A Proposal for the Process of Church Revitalization: Part 2

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For pastors and churches, revitalization is both difficult and rewarding. For twelve years, God has entrusted to me the challenging and glorious calling of leading churches through the process of revitalization. It is challenging because the work is often long, laborious, and filled with difficulties. But it is glorious because nothing is too hard for the God who raises the dead (Jeremiah 32:17; 2 Corinthians 1:9).

Revitalization is the process by which God moves a spiritually unhealthy church toward biblical vitality. A church needs revitalization when it is plateaued (neither inclining nor declining, but reclining), declining (losing spiritual vitality), dying (in critical condition and near death), or already dead. These are churches that in the past were thriving in making disciples as they humbly depended on God but have since drifted into spiritual lethargy and apathy, which has set them on a path toward death. While 7,000 churches die every year, most recently, Thom Rainer projects that, post-COVID, as many as 15,000 churches will be confronted with the choice of closing. [1] We must come to terms with the reality that the need for revitalization is both great and urgent.

Through my study of Scripture and after twelve years of pastoral ministry in revitalization contexts, I have developed a process to help churches experience biblical health. That circular and ongoing process is easily remembered in the acronym R-E-L-I-V-E:

Realize What Is: Discover Reality—What Has Been and What Is?

Exposit What Ought to Be: Define a Biblical Church—What Should Be and Why?

Look to What Could Be: Develop Vision—How Could the Future Be Different?

Identify What Should Be: Determine Adjustments—What Must Change?

View How It Could Be: Detail Strategy—How Can It Change?

Enact What Must Be: Deploy Change—Will We Be Hearers or Doers?


With steps one and two detailed in a previous post, we will look at steps three and four here.

3. Look at What Could Be: Develop Vision—How Could the Future Be Different?

Once the pastor has discovered what the church has been and is (step one), and helped the church understand what the Bible teaches the church ought to be (step two), you are ready to lead the church to dream of what they could be. This takes place by comparing the past and present condition of the church with the biblical definition of the church. Once you discern the gaps between what the church is and what the church ought to be, you will be equipped to develop a vision for what the church could be moving forward.

Vision development should be both ambitious and realistic. It should be ambitious because you optimistically believe that the church belongs to the God “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20a). Yet, vision development should be realistic in that while your church’s God is limitless, your church is limited in its abilities. For example, it would be unrealistic to envision a churchwide and years-long plan to fulfill your church’s mission by meeting a need in the community that doesn’t exist. Although the biblical definition of the church never changes, vision development will vary from church to church based on its location and available resources, thus guiding you to develop an optimistic yet realistic vision of what you church could become in order to fulfill its mission.

When God brings a church back from the brink of death, it is glorious, and in the end, worth every single effort pastors have given toward revitalization.

4. Identify What Should Be: Determine Changes—What Must Change?

In this fourth stage, you must observe what is lacking between what the church is and what it should and could be to determine what must change to actualize the vision. For example, I would argue that the church’s mission is to glorify God by making disciples of Christ who mature, minister, and multiply (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:11-16). If this is true, then we must lead our churches through a process in which each ministry of the church is evaluated by that mission statement. If current ministries do not contribute to fulfilling the biblical mission, the church must be willing to humbly ask what must change about the ministry to enhance it for mission fulfillment or whether the ministry is detrimental to the fulfillment of the church’s mission and therefore requires elimination.

Admittedly, these can be difficult questions to ask, and even more difficult to answer. But this is why this step is not the first in this process—it comes only after the pastor has led the church through discovering reality, defining a biblical church, and developing vision. Because these are difficult questions, this is also once again why it is up utmost importance that you approach everything in the revitalization process with humble prayer, asking God to work in the hearts of the people that they might constantly submit to his Word and yield to his Spirit.

As God is moving in your midst, you must pray that he will show you and your people where change must occur, and then that he might use you to help the church acknowledge and accept where these changes must take place, and so be ready to act on these needed changes. Once you have led your church to this point, you will be prepared to prayerfully move forward in helping them know how to change and when to change, which we will explore in the next post.

Church revitalization is indeed a challenging work. Post-COVID, as many as 15,000 churches will face the choice to live or die. The work will be hard. But when God brings a church back from the brink of death, it is glorious, and in the end, worth every single effort pastors have given toward revitalization. Although this work is difficult, let us remember that it is also rewarding.


[1] Thom Rainer, “Nine Realities Your Church Will Face in 2022,” Church Answers,

  • Revitalization
Jordon Willard

Born and raised in Mt. Airy, NC, Jordon came to faith in Christ in his late teenage years. He is married to Veronica and the father of their two children, Karis and Josiah. He has pastored for twelve years and currently serves as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Weddington. Jordon is serving as the President of the 2023 NC Baptist Pastors’ Conference. And he is a Teaching Fellow for the Institute for Theology and Mission. He is a three-time graduate of Southeastern, most recently earning a Doctor of Ministry in Expository Preaching. Favorite activities include spending time with family, reading, collecting sports cards, and playing/watching sports.

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