Reflections on 6 1/2 years of Church Revitalization

This is a guest blog from Jason Cooper, lead pastor of The Church at Oak Level in Orlando, FL.

On August 25,  The Church at Oak Level celebrated its 3rd birthday.  In 2010, after leading a church through transition and refocus on Jesus’ mission, we launched this new church effort.  It has been a wild ride to say the least. It is possible to take a dying church and see it restored to even greater glory.

Here are my 6 1/2 “take aways” from 6 1/2 years of revitalization and 3 years as pastor of a church re-plant:

1.  Traditions are great and make us feel good.  There is a reason why radio stations play Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Burl Ives every year at Christmas.  Though there are numerous new offerings, so many people simply prefer the “old favorites” around the holidays.

2.  When there is a clear objective and tradition will not get you there, tradition becomes a roadblock.  This does not mean that tradition does not have its place.  If you have a goal of running a mile in under ten minutes but you have a tradition of walking, you will never reach your goal.

3.  The mission is more critical than maintaining a tradition.  Jesus called it the Great Commission for a reason.  The church exists to take the message of the gospel to a lost world.  If that message is being convoluted by extra-biblical form and function, then we must reevaluate the tradition and our efforts.

4.  Personal preference will kill a church.  Every time.  The church does not exist to make us happy, meet our needs, or satisfy our wants.  The idea of “worship wars” is  nonsensical when it comes to a New Testament church.  To fight over music style, preaching style, carpet style, paint style, dress style…is to deny the very essence of the first century church.  There is no place for what I want when it comes to the local church.

5.  I will choose to spend my efforts on trying to reach people who are far from God rather than to try to keep those who already know Him.  Church can not be about keeping but reaching.  If the church is truly healthy then they will also be about reaching.  The church is the only organization in the world that exists for the benefit of its non-members.

6.  I am the lead pastor of the church…NOT the senior pastor.  The Senior Pastor loves the church far more than I ever could or would.  It is Jesus’ church.  He is the one who died for her.  Not me.  Therefore, I will continually pray and ask the Senior Pastor what He wants to do with His church that He has called me to lead.

6 1/2.  There is just something about church revitalization.  Make no mistake, the act of planting a church is incredibly compelling.  It takes so much time and effort and support.  Birth is a natural process.  However, taking a church that was dead and bringing it back to life?  That is not natural.  That is supernatural.  Only Jesus can take credit for that!

No matter how good today was, if Jesus is guiding His church then the best is always yet to come.  I believe with everything in me that we have only begun to scratch the surface at TCAOL.  We will continue to keep Jesus central to everything we do, make the Word of God our priority and love others unconditionally until He tells us to stop.

To the future of His church…may it shine as brightly as the Morning Star.

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