The Corpus Team has worked with over 1,000 churches in the last three years in the area of church revitalization. We have worked with churches from many denominations across 4 continents and with churches from 20 US states. Compiling the meta-data reveals there are 3 reasons why church revitalization does not occur when revitalizations efforts are undertaken: Culture, Competency, and Chemistry, and there are benchmarks in each of these.

Culture – Church culture is by far the primary reason why churches cannot be revitalized. A full 60 percent of the time existing church culture is responsible for the failure of revitalization. A lot is being written about toxic leadership right now. With what has happened to two of the most notable churches in Chicago-land and the high profile nature of their pastors, this is an easy target these days. What is not being talked about or at least is not getting the attention of the Christian media or social media mob is the TOXIC Church Culture.

The reality is that it is a lot easier to point to one person on a stage and identify them as the responsible party than it is to point at all the people in the seats who are holding the pastor hostage and contributing negatively to the overall tone of the church.

What out team sees in toxic church culture are congregations: Going through the motions instead of living life on mission, Living in fear not living with courage, Being inflexible instead of being adaptive, and Being negative and cynical instead of living with joy. Of course there is more but you get the idea. Our team sees a lot of Toxic Shock Culture that pastors have been ask to “turn around, ” but when it comes to giving the pastor permission and support to lead the church to be effective and relevant there is more resistance than support. Our team has developed the above assessment that measures the nine most critical aspects of a church’s culture that reveals the likelihood that it can be revitalized. There are benchmarks that indicate the likelihood of success.

Competency – Thirty percent of revitalization pastors give tangible evidence that they do not have the necessary skills to lead a church revitalization. Lets be honest pastors are ask to perform a broad range of functions and be an expert in many fields. It is a challenging task. Numerous surveys of pastors indicate that pastors overwhelmingly feel like seminary or Bible college did not prepare them for the realities of ministry they face. The joke is “I must have missed the class where they taught us to _________ (you fill in the blank). Honestly this has been a joke for over 30 years, maybe it is time for a seminary to do something about this. Our team at Corpus is trying to help pastors learn, develop, and practice the skills necessary to lead well and to lead in revitalization. Below you will find a figure we use to measure the revitalization skills of a pastor.

Our model is built on the Overseer concept in the Bible. Both Peter and Paul exhort the pastoral teams they were leading to Oversee the church as a faithful steward (See Acts 20 and 1 Peter 5). In 1 Peter 2 Jesus is called the Great Overseer of our soul. Jesus is portrayed as a TYPE OF OVERSEER. The typology holds true in the Old Testament through 3 characters – Joseph, Josiah and Nehemiah all of whom were called overseers or Oversaw those they appointed as overseers. Joseph is the Vision caster. Josiah is the strategist. Nehemiah is the Culture curator. (See related blog post). All three led in a time of revitalization.

Our team has fully developed the nine biblical skillsets a revitalization under the headings: Wise Elder, Skilled Overseer, and Transformational Shepherd. We have also developed an assessment tool as a 360 degree assessment that helps a pastor honestly assess their capacities to lead a revitalization.

Chemistry – The final category for failed revitalization is chemistry. About 10 percent of the time the chemistry between a pastor and a congregation is just not right. The pastor struggles to understand the people and the people struggle to accept the pastor. Our team finds that when chemistry is the issue there are struggles for both the pastor and the people. The words spoken are rarely understood property. Love is given and receive on different terms. Leadership expectations are different. Bed side manner does not resonate, etc. When this occurs it is best for both parties to gain an appreciation for one another, the gifts God has given them and the skills and resources entrusted to them. Our assessment tools help pastors stop pointing the finger at the church and the church to stop pointing their finger at the pastor. When mutual understanding and appreciation are born, the likelihood of revitalization dramatically increases.

What is the secret of a good revitalization effort? A wise elder, a skilled overseer, and a transformational shepherd leading in a church that is self aware of who it is and what it needs to become. If you would like to know more about the Vision Receptivity Assessment (Culture), the Pastoral Readiness Assessment (Competency) or the Merging of the two assessments (Chemistry) visit the Corpus website and click on Assessments or just click here!