By Thom Rainer
In a previous post, I asserted that a revitalization wave is about to come to our churches, and I am really serious and optimistic about it. In that article, I shared how churches will be impacted from a high-level perspective. In this post, I will explain why I see this major trend on the horizon.
I began with the total number of churches in North America, about 350,000. For many reasons, we can’t get a precise number, but I believe our estimates are close.
In the article, I also stated that 300,000, or 85 percent, of all churches needed some level of revitalization, from modest to radical revitalization. In our research we released a year ago, we found that 65 percent of churches were declining or plateaued. Based upon our interactions with other congregational leaders, we see about another 20 percent of churches with modest but declining growth rates. The sum of those two is thus 85 percent.
Here is where I take a contrarian position compared to many others, including positions I have held in the past: Of the 300,000 churches in need of revitalization, 100,000 will revitalize organically or internally, and another 100,000 will be revitalized through replanting. It’s a bold assertion, but something that could very well unfold over the next five to ten years.
Why I am optimistic? Am I in a state of denial? Bear with me as I share five reasons for the likelihood of a wave of revitalization.
- Thousands of church leaders are facing reality. They are not denying the difficult state of their churches. This awareness is the first step toward revitalization. Admittedly, some of these leaders are at the stage of desperation, but even that stage is a major step toward facing reality. As I shared on Monday, I have been amazed how church leaders are utilizing our Church Health Report™ to help them understand reality.
- Revitalization has become a prominent topic among church leaders. It is openly discussed among church leaders and members, denominational leaders, and network leaders. This discussion and openness is moving these organizations to action and solutions. We will be announcing in two months the launch of a new nonprofit network, Revitalize Network, for the purpose of bringing churches to work together toward revitalization.
- Church replanting has become accepted, even normative. I can remember just a few years ago when no one mentioned church replanting. I have been grateful for the huge emphasis on church planting for many years. Now I am equally grateful to see a wave of interest and action toward church replanting.
- The multisite movement is instrumental in the revitalization and replanting movement. Multisite churches are key to this movement. They have been the primary vehicles for church replanting. We are years ahead of where we would be otherwise without multisite churches.
- We are seeing more and more a movement of prayer in our churches. If this revitalization continues on its current trajectory, it will not be powered by the latest methodologies and acts of men and women. It will be because God has chosen to revitalize our churches. He is the power of revitalization. There is a growing movement of prayer in our congregations, an indication of the work of God. As the prayer movement grows, church revitalization grows.
These are paradoxically the most challenging days and the most hopeful days for many of our congregations. Let us know if we can do anything for you and your churches as we move toward a movement of revitalization. It is my honor and joy to serve you.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on July 9. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and ten grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.