Leading Your Church into an Era of Renewed Optimism



Excerpted from The Church Revitalization Checklist: A Hopeful and Practical Guide for Leading Your Congregation to a Brighter Tomorrow by Sam Rainer, Copyright © 2022. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.  All rights reserved. 


If God can save any person, he can save any church. The gospel embodies a movement—bringing people out of spiritual darkness and into eternal light.


What Jesus does for individuals, he also does for the church, the assembly of saved individuals. The Good News is both personal and corporate. If we believe any person is worth saving, we must also believe any church is worth saving.


The personal revival in his own soul gradually spread to the congregation. It took almost five years, but noticeable changes began to occur. Average attendance moved above one hundred for the first time in decades. They renovated the church campus and added an associate pastor. The children’s ministry and student ministry began to thrive. As average Sunday attendance grew to more than 125, they added a second service. Most of the newcomers had no idea that this had been a struggling church of only a few dozen people not that long ago. What made the difference?


“It’s not about how tough or brave you are. It’s about endurance.” (quoting the pastor)



Regardless of your circumstances, there are many things you can’t control. But what you can always control is your attitude—your posture. As you persevere, I encourage you to bend toward hope. Most pastors have a sore back because they carry a heavy load. It hurts to bend toward optimism. When you lean into a better place, it won’t be without pain. God will stretch you. But he also promises to fill you with hope, peace, and joy.


Revitalizing a church can be a lonely calling. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. Your fellow pastors may wonder why you stick around. Your church may not understand at first what you’re trying to do. But you’re not alone. The Bridegroom is with you—always. He is committed to his bride. He has promised to build his church to overcome the gates of hell. Don’t give up. Your church is worth revitalizing.


The movement of the gospel takes people to a better place. Bad news becomes good news. Death becomes life. This applies to you personally, and it applies to the church corporately. If God can save any person, he can save any church. Any church can live. Any church can thrive.

Persevere. Lead your congregation to a better place.


Optimism always bends toward hope.


Cultural Christianity might be dead or dying. Maybe that’s embarrassing for some. But I’m not embarrassed. We need more faith contenders and fewer church pretenders anyway. The Christianity I see in the New Testament is lean and determined. We’re called to work out our faith while running a race. We’re called to gird our loins with truth.


Church, let’s do this! We can stand strong. We can exude joy. We can encourage hope. I’m optimistic about God’s work. I’m hopeful about Christ’s church in North America. You should be too.



Though the megachurch movement has been more of a positive force for the gospel than a negative one, if the overall health of the church is to improve, I believe that a movement of non-megachurches must gain momentum.

I’m optimistic about tomorrow, but smaller and medium-size churches will have to move into a mode of exploration to take advantage of the opportunity. Adventurers do not embark with a spirit of pessimism. Sailors move into uncharted waters when they believe something better is just over the horizon. We must start exploring now. Set your sights for five years from today, but hold the specifics loosely. If we’ve learned anything from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that the future can change on a dime. But God is unchanging. His faithfulness endures forever.13

Uncertainty forces us to abandon our self-reliance and surrender to the power of God. When we do, God is able to stretch our hope and build our faith. It’s a hard lesson. It’s a necessary lesson.



When faced with a crux moment, the temptation is to hit the pause button. But as we’ll see in chapter 1, we should hit the reset button instead. We must come to grips with the reality that things will not be the same. And that’s okay! A blue ocean awaits.14 Something greater lies on the other side of tomorrow.



Not all optimists are leaders, but every leader must be an optimist. As a leader in your church, you have a responsibility to convey a hopeful message to your congregation. Leaders take people to a better place. Pastors shepherd their congregations to a better place. Pessimism has no place in leadership—not even if you try to rebrand it as realism—and it will not move people to a healthier place. Pessimists are not leaders. Pessimists always see the worst case. Pessimists assume that evil will prevail over good. Pessimists—by God’s design—cannot be effective pastors or church leaders, because the gospel by its very nature is optimistic.15



I titled this introduction “Leading Your Church into an Era of Renewed Optimism” to draw a clear distinction between my outlook on the future of the church and the more somber tone of other recent books on the subject. Pessimistic may be too strong a word to describe those other works, but cheerful and optimistic do not immediately come to mind when you consider titles that include the words autopsy, recession, and crisis, for example.16 My concern is that too much negativity might become a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially at the local church level.



