By Terri Durham
Arizona Southern Baptists’ Church Revitalization Team hosted Revitalize, a one-day conference to equip and encourage plateaued and declining churches, at Foothills Baptist Church, Ahwatukee, May 21. The event drew about 130 people, with 30 churches represented.
Adam Greenway, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, started the day as keynote speaker with an illustration of Paul sending Timothy to Ephesus for revitalization. He passionately urged pastors to look objectively at their ministry setting.
“No matter how great your [church’s] past is, you are not immune from attacks,” he said. “And no matter how sordid your [church’s] past is, you are not too far away from the grace of God to turn things around.”
In his breakout session, Greenway said preaching is indispensable to the work of revitalization, noting its importance is often underestimated in lieu of strategies and action plans.
“When you preach the truth, confusion is clarified, God’s authority will be authenticated, and searchers will find salvation,” he said.
In another breakout, Darwin Meighan said revitalization is not just a strategic plan but is first a spiritual matter. Meighan, director of revitalization/evangelism for the Nevada Baptist Convention, is a former Arizona pastor with a heart for Arizona churches to accomplish the Great Commission. That begins on our knees, he said.
“Beginning the revitalization process with true confession and repentance for past sins of your church is foundational to letting loose the grace of God to do a miraculous work among you,” he said.
Kenneth Priest, director of convention strategies for Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, said that, statistically, we are a nation of small churches with 35 percent of Protestant churches averaging 100-499 in worship and 59 percent averaging less than 100 in worship.
“We have to move to a different level of community engagement,” he said. “If you do not win people to Jesus, you won’t revitalize your church.”
With that in mind, Priest challenged churches to find out how their neighbors perceive them.
“Does your community even know you’re there?” he asked. “Do they know they are welcome? What first impression vibe does your church give off?”
Rounding out the breakout sessions with information about My316 was Randy McWhorter, leader of the Healthy Church Group for the California Southern Baptist Convention. My316 is an evangelistic tool using John 3:16 that is available to Arizona churches free of charge.
My316 is just one of many ways to share the gospel. But knowing few churches have a current evangelistic strategy, McWhorter asked, “If not My316 then what?” He emphasized the need for intentionality in evangelism.
A unique feature of the conference was a Q & A lunch session that paired a guest presenter with an Arizona pastor who had or was revitalizing his church. The Arizona pastor briefly shared his revitalization story before attendees asked questions of the presenter and pastor. The back-and-forth interaction between presenter, pastor and attendees proved to be helpful in getting practical answers to issues churches face in revitalization.
Closing out the day, McWhorter shared the secret of enduring passion for ministry using the example of Paul having a God-given mission in 2 Corinthians.
“God doesn’t choose you because you’re the greatest,” he said. “It’s about who He is. And He can work in and through you to accomplish His will no matter how weird and weak you are! ”
The Church Revitalization Team exists to help Arizona churches that are plateaued or declining. Revitalize is a bi-annual event supported by your church’s giving through the Cooperative Program.
Videos of the conference sessions are available for viewing at http://arizona.e-quip.net/channels/382.