By Gary Derbyshire, youth pastor, Gateway Fellowship, Gilbert –
On a sunny Thursday in Phoenix, Larry Deskins and I, senior pastor and youth pastor of Gateway Fellowship, stepped into First Southern Baptist Church of Phoenix to attend the revitalization conference hosted by our state convention, planned by the North American Mission Board and supported by the Cooperative Program. It was a great conference with two exceptional guest speakers in Richard Blackaby and Mark Clifton. Here are 6 major takeaways from the Revive Conference:
- “It doesn’t matter how long you have been a pastor, there are encounters with Jesus you have not yet had.” Preaching from Revelation 1 and 2, Blackaby did a great job applying the encounter with Jesus John had in the book of the Revelation to the hundred pastors in the room, some undoubtedly in the midst of discouraging stages of their ministry. Follow up quote: “We are one encounter with God away from having a vastly different church.”
- “We believe in the sovereignty of Christ as a doctrine, but not as a reality.” Blackaby encouraged pastors to wonder if the agenda, conversation, and tone of their business meetings would be different if the actual person of Jesus were to walk in the room.
- “There’s just as much the presence of God in your little church as in any mega church.” This is a quote from Blackaby, but both speakers emphasized this. There was a very memorable story from Blackaby about a family driving all night to their small church, carrying their sleeping young ones in the building from the car, just so they wouldn’t miss what God would do.
- It is still God who shuts down churches, not Satan or people. This was such a great interpretation of Revelation 2:5 from Blackaby. God will either use your church because it gives all glory to Him or He will close your church because it gives no glory to Him. The good news is the One who will ensure your church thrives is the One you serve!
- “When every church was planted, it raised the banner of God’s glory in that place.” Great quote from Clifton. What about a dying church brings glory to God? The death of a church is tragic. Follow up quote: “Love the church you have, not the church you’d like to have.”
- There are signs that a church is dying (by Clifton). Dying churches tend to 1) over rely on programs, 2) over rely on personalities, 3) resent the community, 4) value process of decision over outcome, 5) value inward preferences and not the community’s needs, 6) anesthetize the point of death by activity and projects, and 7) confuse caring for the building with caring for the people.
The main idea I left with is that God loves and is actively fighting for dying churches. If it is his heart that dying churches come back to life, it has to be our heart too.
Gary Derbyshire is the Youth Pastor at Gateway Fellowship in Gilbert as well as a seminary student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Follow his ministry blog at www.garyderbyshire.com.