CHURCH REVITALIZATION WORKSHOP
According to the latest statistical reports, more than 80% of EPC churches are struggling to grow. Many have not experienced an adult profession of faith in at least a year. Further, many EPC congregations do not reflect the demographic makeup of the community within a one-, three-, and five-mile radius of their campus.
These and other factors can create a crisis of confidence for pastors and church leaders. Many turn to conferences or the latest in church programming hoping to “jump-start” a season of growth, only to watch it fall by the wayside. This in turn can lead to discouragement, frustration, and even despair.
But we are not without hope! Throughout Scripture, there are many examples of God bringing revitalization and renewal to His people as they seek His face together. With that biblical principle in mind, a panel of seasoned EPC church revitalization practitioners convened a monthly series of interactive, online church revitalization workshops across seven months in 2020-2021. These facilitators represent a wide spectrum of church size, geographical context, and life experience. All are currently engaged in the work of church revitalization and have experienced some measure of success. Each month’s workshop focused on one or more of three general categories:
• The Revitalized Pastor.
• The Revitalized Session/Leadership.
• The Revitalized Congregation.
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John T. Mabray grew up in Monroe as a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church. He served as Senior Pastor of Covenant from 1987 to 1996, and from 2010 until September 2020. In between, he served as Pastor of Rivermont Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Under John’s leadership, Covenant received the EPC’s Bart Hess Award for church vitality in 2019.
He is a graduate of Southern Methodist University and Columbia Theological Seminary. When not in the pulpit or study, John loves to be in the woods or on the water, hunting, fishing, walking his dogs, and otherwise enjoying the wonders of God’s creation. He is the author of The Seven Deadly Sins and Spiritual Transformation (Xulon Press).
He and his wife, Catherine, have three adult children and six grandchildren.
Bryn MacPhail serves as Senior Pastor for St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk, a 210-year-old congregation in downtown Nassau, Bahamas.
Bryn was born and raised in Niagara Falls, Canada, within the Presbyterian Church in Canada. He graduated from the University of Western Ontario, Tyndale Theological Seminary, and the University of Toronto before being ordained in January 1998. Bryn has experience pastoring a “two-point charge” in rural Ontario, followed by leading a multi-staff congregation in Toronto. In June 2010, he accepted the call to lead St. Andrew’s Kirk and transferred his ordination to the EPC.
Bryn’s ministry in Nassau began in the wake of a season of disruption and division within the life of the congregation. Weekly attendance ranged between 30-40, with only 5 children in Sunday School. By God’s grace and through a focus on leadership revitalization and efforts toward an inner city mission, average weekly attendance grew to more than 200 by 2014—the same year St. Andrew’s Kirk was named the recipient of that year’s Bart Hess Award for church vitality.
He is helped greatly by his wife, Allie, who holds an MDiv with an emphasis in counseling and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She leads St. Andrew’s Kirk’s Women’s Ministry, “Proximity 242.”
Doug Resler serves as Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colorado. He has more than 25 years of ministry experience—18 of which have been in pastoral ministry in a Lead Pastor position. He also teaches courses on evangelism, missions, and pastoral leadership at Denver Theological Seminary and serves on the Board for the Petros Network, which equips local leaders to transform underserved and unreached communities through spiritual, social, and economic solutions.
He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder, MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, and DMin from Columbia Theological Seminary. He has worked in a variety of contexts including hospital administration, prison chaplaincy, church planting, and church revitalization.
Throughout his career, Doug has specialized in helping struggling churches of all sizes revitalize by applying a systems theory approach. Over the last 10 years, Parker EPC has grown more than 20%, more than doubled her budget, increased missions giving to 23%, experienced hundreds of professions of faith, embraced intergenerational diversity, and is in the process of becoming more ethnically and socio-economically diverse.
Doug has written for Christianity Today on the subject of leadership—particularly how to persevere through the successes and failures of ministry. He also helps lead training conferences for indigenous church planters in Ethiopia twice a year.
Mike Wright has served as Pastor of Littleton Christian Church since 2009, when it formed as a replant following a church split.
As Mike likes to say, “On paper, this church should never have survived. We didn’t realize we were planting a church in 2009, and we’ve been relatively small all along. We serve a transient community in the shadow of big, healthy congregations. We have never owned property. In reality, God consistently provided faithful, mature, generous, and flexible people to gird this church up. This has allowed us to serve our community, celebrate and apply the gospel consistently, and to bless our city. The trust and stability this church offers me is a major reason I am who I am today, not to mention the relationships we have with other churches, and the friendships I treasure with fellow pastors.”
He is a graduate of Westmont College and Denver Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Erin, have four children.
In addition to the recordings below, each month’s session is posted on the EPC YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Audio podcast versions of each session of the workshop are available on the EPC’s podcast channel at podcast.epc.org, as well as Spotify and iTunes (search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church”).
SESSION 1: OCTOBER 28, 2020
SESSION 2: NOVEMBER 25, 2020
SESSION 3: JANUARY 27, 2021
SESSION 4: FEBRUARY 24, 2021
SESSION 5: MARCH 24, 2021
SESSION 6: APRIL 28, 2021
SESSION 7: MAY 26, 2021
John Mabray, Bryn MacPhail, Doug Resler, and Mike Wright compiled these “Top 5 Books” lists of recommended resources for church and personal revitalization.
You can support the ministries of the EPC by purchasing books through the links on each of the images below at Amazon.com. When you login to your Amazon account (or set up a new account), use smile.amazon.com and select “Evangelical Presbyterian Church” as your preferred charitable organization. The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to the EPC.