I have the great privilege to partner with pastors in my area committed to the difficult task of church revitalization. Perhaps you’ve heard the statistics from the North American Mission Board: Each year between 900-1000 churches hold their final services, close their doors, and leave the communities in which they once served as an outpost for the gospel.
Even if you are unaware of those statistics, you and I do not need the most up to date research to admit that many churches in our communities are struggling. In fact, it is likely that your church, like my own, has seen challenging times in its recent past. If you are like me, you have searched high and low for answers and help because the work of church revitalization is difficult. Thankfully, helpful resources are increasing (churchreplanters.com, for example), and there is a growing concern for training leaders and strategizing plans to revitalize struggling, traditional churches.
We should seek and benefit from these resources and trust the guidance we receive from mentors and gospel coaches that we have speaking into our lives. In addition to all of those helps, a fresh look into Paul’s letter to Titus is worth our time.
Why Titus? From my perspective, churches in need of revitalization are lacking in three primary areas: godly leadership, generational discipleship, and grace infused works. In three short chapters, Titus addresses all of these issues (and more), and the answers he gives are liberating and instructional. In my church, we are walking through this letter and finding its treasures to be precious gold. Titus is power packed with theological and practical solutions that ground us biblically in our work of revitalization.
I’m convinced it’s practical for you, too. Think of it this way . . .
Brothers, look around and pick up whatever pieces remain in your current ministry situation (1:5). You can’t do this work along, so seek out and appoint godly, qualified elders that deeply love Jesus and whose lives magnify the gospel (1:5-9); Brothers, spend significant time clarifying the gospel because our people are susceptible to shallow professions and cultural myths (1:10-16); Brothers, work diligently to create a culture of generational discipleship in your church because we need older men and women and younger men and women to invest in each others’ lives (2:1-10); Brothers, so much is at stake; therefore, train your people to pursue purity as they await Jesus’ return (2:11-15). Brothers, we are the hands and feet of Jesus: Our theology must not only inform our works, but produce those works (3:1-3); Brothers, our people must not forget from whence they came: By His mercy, God saved us, washed us, renewed us, and now beckons us to do good works! (3:4-8); Brothers, we must strive to keep the one thing the main thing; thus, we will not tolerate threats to our unity or entertain foolishness from worthless pursuits (3:9-11); and may our churches send out disciples whose lives are devoted to bearing fruit, regardless of need (3:12-15).
Go to the conferences, read helpful books, attend the seminars, continue your weekly meetings with mentors and gospel coaches, and so forth. These actions are good, wise, and critically important for our development as leaders, but we need biblical soil from which to revitalize struggling churches, so don’t forget Titus. As we lead our people with these truths, may God grant a renewal of the Spirit among the struggling churches in our communities.