In SBC life, the concept of church revitalization is gaining momentum among pastors and church practitioners. While the conversations regarding the best ways to return a church to health are needed, there has been a tendency to bring every aspect of church planting and church growth under the umbrella of church revitalization. Which brings us to the question . . .
What Church Revitalization Isn’t
Before we can provide an accurate definition of church revitalization, we must first understand what it is not.
Church Revitalization is Not Church Planting
Biblical church planting is evangelism that results in new churches. Another way to consider this concept is that it is evangelism that results in new disciples, who then gather together and self-identify as the local expression of the universal body of Christ.
JD Payne, Apostolic Church Planting
Traditionally churches have been planted when believers move intentionally to a community of non-believers, wherein they practice evangelism and discipleship, eventually forming a new congregation from the new converts. The gospel is seeded in a community resulting in the salvation of members of that community, the new believers are then discipled, and a church is planted.
Church revitalization differs from church planting in that church revitalization occurs within an existing church whereas church planting seeks to begin a new church. The church planter is called to start a new church and the church revitalizer is called to bring a dying church back to health.
Church Revitalization is Not Church Replanting
Church replanting is another term often confused with church revitalization. In church replanting, an original donor church donates their resources and personnel in an attempt to begin a new church with existing resources.
In the church replanting process, a new pastor comes in with the intentions of beginning a new church body from within the old church. Over the course of time, the expectation is that the older donor church will receive new leadership, new ministries, a new identity, and (in some cases) a new church polity.
Church revitalization differs from church replanting in that church revitalization does not seek to replace the existing church. Whereas the church replanter attempts to begin a new church with the resources gained from an older church, the church revitalizer seeks to restore the original church to health.
Church Revitalization is Not Church Growth
Church growth (or church vitalization) has also been grouped into church revitalization. Though sharing many of the concepts and methodologies, these two are not the same as church revitalization.
Church growth is the implementation of certain methodology in order to lead a church to grow. As such, church growth can apply to a church of any size in any stage of health. Church growth strategies can be applied to a new church plant with only a handful of members or to an established church on the cusp of crossing over into the megachurch category.
Church revitalization differs from church growth in that revitalization deals with churches in trouble. To be sure, church revitalization may incorporate similar strategies as church growth but the desired result is not growth, but survival. Church Revitalization intentionally works with churches that are dying and strives to restore to life.
So, What is Church Revitalization?
Church Revitalization is the process of leading a dying church back to a healthy state. Restoring the church’s purpose of glorifying God and mission to reach the lost in their community.
The terms surrounding Church planting, growth, and revitalization can be tricky. However, there needs to be clarity among Christians. Each of these approaches requires different actions which produce different outcomes.
PhD Evangelism @swbts.