My wife and I love to watch HGTV and The History Channel. One night a week we rush to the basement to watch Chip and Joanna Gaines from Waco, TX on Fixer Upper. Their catch phrase/question, at the beginning of each episode, is the title of this article. I realized one night how this home renovation series parallels revitalization. It is a risky proposal. It is a process besieged with many difficult decisions! It is amazing how each week the stark reality of the original structure determines the cost of the renovation and the subsequent timeline required for the transformation. This is true of revitalization.
So what is required to be a fixer upper? You will need to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly…. oops, sorry! That’s the Boy Scout motto! Here’s the list:
• Everything must be evaluated. Nothing can be left to chance. The initial inspection reveals whether the bones are good enough for revitalization to proceed. A renovation without a full inspection can easily start with a faulty foundation. Some projects need to be “bulldozed” and started again from ground zero. In our process, we scrutinize every ministry, committee, team, program, event, system and all the documents of the church. No rock can be unturned. Everything the church does must adhere to the values and mission of the church! I have even seen Constitution and Bylaws that keep a church from moving forward. Start with a strong evaluation and a solid foundation. Get a good inspector. You can find several in this magazine.
• It requires a variety of tools. The revitalization process should start with a sharp tool – say the Sword. The Word of God provides the biblical basis for evaluation, church health, transformation, teamwork, strategic planning, etc. Take a long look at the book of Nehemiah for the steps to revitalization. Second, a hammer/sledge is helpful when something needs to be broken or demolished – and some things should be done away with, especially if they dilute the vision and direction of the church. In some cases, the past needs to be buried for the new foundation to be laid. Could dynamite be considered a tool? Probably not! The detail tools must never be overlooked. A finish-nailer makes a tiny hole and yet holds with more than adequate strength. Revitalizing is best performed when the gaps are filled and the wounds or scars are dealt with and conflict gives way to unity and harmony! My favorite tool is the pliers! I love putting the squeeze on those who don’t want to go along with me! Yes, that is a toolbox hyperbole! You can add your own tools to the box or contact a revitalizer who has already put together a toolbox based on previous experience and expertise gleaned from other wise rebuilders.
• Know the Materials needed for restructuring. Some building materials and decorating items don’t appeal to me, but my wife loves them. Our preferences don’t always coincide. This is also true of revitalization, but it is the opportunity to strive for unity and compromise. The most important material is PRAYER. Prayer helps people find the mind of Christ and settle on a resolution to which all can harmoniously accept. Wallpaper the entire process with prayer as you restructure and rebuild and move forward. Also, revitalization leaders need to recognize that we will not make everyone happy all the time. What is required to gut and renovate the body may disappoint or anger some. It hurts to tear down that structurally unsound wall that was built by someone’s relatives many years ago, but the renewal will not be safe and beautiful unless it is dealt with.
• Be willing to count the cost – The Gaines have faced many set-backs in fixing up homes for their clients. At times they were over-budget and other times way beyond the renovation timeline. The process of revitalization is not a perfect process, but we have a perfect God Who joins us in the task of making His Bride ready for His return. The Gaines chose to sacrifice TV time to be on TV. Ironic! But we, like they, must be willing to offer normalcy and comfort to become relevant, innovative and productive for the Kingdom of God. The time and discomfort is worth the renovation. “DO YOU have the guts to be a fixer upper?”
Tracy W. Jaggers D.Min.
Associational Director of Missions
Gateway Baptist Association