I became a first-time rector of an Episcopal church (TEC) in need of revitalization in August of 2003. That month and year may not mean anything to some of you, but that was the month TEC’s General Convention affirmed the election of Gene Robinson, a practicing homosexual, as bishop of New Hampshire. It was an interesting and challenging time to say the least. I was in the middle of two important battles at the same time: the theological battle with a denomination that embraced a worldview contrary to the Bible, and the missional battle to move a congregation from consumers to contributors, from attenders to an army, from members to missionaries to transform our local community with the Gospel. Both battles were important. My big challenge was how to do both well at the same time.
I adopted a phrase at the time that proved to be helpful: “Deal with but don’t dwell on.” For me that meant, “deal with” the denominational fight as much as needed (which was a lot) but not “dwell on” it so that it took priority over the mission of the local church to transform lost sinners into Jesus’ disciples. The flip side was to “dwell on” revitalizing the local congregation while still “dealing with” the broader church battles along the way. Although both were vitally important, this strategy kept the evangelistic mission to our local community primary for me and our local church.
I was reminded of that phrase, “deal with but don’t dwell on” in the last few weeks as I’ve read our American Anglican Council (AAC) posts and Canon Phil’s excellent reporting from the Lambeth Conference. I’m grateful that the AAC had our team on the ground to fight the good fight. I’m energized by the possibility of greater unity between the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GFSA) and GAFCON toward a real, conciliar realignment of the Anglican Communion. I want to be part of that realignment and an Anglicanism that is both uncompromisingly orthodox and missional. I imagine many of you agree. I know I’ll be acting on these convictions by praying hard, giving financially to support the reforming work of the AAC, and showing up to GAFCON in Rwanda.
Having said all that, I want to “dwell on,” or keep as a priority, the ongoing battle to renew and revive our local churches. People are literally dying and going to Hell every day in the communities surrounding each of our local congregations. The battle to fulfill the Great Commission through the local church continues to rage. As engaged as I am in the theological battles of our times, I am more motivated to see one more sinner repent and be saved. This seems consistent with God’s heart based on what we read in Luke 15 where Jesus said, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7 NIV).
Despite the global spiritual battle at hand, if you want to keep the battle for the lost at the local level your priority, here are three ways the AAC can arm you for the fight:
In the AAC’s Anglican Revitalization Ministries, we point out that there is no revitalization without renewal. Unless you and your congregation have a zealous love for Jesus in your hearts and a deep love for sinners, you likely won’t prioritize mission and evangelism, and the church won’t thrive. If you don’t have and keep a renewed passion for Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, you won’t be able to do the hard work of mission in your local community. Evangelism will remain a good idea that never gets done.
For help in this area of church life, you can host a Renew Weekend in your local church! We bring a small team into your church for a weekend focused on a renewed passion for Jesus and restored power in the Holy Spirit for the mission of the church today. To schedule a weekend or for more information click here.
Many of us haven’t been well discipled in how to do personal evangelism. It’s scary to us, and we feel unequipped. So, we’ve created a six-week video course specifically designed for the “average person in the pew” called Rediscovering Evangelism. It’s designed for small groups, a Sunday School class, or a mid-week church program. Each week, you watch a video and discuss the questions together with each week giving you some practical applications to start doing evangelism. For more information or to watch the first episode, click here.
We provide this course for free, so that you and your church can take advantage of it this Fall!
We offer a full slate of resources to help you and your congregation grow and thrive no matter your size. Consider utilizing the resource that best meets your needs:
The Revive Program. This is our most complete resource for church revitalization providing you with a church health assessment, on-site consultation and training, written recommendations, and six months of follow-up coaching to help you implement next steps. Click here for more information or to sign up for the program.
The Revive Church Health Assessment. In partnership with Asbury Seminary, we offer a church health diagnostic tool that gives a baseline on your congregation’s overall health. For $100, you can take the assessment and have a zoom call to discuss and review the results with one of our team. Click here for more information or to take the assessment.
Revive, the book. If you want to learn more about the principles and best practices for revitalizing a local church, you can purchase my new book called Revive. It was written for vestries or small groups to use over the course of six weeks with discussion and application questions at the end of each section. You could use this book as a church wide six-week study during the Fall or in Lent as an example. To purchase the book, click here.
Let Anglican Revitalization Ministries (ARM) arm you for the battle to reach the lost and grow God’s Kingdom in your local community, even as we continue to pray for the spiritual battle at the global level.