Church Revitalization and Evangelistic Emphasis: A Mixed Methods Study
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The numbers are alarming. Seventy-four percent of churches within the SBC are in a state of decline or plateau. The church at large has a responsibility to reverse these trends and refuse to watch the evangelical church in America lose ground as it demonstrates more severe symptoms of mortality. Now more than ever is the time to ask the hard questions, seek God’s face, and press into the command to fulfill the Great Commission. What is it going to take to reverse the problem of church decline and death? While revitalization is certainly a topic of interest among evangelical church leaders, some of the most pertinent literature is already dated. Acknowledging that there is a great deal of new information from this past decade and the fact that there is scant research with the specific focus on evangelistic emphasis for church revitalization were the leading motivators for this study. This study used a three-phase, sequential mixed-methods research design to identify successful church revitalizations and determine what influence a focus of evangelistic fervor had on those successes. In the quantitative portion of the research 716, or 5.24% of SBC churches who had experienced decline or plateau from 2006-2016 were found to have experienced revitalization. These churches were surveyed, and 129 pastors responded by completed the survey instrument. Of the pastors surveyed, 82.50 percent indicated evangelism as “Important” or “Highly Important” in the revitalization process. Selection criteria were applied to identify churches to participate in the qualitative phase. In the qualitative phase 12 in-depth interviews were conducted to identify best practices among pastors who have led their churches through the revitalization. The top ten include the pastor doing the following: used church member testimonies to celebrate key wins, planned evangelism training, preached emphasis on gospel conversations, communicated clear mission and vision of the church, prioritized setting the example for evangelism, maintained slow culture shift with awareness of on-going revitalization progress, motivated by biblical truths, focused upon prayer, emphasized relational evangelism, displayed an awareness of the Holy Spirit. Discerning these “best practices” not only has application for dying and plateaued churches, but also for growing churches to maintain church health.