Small Beginnings in Church Revitalization
The visions of Zechariah in the Old Testament may not be the first-place pastors in hard places turn when looking for Biblical Revitalization strategies. There are two principles for biblical church revitalization found in this often-overlooked passage from the Old Testament prophet.
Zechariah 4:10 asks a question. “For who despises the day of small things?” (CSB).
Israel’s few, faithful, shepherds are left to look for God’s promises of unstoppable advancement of His Kingdom among what is left of the “glory days” of the past. Past glory days describe many churches longing for Biblical church revitalization. The word of the Lord encourages us to seek new life in dry places by not despising small beginnings in pursuit of biblical church revitalization.
Many churches today are in the same contextual backdrop of Gods people in Zechariah, hurting and in need of hope. Bill Randall shepherds a people in a community filled with hunger, addiction, unemployment, and hopelessness. As pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Union, South Carolina, he leads a congregation “small in number but big on love.” It is a membership that when they were few in number took a chance on him as a first-time pastor with a tainted past. As pastor, Bill understands hopelessness first-hand, and yet the gospel saved him and set him on a path to shepherd a flock of God’s people in need of hope that only the Gospel can change.
Bill Randall did not despise the small beginnings of Kingdom advancement at Beulah. A small remnant was all he had left. So, he rolled up his sleeves and began the hard work of shepherding his people by knowing who they are and knowing the place he was given to minister too. One by one he equipped the saints for the work of ministry.
He began by asking his people “What work does God want you to do in the ministry?” For one member it meant seeing his auto repair shop as a place to serve the members of the church and the community. They see their jobs and their skill sets as a means to “sow into people” in need of hope.
One of the most powerful lessons Bill Randal has taught his people is that ministry is not only for the professional pastors. Every member of Beulah has a part to play in advancing God’s story. “Now you have people in here doing ministry that have never done ministry in their life,” he says. Those who once saw church as Sunday only, show up and give some money. They now have a purpose and a role of their own to the local people and a local place they call home.
Beulah’s revitalization story can only be attributed to the work of the Spirit among God’s people. This is the second principal for biblical church revitalization we see in Zechariah. The Spirit is the giver of life in our community, working through God’s people advancing the Kingdom and pushing back darkness right where we live and work.
This only happens as pastors and members intentionally engage the people, place, and struggles they face with the hope of the Gospel. For Bill Randall this meant knowing his people, context, and the specific needs of both. He was able to meet specific needs in his community. Bill describes one such opportunity as, “someone who has been in financial trouble getting help to get on their feet and then the tools and discipleship to get financially free.” Discipleship is a long game. It is a marathon, not a sprint. The fuel that keeps the Kingdom advancing is life on life, Monday through Saturday is the ministry where the sheep and the shepherd are known.
Relying on the Spirit makes the most of small opportunities among unnoticed people in unnoticed places. It is in the everyday opportunities where the Spirit can change one person for eternity. When a need arises, Bill Randall and his members run to it (hunger, addiction, homelessness, financial struggles, auto repair, etc.). Every crisis gives the Spirit the opportunity to bring new life through the faithfulness of God’s people.
Bill’s life was changed in a crisis. God sent someone to show him the love of God and it saved his life. Now he leads his people the same way. A changed life, leading to change lives; redeemed to lead others to the Redeemer. In an effort to reach a community that will be saturated and transformed by the hope of the Gospel. This little Kingdom outpost in a small community in South Carolina is seeing God’s Kingdom advance one life at a time.
God has brought the increase to Beulah from a few members to a multitude of members on mission in their community. In a town where more people move away than move to, Bill Randall continues his mission of small beginnings and Spirit-led opportunities. By God’s grace, revitalization is taking place.
What would a kingdom outpost in your community do to advance the Gospel?
What small beginnings can you embrace to change the trajectory of a life for eternity?
How could you mobilize members to make the most of everyday opportunities as they run to the hurting and hopeless in their community?