‘We Serve Churches’ — It Isn’t Just a Slogan

You shared your concerns.

We carefully listened.

And now I want to prayerfully respond on behalf of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.

Several of us from the TBMB have recently engaged with over 500 Tennessee Baptists during nearly two dozen listening sessions across our state. We initiated these sessions with the sole purpose of learning from you and using what we heard to shape how we as a mission board serve your churches.  For us, “We serve churches” is more than just a mission statement that hangs on a wall. It is our mission. Continue reading “‘We Serve Churches’ — It Isn’t Just a Slogan”

Living in Your Sweet Spot

sweet spotIf you have ever played sports, you are probably familiar with the term “sweet spot.” The “Sweet Spot” is the point or area on a bat, club, or racket at which it makes most effective contact with the ball (I am told that my golf clubs have a “sweet spot” but I have never actually found it!). In non-sports terms, the “sweet spot” is an optimum point or combination of factors or qualities.

I bring this up because it seems that church revitalization is often measured solely in terms of numbers – attendance, budget, etc. While these measurements can be an indicator of church revitalization, other factors need to be considered when determining the overall health of a church in the revitalization process. Some of the “health factors” can be more difficult to measure, but it is important to pay attention to the “sweet spot” on the church revitalization journey.

As we look at the pictured diagram, the place where all three circles come together would be the “Sweet Spot.” Let’s break it down to some practical steps in nurturing revitalization in the church. Continue reading “Living in Your Sweet Spot”

Getting In Shape to Get In Shape

exercise seniorI recently decided it was time to get in shape physically. I will spare you the details, but basically, I knew that it was time to take the next step in my physical health. Oh, I could easily justify keeping things the way they were. After all, I wasn’t overweight and my regular choice of foods was fairly healthy (except for the Hot Glazed Krispy Kreme donuts!). And in comparison, I appeared to be in as good of shape as most of my peers. However, I knew deep down that my health could be better. I had reached the point where the conviction about what could be was overriding the justification of status quo.

I set an appointment with a trainer. The first thing he did was evaluate my current health and physical fitness status. Within days, he presented me with a plan that would lead toward better, long-term physical health. Of the 10 exercises in the plan, only two involved “pumping iron.” You know, the kind of weight lifting we like to do in the gym to show off!! Continue reading “Getting In Shape to Get In Shape”

Keys to Worship Renewal, Pt. 2: Focus on the Word

worship service church blurredWhenever we Baptists set out to revitalize our times of worship, we are tempted to begin by addressing musical style. Often, we do so with little consideration of worship’s content. The heart of Christianity is its message — not its style. The crux of our faith is hearing and responding to the story of the triune God of the universe. Style is, at best, a secondary issue. Style doesn’t transform hearts. The message of Jesus does. If we truly desire worship renewal, we first should solidify the subject matter of our times of worship. Continue reading “Keys to Worship Renewal, Pt. 2: Focus on the Word”

More to It Than This!

despair depression silhouette“Lord, there must be more to it than this!”

I uttered the words in frustration. I was the pastor of a good church with good people and good resources, and yet it seemed that we had little impact on the lives of people in our city. In fact, it seemed like we had lost both our passion and purpose as the church. In the days that followed, I was drawn in by the words of the prophet Isaiah (61:1-4); the prophetic words which Jesus Himself fulfilled:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” Continue reading “More to It Than This!”

The Image of the Potter’s Wheel

potters wheelI have always been fascinated by the image of a potter’s wheel. Something about the way a master potter takes a lump of clay and molds it into a beautiful and useful vessel appeals to me. I think it may be that each piece of pottery is unique.  Because it is not “mass-produced” on a machine, no two pieces are the same.  Each piece is carefully shaped into what the potter desires it to be.

This came to life for me when I actually got the chance to observe a potter at work on the wheel. He carefully and precisely shaped the clay, paying close attention throughout the entire process. While several of his finished vessels were similar, no two were exactly the same. Continue reading “The Image of the Potter’s Wheel”

The Value of Learning Communities in Church Revitalization

Too often in the church revitalization process, church leaders attempt what I call the “Lone Ranger” approach. They attempt to lead their church through a difficult process, one that they probably haveproblem solution learning never been through before, without the benefit of a group of peers. This is where Learning Communities can be helpful.

A Learning Community is a group of people who share common goals and who meet regularly to collaborate and learn from one another. As we introduced Learning Communities among church leaders who were involved in the Church Revitalization Process, it was important to make some clarifications and distinctions: Continue reading “The Value of Learning Communities in Church Revitalization”

Open Doors

161130church-doors-openChurch revitalization is an ever-present challenge facing churches. Leadership and congregation must walk together through three challenging doors if they are to see positive results.

A recent report indicated Southern Baptist churches dropped 236,467 members in one year, the largest annual decline in more than 130 years. Total baptisms declined 305,301, the lowest since 1947. Clearly, we are facing challenges like never before.

With each challenge, however, comes an open door to make a difference. If we would face reality and walk through these open doors, the days ahead could be very different. Continue reading “Open Doors”

Five Proven Means of Strengthening Your Church

161012church-interior-blur-backgroundPastors and other church leaders often are deeply concerned about the weakness of a church. The congregation may be clearly unhealthy, or perhaps it just doesn’t exhibit the vibrant, reproducing life of a healthy church.

In both cases, 1 Thessalonians 5:11-23 shows us five proven means for strengthening a church. Continue reading “Five Proven Means of Strengthening Your Church”

Defining Church Revitalization

objective-2-logoDefining church revitalization is not an easy task. It falls into the category of things like love and leadership, it’s hard to define, but easy to recognize. However, I like what Winston Churchill once said: “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

The Tennessee Baptist Convention has a strategy for church revitalization. At its core is the desire to see 500 churches revitalized by 2024. To begin with, we must define what we mean when we talk about a revitalized church. Continue reading “Defining Church Revitalization”