Saturday, January 29, 2005

From Embers to a Flame

Last weekend, Marcie and I attended a conference called “From Embers to a Flame.” Its focus is church revitalization, and since that is what I believe God is calling me to, it was quite relevant and helpful. The conference is put on by Briarwood Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Alabama, and is essentially the product of Pastor Harry Reeder's extensive work in the area of revitalization. They hold the conference every January in Birmingham, and at other dates and locations throughout the year. I highly recommend it as a great encouragement and opportunity to gain some insight into how to restore health and vitality into a church.

I had attended the conference before, two years ago; that was where my commitment to revitalization was first cemented. Marcie had never been, and going through it with her was a great move. She has been uncertain about the idea of revitalization as the focus of our ministry, and reluctant to give herself over to that direction. However, the conference was encouraging to her, and she came away with a renewed burden for the church and a hopeful spirit about our trajectory.

Church revitalization is, essentially, restoring health to a church. Many churches have areas of their ministry or church life that are so unhealthy as to be cancerous; revitalization ministry is like precision surgery in those cases. Other churches are not on the death-bed (yet), but generally have areas of poor health; for them, revitalization ministry is like a personal trainer and coach, helping identify every area of life that needs exercise, change, or to be stopped.

The thing about revitalization is that really every church needs it. One of the speakers mentioned that he believed that 90% of the PCA's churches could be categorized as “revitalization churches” in one way or another. While at the conference, we had dinner with a friend who is a church planting coordinator for the PCA's Mission to North America agency. He told us that they were finding that even church planters were facing many of these issues, even before they become particular churches!

I think every pastor who is considering a move out of a ministry position ought to first consider whether something like the Embers conference could give them the tools and motivation they need to remain effective and fruitful in that ministry. If so, they ought not leave until they think God has finished the work he begun through them. If not, then they should consider the health of the church they are considering moving to, and look at whether revitalization needs to occur there.


jane. said...

* hope all is okay.

jane. said...

* still hoping all is okay.

Ed said...

Yes, all is okay. How about you?