A Word from Your Shepherd - August 2015 Newsletter
Dear First Baptist Family,
Recently, I have been reading on the subject of church revitalization. As has been referenced in recent newsletter articles, church revitalization and church health are important because so many congregations are in decline, and because any church can run the risk of developing the symptoms thereof.
To illustrate this point, all that is needed is to study the state of the church and Christianity in England.
The secularization of Britain, and Europe as a whole, have greatly impacted the churches of that land. For decades, church attendance has been in decline.
But, according to Al Mohler, President Of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “a new tipping point has been reached: the Church of England now has an official “Closed Churches Team” that makes decisions about what to do with abandoned church buildings.” Between 1969 and 2011, the Church of England knocked down 500 churches and “deconstructed” another 1,000. Where believers once gathered for worship, you will now find a climbing center, a circus school, with trapezes hanging from the rafters, grocery stores, car dealerships, libraries, and pubs. While the Church of England declines, Islam, and the construction of mosques is on the rise.
Lest you think this is only a problem in England, consider the fact that 80-90 percent of all evangelical churches in the United States are not growing, and a significant percentage are in decline. When you consider the secularization of our culture as a nation, combined with the latest statistics, it is easy to discern that the Church in America is facing a major turning point as it relates to evangelical Christianity.
Harry Reeder, summarizes this turning point well, when he writes “For the past three decades "church growth" has been the focus of many American churches. All this emphasis on size, numbers and programs has been to no avail, for every year thousands of churches in our land close their doors. In fact, in any given year the American church closes more churches than it starts!
We are learning the hard way that church health must precede church growth.
Only healthy churches manifest well-balanced, long-term and scriptural growth. Church health is based upon God's precepts, principles and patterns in the New Testament. Church revitalization or renewal is nothing more than following God's prescription for church health. It is a process by which we work at reformation, lead for revitalization and pray for revival. Church revitalization is the sovereign work of God's Spirit whereby He restores His people to spiritual and functional vitality that inevitably leads to statistical growth in conversions and scriptural discipleship for His own glory and our own good.”
As I have been reading and studying church revitalization, several common principles have emerged. There is one in particular that I want to share with you:
Churches that revitalize build a culture of discipleship.
This culture of discipleship is a lifelong process of leading the church in its spiritual growth. One of the most effective ways that a church can build this culture of discipleship is through community groups. These groups are intentional families of believers that provide a place for Christians to regularly do the “one-anothers” in Scripture as they discuss God’s Word, eat meals, serve their neighbors, share burdens and struggles, and walk through life together.
At the end of August, leading into the month of September, I will be preaching a three week series based on our vision statement: Loving God, Loving People, Impacting the World. This series will coincide with the launch of church-wide community groups. As we work through this series, you will have an opportunity to sign up to be a part of a community group near your geographical location.
These groups will begin on Sunday evening September 20th. Prior to the start of these groups, we will be offering a weekend of training to prepare you for the launch of these groups. You will hear more about this as we move through the month of August.
The leadership of First Baptist has committed to participate in a group, and I want to challenge you to prayerfully consider the same. I am excited about the start of this new season of ministry in the life of our church family, and I cannot wait to see how God uses it to continue to develop that culture of discipleship here at First Baptist.