Hunt says leadership is crucial to revitilizationby BSCNC Communications
With nearly 900 churches closing each year and 72 percent of Southern Baptist Convention churches plateaued or declining, church revitalization is critical to reaching North America with the gospel.
“Churches have to deal with whether they have the faith and energy to break through a natural growth ceiling. Many churches fail to take the steps needed and they plateau or begin to decline. It’s both decline and viability,” said Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.
Hunt led the April 25 Church Growth and Revitalization Conference at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Raleigh. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) is sponsoring these one-day conferences throughout the country to help pastors and church leaders reverse the trend of declining churches.
Hunt, who has pastored First Baptist for 27 years and experienced seasons of decline in his own church ministry, focused much of the day teaching about the importance of leadership in church revitalization.
“People follow vision. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team,” he said. “If the body of Christ is like an army, leaders must learn to move people from being ‘for us’ to ‘with us.’”
Pastors who successfully lead churches to health and growth will begin by modeling change.
“We need more emulation to support our exhortation. We are telling and hardly ever showing,” Hunt said. “If you want a witnessing church, start witnessing. If you want a missions church, start doing missions. Whatever is important to you as a leader is what is important to your people.”
In order to be effective, leaders must shift their attention from self to others. “When someone decides to be a leader it becomes a major transition. You are no longer judged by what you can do yourself; your value depends on what you can do with others and through others,” he said.
Hunt challenged those in attendance to appreciate the gifts and talents of others and to help church members develop those gifts. “If you are going to lead people you have to believe in people. Use your influence for the benefit of helping others succeed.”
Speaking from Exodus 18, Hunt explained how Moses’ interaction with his father-in-law, Jethro, is an example of leading for change. Moses listened to his father-in-law’s counsel, and as a result made changes in how he led the people of Israel. Moses was willing to implement a new plan and to persevere through the change, therefore enjoying God’s peace.
“Sometimes we need to stop things we are doing so we can grow,” Hunt said. “Before we change our way of working we must change our way of thinking. You can’t do the same things and get different results.”
Just as Moses enlisted help for the ministry, so must leaders who want to see a church grow and reach people for Christ. The pastor is not the only one responsible for helping fulfill the Great Commission, and the pastor cannot be the only one in the church doing ministry.
Often pastors and leaders do not see growth because they are reluctant to give up control and to share the responsibility. Churches also fail to grow because they do not value relationships and relational growth.
“You need on-ramps to your church,” Hunt said. “No one has to know everyone, but there have to be places for people to attach themselves.”
Hunt urged leaders to create a climate of faith in the church and to be willing to take risks, trusting God to do great things.
“You are made for His glory,” Hunt said. “God gets much glory through us bearing fruit. Let the Holy Spirit use you.”
If you are interested in learning more about church strengthening and revitalization through the Baptist State Convention, please contact Lynn Sasser at (800) 395-5102 ex. 5649 or email@example.com.