Denominations seeking to revitalize their churches would do well to spend time and and invest resources in trying to learn why people of all ages have left their churches, says Ed Stetzer, the executive director of the Billy Graham Center and the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College.
“Most denominations tend to have certain ministries that they lead at the national level (seminaries, children’s homes, retirement plans, etc.). Thus their main focus tends to be organizational, rather than missional,” said Stetzer, who has just been announced as a plenary speaker for Inspire 2019. He will speak at the event on Friday, Aug. 2.
“Some denominations have prioritized providing tools and pathways for churches to be more effective, and thus they have assisted churches to create such [missional] resources,” added Stetzer, who has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches and trained pastors and church planters on six continents. He has written a dozen books and hundreds of articles.
Inspire 2019 will take place at the St. Clair College Centre for the Arts, a convention center in Windsor, Ont., just across the Detroit River from where Inspire 2017 was held.
The topic of Stetzer’s presentation will be “Changing Our Focus to the Mission of Jesus.” In addition to speaking, he will be leading a workshop on congregational revitalization.
A contributor to the North American discussion on missional church, church planting, church revitalization, and Christian cultural engagement, his books include Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply (with Daniel Im, 2016) and Subversive Kingdom: Becoming Agents of Gospel Transformation (2012).
“There are few denominations that have direct-to-people resources. But if they conducted some research (perhaps into their growing churches, compared to those declining), they could find out why there was a difference.”
If denominations, he said, moved in this direction, helping churches make appropriate changes based on Scripture and what they’ve learned, “the churches of such a denomination would be significantly revitalized,” he said.
Stetzer is the second plenary speaker to be announced for Inspire 2019. He joins popular writer Ann Voskamp, who was ill and couldn’t speak at Inspire 2017. Voskamp will be speaking on Friday evening.
Response to Inspire 2017, which drew over 800 CRC ministry leaders from across North America to downtown Detroit, Mich., Aug. 3-5, 2017, was overwhelmingly positive. In written evaluations, participants said that they felt renewed and reinvigorated for ministry after participating in the event held at Detroit’s Renaissance Center.
As a result, the CRCNA decided to gather leaders again for times of worship and plenary speakers such as Stetzer and Voskamp. In addition, there will be dozens of breakout sessions and workshops on topics covering congregational life.
The Inspire 2019 website says, “Whether you're a deacon, elder, Sunday school leader, Bible study participant, worship leader, mission team member, or community outreach coordinator, or you fill another role in your church community, you will find relevant workshops to help you in your ministry.
“And, of course, there will be good food, fellowship, and plenty of time to connect with people from across our denomination to share stories and learn from each other.”
Registration for Inspire 2019 will open on February 1. Participants coming from the U.S. are reminded that they will require a passport or enhanced driver's license to cross the border. Visit Inspire 2019 for more information or to sign up for email updates.