Just because national trends point to a decline in the North American church does not mean your church must decline. Leaders cannot resign themselves to negative influences and outcomes. Your role as a leader is to translate the message of hope in your own context.



Describing reality is the job of historians and journalists, not leaders. Historians look backward. Journalists report what’s happening today. Leaders move people to the other side of tomorrow. And that requires optimism.17 Optimism at its most basic simply means seeing that something better is possible. Optimism assures us that we don’t have to stay stuck where we are. We can move, we can hope, we can take action.



My thesis is really quite simple: Moving your church toward the hope of tomorrow requires optimism. The Church Revitalization Checklist provides a way to implement this hope. Without a guide, it’s easy to get lost. The checklist will keep you focused. God has sovereignly placed your church in a specific location for a reason. A better day is just on the other side of tomorrow. Optimism and hope will lead your church there.



Far too many churches hit the pause button when what they really need is a full reset. Depending on who’s counting, somewhere between 65 and 90 percent of churches need some form of revitalization.1



Every church has a reset button. Every pastor has an opportunity to press it. Don’t wait for the world to change. The church is supposed to change the world. Stop lamenting our increasingly godless age. Let’s build God’s Kingdom.



Here’s a truth you can take to the bank: Change will be constant until Christ returns. Tomorrow will be different from today. Will tomorrow’s differences be subtle or culture-shifting? It is impossible to predict.



Though specific churches have sought to lead the way on diversity, a movement of hundreds or thousands of churches does not exist. Perhaps we’re in the beginning stages of such a movement. I certainly hope so. I have a personal stake in this issue, as three of my children are white and one is black. But for a movement to pick up steam, a few things will likely need to occur:

  1. Churches must pursue diversity on their staff. In most cases, churches will not become more diverse until leadership becomes more diverse. This diversity is especially important with the visible staff positions, such as pastors and worship leaders.
  2. Heterogeneous mergers must become more common. Church mergers are becoming more prevalent. These mergers come in many shapes and sizes. However, we need to see more mergers between two (or more) congregations with different ethnicities. Most church mergers are homogeneous—two churches with a similar makeup of people. Stories such as the merger between Jacksonville, Florida’s Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church (African American) and Ridgewood Baptist Church (white) are far too rare.25
  3. Preschool and children’s ministry must become more of a priority. Even if a church might resist a merger, or resist the idea of becoming multiethnic, the children of the church will never know the difference. If a church has a diverse preschool and children’s ministry, it’s more likely to become a multiethnic church within a generation.

Not only should churches pursue diversity organizationally, but every church leader can do something individually as well. In fact, it will take pastors and church leaders making the first strides to achieve cultural and racial diversity in our churches.


Start by developing individual relationships


Listen to people of color.


The reset button is a symbol for a new mindset—one that uses optimism to pursue revitalization in the church. As we will see in the next chapter, a strong comeback is possible.



Taken from The Church Revitalization Checklist: A Hopeful and Practical Guide for Leading Your Congregation to a Brighter Tomorrow by Sam Rainer, Copyright © 2022. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.  All rights reserved.


NEXT~> The Reimagine.Network Interview with Sam Rainer


10659344671?profile=RESIZE_400xThe Church Revitalization Checklist

A Hopeful and Practical Guide for Leading Your Congregation to a Brighter Tomorrow

Your church has the opportunity of a lifetime. The world has shifted, and a new, brighter tomorrow awaits. The Church Revitalization Checklist is a tool to help you start fresh, leverage your strengths, and discover hidden opportunities for church growth.

God has placed you exactly where He wants you. But let’s be honest, if you’re leading a church, it isn’t easy. Maybe your church has been in the doldrums for years. Maybe you’re hearing a lot of complaints, and you’re simply tired or disheartened. Maybe you’ve been hurt. But you are not alone. Many church leaders have sore backs from carrying a heavy load. This book will lighten that load.

The Church Revitalization Checklist provides a step-by-step path to a hope-filled future for both you and…


Product Details

Published: January 4, 2022
Binding: Hardcover
Trim Size:v5.5 x 8.25 in.
Pages: 200

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