Thom Rainer estimates that there are, at any given time, 100 to 200 churches are on the brink of closure every week. Our denomination, the PCA, plants a church roughly every week and closes one every ten days. And it’s not as though we have a glut of churches in the United States. As of the last census, there is roughly one protestant church for every 1,042 U.S. citizens. So, while the global church is expanding particularly in East Asia and Africa, there are some troubles in the US church.
But it would be a mistake to think that church renewal is just about dying churches. First, there’s no reason every existing congregation should continue in perpetuity. Jesus threatens to remove the lampstands from congregations in Revelation 2-3 if they don’t turn from their errors.
Second, almost every epistle of the New Testament, including the letters in the Book of Revelation, is written to churches that have lost their way. Every church needs to be refreshed and renewed in their gospel mission. Every church.
So, why is it important for every church to talk about renewal? Because Jesus cares about it. Jesus wants his church to be faithful to the gospel, her people to be transformed, and focused on the mission he gave her. But because the church is made up of humans, yes filled with the Spirit, but humans nonetheless, and so we have to be constantly renewed in the mission to which God has called us.
So, what do we mean by renewal as opposed to revitalization? Revitalisation is the term we use for churches face significant spiritual, material, and sociological challenges. As a rule of thumb, say there’s a church facing a significant set of challenges: an aging population, a changing neighborhood, a church battle that sees some significant portion of the church leaving, a scandal, or a tragic loss of resources. And let’s say you take that church and project it’s current trajectory out ten years and you can’t see how that church could possibly continue to exist without significant change. In that case, less than ten years of viability, the church must be revitalized. Flourish helps churches like this make big changes.
Renewal is the term for the process of change that every church needs to be doing all the time - and sometimes you need help making that change. Church Renewal is the process by which a person or church body experiences a new awareness of their sin and need for God’s grace; their privileges as ambassadors of the kingdom and as sons and daughters of God; a new appreciation for their place as they anticipate the kingdom of God coming and reaching that place; a new prayerfulness and passion to share the good news; holistic discipleship; a new curiosity to know God, the self, and the world; a new awareness to the missionary opportunity around them; a new joy and reverence in worship; a new personal commitment to the means of grace.
We have to talk about church renewal and church revitalization because Jesus is interested in renewing and revitalizing his church. Join us via Facebook and Twitter to share your thoughts about renewal vs. revitalization.