(I want to write a longer post reflecting on the last 4.75 years, but that will have to wait. This journal reflection and pictures must suffice for now.)
Bethany Baptist Church (BBC) just finished the church revitalization process last Sunday. I define church revitalization as a church experiencing God's grace to change the church from unhealthy and dying to healthy and thriving. The health and thriving can be discerned by a healthy culture and healthy structures.
The structures would typically be: (1) a clean membership roll; (2) effective congregational members’ meetings; (3) gatherings regulated by Scripture; (4) a biblically faithful and practically useful confession of faith, church covenant, and constitution; and (5) a plurality of pastor-theologians.
The church would display a healthy culture by its (1) consistent expository preaching and teaching, (2) faithful grasping of theology in general and the gospel in particular, (3) functional discernment of true regeneration and conversion, (4) habitual discipling in general and gospelizing in particular, (5) a practice and freedom of confessing sin, repenting, and trusting the gospel freshly, (6) renewing experience of meaningful church membership, (7) frequent practice of disciplinary restoration from sin through fresh repentance and faith in Christ, (8) vibrant prayer, (9) burden for unreached ethnic people groups, and (10) affectionate pastoral oversight.
The culture ebbs and flows. A definitive line for healthy culture escapes a single proposition. It's more direction than defining moment, progressive than punctiliar. Discerning healthy culture may be more intuitive than deductive.
The structure can be analyzed and discerned definitively. Our church had a bloated membership roll of 1,109 members when we only had 55 people on Sundays. Now we have 87 members and 90-110 people on Sundays and we know each member. Our church had congregational meetings quarterly where there would be several instances of shouting and the decisions being made were issues of secondary rather than primary importance. Now there's less shouting and we decide on who is received and removed from our church family and a strong identity in our confession of faith and covenant. Our gatherings are regulated by Scripture so the Word is sung, read, prayed, preached, discussed, and seen every Sunday.
As of last Sunday, the last structural revitalization domino fell. We received a second pastor from the Lord Jesus.
In the view of many guests and church members our culture is healthy and thriving. In light of last Sunday's congregational meeting our church is structurally healthy. There are no more major structural changes for health. Church revitalization started for me at BBC on November 1, 2014 and it ended on July 28, 2019.
In some significant ways it feels like we finally reached the . . . starting line. BANG! The responsibility to exercise responsibility for each other's discipleship collectively and individually in order to disciple our neighbors and the nations continues. May we run the race with endurance fixing our eyes on Jesus to the glory of our Father.
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!