By Clint Cook
In his 2010 book entitled Breakout Churches, Thom Rainer studied churches that had gone from declining attendance to unprecedented growth. What Thom and his research team discovered was a statistical approach to identifying key patterns and characteristics common in churches that experience turnarounds. I certainly enjoyed reading this insightful book.
Reflecting upon this issue, I started looking at our General Baptist network of churches. When looking closely at our denomination, one would discover that even though we are making great strides in church planting and international missions, we still find ourselves facing areas of decline. This is a very disheartening observation, but as Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, recommends, we church leaders must confront brutal facts so that we can push forward to advance the Great Commission.
So what would it take to turn around an entire denomination? How can we realize unprecedented growth, resulting in more and more people hearing the message of Christ?
First, I believe it requires very focused prayer. If there is one thing we can discover from the Bible it is that God chose to work only as God’s people prayed. Today, He has chosen to limit his work until pastors, church leaders, and church members pray. Many verses come to mind to support this, but perhaps it is said best in 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Second, I believe it would require church leaders to have a “holy discontent”, a dissatisfaction with the status quo in their church. As Rainer writes, “It is a sin to be good if God calls you to be great!” This is especially true living in a world with so many who need to hear the Gospel! As a pastor, I understand and believe in the need to provide care for church members; but as Jesus reminds us, we must also be passionate about reaching those who do not yet believe the gospel. This requires church leaders who will exhibit bold faith and a willingness to take risks. I know there is criticism with this idea, and that we must not be “numbers-driven,” but we cannot forget that behind every number is a soul, and every person won to Christ is therefore a number in God’s Kingdom. Jim Garlow, pastor and speaker, has said that in any organization someone needs to stay focused on the numbers.
Third, I believe it would require pastors and church leaders to humble themselves and be willing to be trained and coached. Church work in the 21st century has to be approached differently and in a more strategic and efficient manner. This is more true today than perhaps at any other time in the history of the church. I can personally testify to the benefits of receiving coaching and the impact it has had on the church I have pastored for 29 years. I have also been privileged to coach more than 100 churches over the past five years and am amazed to hear their inspiring stories. Many of these churches were plateaued or declining, but are now experiencing growth with conversions and baptisms. Their ability to embrace and implement new concepts with a renewed passion to reach their communities has caused me to have hope for more and more General Baptist churches to have similar results. This is also the reasoning behind the decision to change our national meeting from the G.A. (three-day business session) to the Summit, which is a training environment where we receive encouragement through worship as well as training and resources that can automatically be implemented into our churches.
General Baptists are at a critical crossroads. We must do something now to turnaround our denomination. Pastors and church leaders, it is of great importance that you take the time to pray diligently and resolve to be trained and coached so you may fully attain God’s purpose for your church. Church member, it is essential that you pray and support your church leadership and present a strong, united front to Satan.
Over the next few weeks I will break down the changes, vision, and determination essential to becoming a turnaround denomination.