'Resurgence offers practical help to churches

08.29.19 | Leader Development, Congregational Development | by Rodney Smothers

    There’s a verse in Deuteronomy 2:3 where the Israelites have been wandering in the wilderness, seeking to move into the Promised Land. God eventually tells them: “You have been going around in circles in these hills long enough. Head north.”

    “Resurgence,” a new book by the Revs. Rodney Smothers and Candace Lewis, is a roadmap to help today’s church move beyond its well-worn paths and “turn north” to growth and discipleship.

    Revival, renewal and relevance are the key gifts that “Resurgence: Navigating the Changing Ministry Landscape” offers the church, said Smothers, the Director of Leadership and Congregational Development for the Baltimore-Washington Conference.

    He wrote the book with Lewis, a district superintendent in Florida, who worked previously as the denomination’s executive director of Path 1 New Church Starts. 

    The book, released this month, explores “a process of retooling the church to engage the future with relevant strategies that connect people with God.”

    While it was written, in part, to address the changing African-American church, its lessons are applicable to all churches seeking to navigate renewal and change in a culture in which the church feels increasingly irrelevant.

    As part of a roadmap for renewal, Smothers suggests seven important transitions for churches and leaders to move from their current state to something that addresses the changing realities of today’s world.

    Smothers and Lewis outline the changes this way:

    Industrial to Digital

    “While the good news of God’s love is unchanging, the world has moved through the Industrial Age into the digital, downloadable-on-demand age. … Social media today is what the printing press was in the past. Churches that do not intend to invest in digital media (for worship, giving, meetings, Christian education, evangelism and mission) are signaling that they do not intend to invest in a vital future.”

    Comfort and Care to Chaos and Crisis

    The church’s “heyday” is past, they write. “With the evolving social, cultural, technological and ecclesiastical landscapes, we must constantly reassess the way we do church in a society that does not necessarily value church as the priority it has been in prior generations.”

    Leadership teams, made up of 12-15 people, should evolve from meeting for administrative repair to gathering to create strategies for the implementation of ongoing growth goals and execute ongoing ministries that benefit the congregation and community.

    Caretaker to Catalyst for Change

    Churches need to be shifting away from a focus on self. “Emerging events on the horizon (like the Black Lives Matters movement) require us to get out of buildings and find out what the community needs. We should never embrace the attitude that the church cannot help or make a difference. ... It’s simply a matter of connecting call, spirituality and commitment to Christ in a way that is not just limited to the Sunday morning experience but rather engages people between the Sundays.”

    Boss to Teaming Leader

    Pastors need to move from viewing themselves as experts to creating a culture of leaders and thinkers. Leaders guide the “why” of the forward movement of ministry. They must also work to develop, guide and execute ideas and tasks based on vision and mission. “Teaming ministries are great models of Kingdom expansion which provide God-centered best practices that can be replicated in multiple locations.”

    Telling to Coaching

    “Telling leaders dispense information; coaching leaders create strategy. Good leaders must create a culture of coaching that draws out people’s self-awareness and skills and empowers them to discover their own answers and strategies for living more fully into God’s preferred future.”

    Scarcity to Abundance

    “Generosity is simply under- standing God as the source of our provisions,” they write. “When we give, we are returning to God a portion of what God has already given to us. When we begin to understand the joy of being asked to be a steward, it manifests in the privilege of returning back to God what God has entrusted to our care. … Generous giving involves more than money. It is a spiritual discipline that involves our time, talents, gifts, service and witness.”

    Membership to Discipleship

    “Resurgent churches have an intentional plan of discipleship that navigates people through the process of spiritual maturity. … One of the hallmarks of vital ministry is a consistent process of on-boarding, training, mission-alignment, accountability, leadership gifting, and discipleship benchmarking. … Resurgence is a process of retooling the church to engage the future with relevant strategies that connect people with God.”

    Undergirding all these changes, Smothers points out, is leadership. Gifted leaders, he said, can “thrive in most ministry settings,” especially if they draw on “the core ingredients of effective pastoral leadership: listening, learning, loving and lifting God’s people to serve.”

    Gifted leaders supplement their knowledge with spiritual maturity as they seek to follow Ephesians 4:13 and “measure up to the full and complete standard of Christ.”

    Resurgence, Smothers and Lewis conclude, is a way for the church to reinvent itself to engage its community in new ways.

    “At the heart of this movement is leadership that has as its primary objective innovative, transformative, and life-giving skills that equip and empower a new generation of leaders.”

    “Resurgence: Navigating the Changing Ministry Landscape” is available online at Amazon.com.