This past week I had the honor of studying with sixteen godly men. Most of these pastors serve in Kentucky, though some traveled from as far as Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Liberia. Every one of us is in pursuit of our Doctorate of Ministry in Church Revitalization. Each of these men has a passion for helping churches experience new life.
My pursuit of a doctorate began through a challenge from my wife. Over the course of the last few years she has encouraged me to pursue a doctorate, and I always brushed it off since I was not smart enough to pursue the next level of education. A little over a year ago, I remember sitting with my wife over dinner at an Uno’s Pizza in Orlando, Florida following the Ligonier’s Conference when the she asked me again why I was not pursuing this next step. This time the challenge stuck. I was wading through the questions of church health and discipleship among young adults, and I knew I needed more than the few books I was reading. At that table, Jenn and I began to look at the different focuses SBC seminaries offered. I could have studied preaching, leadership, or any other number of disciplines. One singular focus came forward as we perused concentrations, Church Revitalization. When I saw that Southern Seminary, the flagship seminary of the SBC, was offering this degree plan, my path was set.
About six months ago, I came in view of a call to First Baptist Church of Vidalia. During that weekend, I had the opportunity to answer questions from the stage of the church from any person who came. One of the questions that was asked to me was why I was looking at FBCV if my doctoral degree was in church revitalization. FBCV seemed to be in a good place. Giving was healthy, attendance was good, and the church had a thriving children’s and youth department. At that time, I fumbled through an answer which I can’t remember today. I knew God was calling me to FBCV and I also knew that God has called me to be a church revitalizer.
If I had another shot at the question, I think I would have a better answer. Every church needs revitalizing. A church who believes it does not is living in a false understanding of itself. Church revitalization is the discipline of focusing on the health of the church above gimmicks or personalities. As a pastor, I have a heart for the established church. Walking into any established church means you embrace their culture, traditions, and people. It means you work with the church over the course of years to build health and vision. The overwhelming majority of churches across our country need pastors who care about the health of their churches. U
When I began this journey, I never realized that I was working to become a general practitioner, a doctor of health. This is who the church revitalizer is, a pastor who builds the long term health of the church. This past week I had the honor of sitting alongside 16 pastors who cared deeply about their churches. Many of these men bear the scars of churches who abused them as they cared for their needs. As the concept of church revitalization grows across our country, I am hopeful for the future of the established church. God is raising up men who love established churches, and He is giving them a vision to restore and renew their health.