RENOVATE Conference inaugurates new era in church development
Jan 1, 2014
By DAVID RAUL LEMA JR.
Special to Florida Baptist Witness

ETHNICS Eloy Rodrigues (center) , minister of Idlewild En Espanol in Lutz, gives directions at the RENOVATE National Church Revitalization Conference in Winter Park, near Orlando. Photo courtesy GOBA
WINTER PARK (FBW)—The first RENOVATE National Church Revitalization Conference in North America took place Nov. 4-6 at Aloma Church in Winter Park. Nearly 600 pastors, layperson and practitioners of Church Revitalization and Renewal participated in the event, sponsored by the Greater Orlando Baptist Association. Many other RENOVATE Alliance Partners also contributed to make the national event a success. 

RENOVATE was birthed in the heart of Tom Cheyney, the executive director of missions for the Greater Orlando Baptist Association and the Founder of the RENOVATE National Church Revitalization Conference. Cheyney has the deep-seated conviction that the plateaued and declining churches in our nation must be rescued.

“One of the challenges for the laity in the day in which we live is that they have lost the knowledge of church renewal and no longer want to cultivate the skill sets necessary to see their church experience revitalization,” Cheyney said.

One of the goals of the conference was to renew these skill sets and put new leaders in touch with the corporate memory of their church to learn from a past experience of effective growth in the community. Once the past success was established as a baseline, then leaders can look to the future and be challenged by a renewed vision of revitalization and growth.

“This gathering of protestant evangelicals for the purpose of Church Revitalization and Renewal signifies that pastors and church revitalizers are taking the present decline of our North American churches seriously and want to be part of a new movement focused on bringing health and vitality back to the local church,” Cheyney said.

Wes Baldwin, lead pastor of Aloma Church and one of the conference sponsors, noted there is a lot of support for pastors in growth and development.

“We love the local church pastor and we want to love on them and their spouses as we gather annually for the cause of church revitalization and renewal,” Baldwin said. “Aloma Church is proud to be a significant part of reaching, restoring, and resourcing pastors through our collaboration with Dr. Cheyney and RENOVATE.”

The unique event brought together many church revitalizers in contact with pastors and leaders in plateaued or declining churches that were looking for answers to their questions about principles and methodologies of church revitalization. The participants were able to take part each day in at least 35 different breakout sessions led by experts in the field.

The lineup of main session Church Revitalizers included: Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee; Ed Stetzer, vice president Insights Division, LifeWay Christian Resources; Kevin Ezell, president, North American Mission Board; Larry Wynn, vice president for Church Revitalization and Leadership, Georgia Baptist Convention; and John Mark Clifton, lead pastor, Wornall Road Baptist Church, Brookside, Mo. The speakers addressed the topic of revitalization and renewal from practical and pastoral perspectives. The breakout sessions were led by local pastors, national ministry leaders, and many ministry leaders from the staff of the Florida Baptist Convention.

Charles Arn, son of Church Growth School guru Win Arn and president of the American Society of Church Growth, shared with participants his version of the five most important principles of church growth. “Why is it that some churches grow and some don’t?” he asked. His five point answer included: Disciple making as a priority, the principle of oikos (household) evangelism, inclusion of “extended” family as a net, prayer for the lost, and the establishment of “side doors” as a means of developing new church relationships.

Arn also introduced his new book, Side Door: How to Open Your Church to Reach More People. 

Stetzer, who lived in the Winter Park area during his youth, shared personal anecdotes and new research findings in the area of vital church statistics. His teaching centered on 1 Peter 4:10-11 and the value of “engaging all of God’s people in God’s mission.”

Paul Smith, pastor of Life Church in Mandeville, La. addressed the topic of “Revitalizing the Pastor in the Midst of Crisis.” Smith proposed three things a pastor needs in time of crisis: 

“Remember your call,” “Remember your convictions,” and “Remember your character.”

As a special treat for the participants and the members of the host church, the conference ended with a presentation by Tony Brent, Christian comedian and magician, who delighted the crowd with his humor and magic tricks. One of the points stressed throughout the conference was that healthy humor has an important place in the quest for church revitalization as a stress reliever.

A RENOVATE Conference mobile application provided a schedule and breakout session information and listed unique offers and free resources given away to the participants by the RENOVATE Alliance Partners. More than one-hundred free resources were made available by sponsors to the participants during the event. Thirty participants won a free trip to the 2014 RENOVATE National Church Revitalization Conference, planned for Nov. 3-5 at Aloma Church.

The RENOVATE Conference also had a Spanish Track for Hispanic leaders. Carlos Mendez, pastor of Iglesia Hay Vida en Jesus in East Orlando and a member of the conference steering committee, noted the experience was a good one for Hispanic leaders. 

“Everyone worked well to make this event a success,” Mendez said. He pointed out that many of the Hispanic pastors also attended sessions in English.

One of the unique aspects of the conference was the intentionally placed next steps for both pastors and practitioners to follow after the conference was over. Participants were invited to join the ongoing discussion on church revitalization at the Renovate website.

In addition, the Church Revitalization Coaching Network was introduced as a means of church and pastoral development. John Bayley, director and coach of the network, said the coaching network provided “a process to follow … peers to help in the process … and practitioners to help apply the process to a local setting.”

To learn more about the strategic movement, go to the conference website at: RenovateConference.org for early offers and resources. Renovate can be followed on Facebook (Renovate Conference) or Twitter (#RenovateConference). 

 

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