By Elizabeth Young
Keith Durham, pastor of First Baptist Church, Arizona City, joined the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention staff in a newly created, part-time position as church revitalization specialist, effective May 1.
“In the past three years, we have lost almost as many churches as we have planted,” said David Johnson, AZSBC executive director. “We will not reach our goal of 1,000 churches by 2028 unless we change the trend of churches that are dying.”
Johnson noted that while nine full-time people employed by the North American Mission Board give attention to church planting in Arizona, the AZSBC has only have one person, Leadership Facilitator Keith Henry, who devotes part of his job assignment to church revitalization.
“It is time we devote more resources and energy to address the issue of church revitalization,” Johnson said. Durham will serve under a one-year covenant that is renewable for a second year.
Durham listed several hopes for the new position:
1) “to have more church and associational leaders engage in dialogues concerning revitalization issues,”
2) “to increase the number of healthy, revitalized churches in our state,”
3) “to develop a clear, multifaceted strategic plan to help pastors navigate revitalization,” and
4) “to build relationships with pastors across Arizona, to be a resource, coach and friend to them.”
Durham has “street cred” and educational qualifications when it comes to revitalizing churches, Johnson said.
When Durham was called as pastor of First Baptist, Arizona City, in 2013, there were 16 people attending, and the church had considered closing.
“Now there are over 100 in average attendance, and the church is thriving financially and reaching people,” Johnson said. “They have remodeled much of their facility and are engaging in local and international missions.”
Durham said he can “see God’s hand in shaping my passion for revitalization over the last four years.”
Already possessing a master of arts in education leadership from Gateway Seminary, Durham realized he needed to “become better equipped to lead [First Baptist] back to health.” He enrolled in a doctoral program at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which has a specialization in church revitalization.
“After every seminar, I came home with a plethora of tools and information that I was able to apply in my setting,” he said. “Sharing what I was learning with other pastors and leaders, I saw that my church wasn’t unique. God began to fan my passion to help churches like mine turn the tide.”
For the last few years, he has been leading the AZSBC church life team’s church revitalization team.
Revitalization is bigger than just First Baptist, Arizona City, Durham said.
“It’s about the kingdom of God being reflected in healthy churches in my association, state and national convention,” he said. “I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and church
revitalization isn’t a one-size-its-all approach, but I am passionate about walking alongside pastors, to offer what I can, to help them be the best revitalization leaders to the churches God has called them to.”
Durham said he’s ready to get started in his new position.
“Call me. Let’s meet for coffee,” he said. “I’ll even buy.”