The Best Practices for Church Revitalization and Renewal
Copyright 2018 by Greg Kappas and Church Revitalizer Magazine
The Best Practices for Church Revitalization and Renewal
Dr. Greg Kappas
Best practices in various venues have become popular in articles, blogs, ebooks, books, forums, conferences, retreats, advances, etc. We all want to know how to excel in our ministry and labor as a pastoral leader.
This issue focuses on just the above for Church Revitalization and Renewal. Some of the best practices I have seen and lived out in my and our ministry have centered around two major parts of the Apostle Paul’s life and ministry. They both are centered in one chapter of a letter that Paul wrote to one of the three or four healthiest churches in the New Testament.
You know the church, the church at Thessalonica…the Thessalonians. They were a joy to Paul…he loved being with them and pouring his life into them…he loved being a team with Silas and Timothy in their mentoring of these new believers…he had very few problems with them as people and followers of Jesus Christ.
What did Paul do and become that made this connection so special. Two of his best practices with this church body centered on “gentleness and exhortation.” Gentle as a nursing mother and exhorting as a disciplined father.
But we behaved gently when we were among you, like a devoted mother nursing and cherishing her own children. (1 Thessalonians 2:7)
For you know how, like a father dealing with his children, we used to exhort each of you personally, stimulating and encouraging and charging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and the glorious blessedness into which true believers will enter after Christ’s return. (1 Thessalonians 2:11,12)
Paul knew that a healthy family was dependent on a fine godly mother and a righteous father. He knew that a spiritual family needed similar health. A healthy church needs this balance of a mother and father. He wanted this fine church and its surrounding churches coming from it to be gentle and firm… a devoted mother, a nursing mother who cherished her own children…yet a father firm with his children, exhorting, stimulating, encouraging and charging his children to live in focus and on purpose.
Leading churches, pastor, is doing just this. How are you doing with your gentle warrior side? Are you leading with genuine care for your staff and people? A local church usually has the spirit of its leader and leaders. If you are genuine in your care for people, they will feel safe, secure in their own growth, knowing that you are genuinely devoted to them, caring deeply for them. Do you ever have that nursing side to you in leadership? Are you willing to stop, listen and pray on the spot for those who tell you over a sip of their coffee that they are hurting, they are in despair…they are depressed after another bummer Christmas season.
Remember, a nursing mother cannot hurry. A baby, a baby like my grandson, Stefan, takes time to feed. The baby’s timetable is rarely the same as the mother’s for nursing.
Are you rushing your feeding and tending of your sheep. Do you stop and take time for real care for them? Do you demonstrate in your time, care and listening, that you cherish your own flock? They are your spiritual children!
When I was pastoring in Seattle, leading a church that by the grace of God was growing, I met a young man in our congregation…a friend, with a wife that Debbie and I loved. They had children and were sincere in their faith. The Husband had a strong struggle and genuine addiction that he needed healing from through the Holy Spirit. He wanted to walk daily with Jesus and was confused why he was living in chains.
The young man eventually saw total freedom from his besetting sin and full healing. He was at a point through his rocky journey that he needed to be gently led and not firmly led. He already was under such besetting bondage that he needed time, prayer, Scripture discussion and integration, along with healing from the Holy Spirit. He needed time with me and others, he did not need to exhorted and firmly dealt with.
Honestly, there were times I wanted to kick him in the butt spiritually and physically. But, the Lord used 1 Thessalonians 2 to remind me what he genuinely needed. He needed a gentleness that was supernatural…and God gave him that.
More recently, while I was pastoring in Florida, a church planter needed some firmness. I knew his heart seemed good and he was intent on reaching lost people for Jesus to the glory of God. In fact, he was passionate about this…sometimes to the point that there were some integrity gaps at times in his spiritual journey. Things eventually reached a point in my mentoring and the mentoring of another friend with him, that I needed to step in and give a stern warning.
He did not receive this well and things became tense. His heart and mouth went off and it took some time for him to regain his teachability that was always there. A good leader in many ways for Jesus, this church planter for Jesus was now acting like a hot head, spurring wise choices, full of arrogance and hard headed. Within a month things were back to normal and his teachability returned. Our relationship became healthy again and the risk was worth it.
We all like it when things are gentle and motherly…but it is often hard to hear the dad. Do you hear that, it is often hard to hear the exhorting dad. My pastoral friend needed this and I love him deeply. Our friendship has grown through the years. This brother had come out of the drug scene as a major dealer and God got his attention.
Though he was now following Jesus, he was hard headed and was used to a particular style of leadership. Rarely did he need me to be gentle with him; he needed me to spiritually shake him often in his early years of his new journey with Jesus. That spiritual shaking included encouraging him face to face, let alone through text and calls (we all like this). It included stimulating him to love and good deeds as a pastor…it included charging him to live a life worthy of our Lord God. He needed a lot of time personally but not on the gentler side.
I think you caught that, our leaders and emerging leaders need TIME from us. Ouch, that hurts since we are so packed with our schedule and yet so blinded at times in our priorities…some of our best time must be with our leaders. They need gentle care and they need firm care…they need a balance of love that is gentle and exhorting…without that balance they become latch key Christians, unaccountable and uncared for.
Be a pastor, a shepherd who cares for his people. Be gentle! Be a pastor, a shepherd who cares for his people. Be exhorting…stand firm with a smile.
Get your arms ready to do some caring…get your feet ready to do some kicking. These are two of the best practices I have seen, read and lived…gentleness and exhorting.