with a direction, or agreeing to disagree yet move forward, is essential for any government, group, body, or church to avoid a shutdown.

2)   A campaign of slander and smearing will lead a government, group, body, or church to shutdown. What usually happens when a government, group, body, or church cannot agree on a vision, or at least agree to disagree and move forward? The answer, people have the tendency to succumb to a sinful and selfish state where they abuse their power and platform by slandering, gossiping, distorting information, and misrepresenting the other side. In the realm of American politics, most Americans are immune to this style of ugliness. They believe slander, smear tactics, and a distortion of facts is just what partisan politicians do. However, these antics may be cute and funny for a while, but eventually people cross the line, and when politicians cross the line, it is usually the American people who suffer. For, when the slander, smearing, distorting, and misrepresenting escalates it leads to what we have currently, a shutdown. Sadly, I wish it were different within churches. But, although churches are the gathering of the redeemed children of God, many of them resort to pre-redeemed tactics. And when they do not get their way they begin their campaign of slander, smearing, distorting information, and misrepresenting the people with whom they disagree. When lines are drawn and these behaviors escalate, it can lead nowhere good, but to a possible shutdown—because they have turned the whole thing into a showdown. 

3)   A dis-unified government, group, body, or church will lead to a shutdown. What is the result of a government, group, body, or church that cannot agree on a direction and turns their differences into a showdown of slandering and smearing? The answer, disunity. Undergirded with a biblical truth, Abraham Lincoln in 1858 told the Illinois Republican State Convention that, “A house divided cannot stand.” Divisiveness and disunity can bring any government, group, body, or church crashing down. This is why I believe the apostle Paul was adamant to the churches that they strive to maintain unity (Eph 4:1-3; Col 3:12-17), to arm themselves with the mind and attitude of Christ (Phil 2:1-11), to think of themselves as one body with many members (Rom 12:3-8 and 1 Cor 12:12-31), and to put on the armor of God while being aware of the tactics of the devil (Eph 6:10-20). In order to flex great strength of power and of accomplishing a vision, unity must be present.

In closing, I have great love, appreciation, and concern for our county. And my prayer is that we would be a “United” States, even if that means sometimes we have to agree to disagree as well as have to give and take while maintaining civility and unity. While this probably will not be the last government shutdown, I pray that we will learn from it. However, as a child of the King and one who believes that the church exists primarily for the glory of God and the good of the world, I have great hopes as well as concerns for the church around the world. While we cannot go back and re-open those who have literally shutdown their doors, I believe those churches that have missionally and spiritually shutdown can be re-opened.