I cannot get away from the conviction. At times it seems as though I am consumed by it. And I don't even know fully where it will lead.
My burden to see struggling churches become turnaround churches grows daily. There are an estimated 100,000 churches in North America that would be deemed terminal by most pundits. There are another 100,000 to 200,000 that are very sick and could soon be on the deathwatch.
Before I go further, allow me to make four points of clarification. These issues arise from time to time.
1. I am not suggesting we emphasize church revitalization to the detriment of church planting. Both are critically needed. I am convinced that we have abundant resources to address both needs.
2. Many people and organizations are already doing a great work in church revitalization. I am simply convicted that I must do more. I am excited that the organization I lead, LifeWay, is doing more and more to partner in church revitalization with key resources. But this conviction is not just about me nor LifeWay; it's about untold persons and organizations coming together for this purpose.
3. I don't have all the answers. Indeed, I have a long way to go to see what God will have me and others do to see churches move from sickness to health.
4. I know there is not some "plug and play" resource or methodology to bring about this reversal and revitalization. This effort is about God and how He will use us in our obedience to Him.
A Plan That Is Only a Beginning
While I continue to pray for God's leadership in my life toward church revitalization, I have committed to move forward in five ways. These are only starting points. They are a work in progress that will undoubtedly change.
1. I will do a lot of listening. I will "hear" by reading, visiting churches, interviewing key turnaround leaders, and any other way God can lead me to be better informed.
2. I will engage LifeWay Research to help me get the facts and data I need. I don't want to work from guesses and presuppositions.
3. I will work with other strategic partners whom God is using. I'm not nearly smart enough to do this task on my own. My first foray into a strategic partnership actually began last week with a discussion with my friend Randy Davis, one of the godliest men I know. His heart for the local church is contagious. I also have spoken with friends in theological education about this partnership
4. I will study more deeply the acquisition model of church revitalization, where a healthy church takes over a struggling church. While that is not the only model available, it is being used widely.
5. As much as possible, I will encourage good leaders to move into church revitalization. I fully understand why many leaders are not moving in that direction. There are many obstacles to overcome. Sometimes it's just easier to start from scratch.
Please Pray and Please Join Me
According to our estimates, only 15 percent of the Millennial generation, born 1980 to 2000, are Christians. We are losing our nation for Christ. In the meantime, hundreds of churches close each month. Many more are on the precipice of death.
And while church revitalization may not be the only instrument God uses, it has to be a critical instrument in this spiritual battle. Would you join me in prayer about this urgent and critical need? Would you consider how God might use you in the effort?
One of the reasons I wrote I Am a Church Member was my attempt to define what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. If we truly understand that reality, we will begin to see churches revitalized all across America. If you know of any great resources God is using toward this end, please note it in the comments.
Finally, I would love to hear from you about churches that have gone from sickness to health. I plan to gather as large of a database as possible. I hope to visit many of those churches as well. Let me hear about those stories. Let me hear what God is doing. By his power and grace, we may just see a true renewal of churches in this mission field called America.