The term revitalization is a buzzword.
Revitalization is synonymous with church growth, church planting, and disciple-making—and rightfully so—with 80–85% of Western churches in decline or plateauing, the need is imminent.
But revitalization is not revival. Revitalization requires intentional change— not programs.
Revitalization is a systemic DNA change—a spiritual transformation. If revitalization is required, something is broken, failing, or worse—hemorrhaging.
DNA relates to molecules that transport genetic instructions used in the growth, development, and function in living organisms. Dying churches are lacking healthy DNA. Here are five crucial steps in cultivating church DNA change.
I’m not a fan of prayer—I’m dependent upon it. As A. W. Pink avowed, “Prayer is not so much an act as it is an attitude—an attitude of dependency, dependency upon God.”
The church can do nothing without prayer. Sadly, prayer is neglected, yet God’s power is expected. Yet, the kind of prayer that I’m speaking of is Holy Spirit empowered, guided, and lead. Holy Spirit directed prayer brings humility,
The leaders of a dying church must be unified—prayerfully seeking the power of God to change their hearts, minds, and souls. Billy Sunday declared, “If you are strangers to prayer you are strangers to power.”
There is not a move of God that has occurred without prayer and repentance. For a DNA change to occur, a church must bend its knee in repentant soulful prayer—willing and able to listen to the voice of God.
That means cultivating-DNA-changing-prayer is a dialogue with the One Triune God, anticipating and expecting to hear from the Spirit of God—yielding everything to His will.
Gads of books and articles have been written about vision. I’m not for jumping on bandwagons. Yet, vision is imperative for DNA change.
Vision informs the people where they are going. Like Moses leading Israel toward the Promised Land—the people had a vision.
DNA changing vision is God-lead instruction for growth, development, and function.
DNA changing vision begins with prayer and results in hearing from God. Sometimes this can be accomplished by leaders closing themselves off for time together, brainstorming, whiteboarding, fasting, or going through a process of vision “framing.”
DNA changing vision should not be over-complicated—on the contrary—it should be simple and understood. God wants His vision revealed to His church.
Church leaders should be visionaries. Visionaries by definition are innovator-creator type people. Visionaries relay and expound the vision to other people that we will label, “early adopters.”
Not everyone will understand vision—even at its simplest form. Based upon the innovation adoption curve, less than 20% of the church will initially understand the vision—but early adopters will.
The leaders seeking DNA-change shouldn’t expect everyone to “get it,” but they should seek respectable and godly people who will—the early adopters.
Systemically changing a church’s DNA takes time. I would confess anywhere from 18–20 months (some say that’s fast—so it’s better to think of revitalization of a church as turning an aircraft carrier).
The adopters’ role is essential—they will help skeptics and fear-based “traditionalists” (those clinging to the past or afraid of change) to be at ease and see God’s power at work.
Basically, early adopters “sell” the vision. Biblically speaking, Nehemiah is a great example of how he received God’s vision and implemented it through other leaders (early adopters)—to propel God’s mission.
I’m not a seeker sensitive guy. I’m sold out for the gospel. While many revitalizers will push the concept of the essential need of vision repetition (and I agree), the focal point is not the vision, but the implementation of the vision, via proclamation of the gospel.
If the gospel is not central to the vision—you have the wrong vision. The church is here to proclaim the good news of Christ and make disciples (Matt 29:18–20; Jn. 20:19–21).
The church doesn’t share the gospel—the gospel is a proclamation about the King—it’s about God’s story.
Before a body of Christ can engage the mission, it must intrinsically understand the gospel.
The succinct DNA breath of the church must be the gospel—a transformative and comprehensive reconciliation of rebellious people turning back and submitting to God—for His glory.
This means that if conversion growth (reaching new converts to make disciples) then there will not be DNA-changing revitalization, only people in seats to sustain a social movement—it’s not a revitalization of Christ’s church.
Jesus asserted, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46).
DNA change will be evident when the fruit of Christ is demonstrated in community, corporate worship, and the home. The DNA-changing church must seek a goal to be about making disciple-making disciples to engage the culture.
The church was never designed for isolation, but public exhortation and exhibition. The mission of God fulfills God’s will.
All earthly treasures are mere tools to glorify God. Tools would include
The church is here to engage culture, to proclaim the love of God, through Christ.
Lastly, revitalization is about people—not buildings. Community engagement manifests an inner heart transformation of an intentional outward passion. Basically, if you’re sold out for Christ—everyone will know it and that passion will be infectious.
Systemic DNA change can transform an isolated dying church into a missional-attractional church, devoted, dedicated, and determined to obey Christ.