When I first glanced at the title, I admit that I had no idea how the author would approach the topic. After all, there have been countless books on revival and revitalization. However, I was pleasantly surprised to open Church Revitalization from the Inside Out and find a robust treatment on the dire need for godly leaders in the church. Pastor Robert D. Stuart brings his many years of revitalization experience to the table and offers a truly valuable resource for churches in need.
Stuart is straight-forward: “Weak leaders produce weak churches, and weak churches are ineffective in reaching a dying culture with the gospel of Christ.”1 He doesn’t mince words and he doesn’t try to force the book to do something it can’t—provide a step-by-step method to guarantee revitalization. Instead, he draws heavily from Scripture and places the emphasis on God’s command for leaders to lead.
More specifically, Stuart describes the book this way:
“As a diagnostic manual, this book lists the symptoms of poor leadership—such as bad decisions, the guise of uniformity, gossip, sacred cows, irreconcilable attitudes, fear or change, and lack of vision. To overcome the symptoms of failure, leaders will be encouraged to look toward and emulate the leadership style of Jesus, which will foster health in leadership and vitality in the congregation.”2
After an introduction on the need for healthy leaders, Stuart launches into a series of explorations into nine fatal flaws of leadership. Frankly, these chapters are sobering. In fact, as a teacher/pastor, I found myself chaffing under his diagnosis of “The Bookworm Pastor”—a shepherd prone to intellectual exile.
Stuart doesn’t shy away from the problems, noting, “If a church seems stagnant and dying, then it needs reviving, first by ensuring that the gospel is preached, and second by having the elders disciple those whom the Lord has entrusted to their care. God’s will for churches in decline is revival—not stagnation.”3 In the end, he’s out to help the church rekindle their love for God and fulfill the Great Commission of making disciples. At every turn, however, Stuart is adamant that godly men are needed to accomplish this task.
“Men, for the most part, have abdicated their responsibility to lead, which has obligated women to fill the vacuum. Without greater male involvement, local congregations will decline into irrelevance and leadership will be relegated to women. Biblically functioning males will continue to fade from view and therefore from influence on church and family.”4
One thing that stands out is Stuart’s pastoral heart. He peppers the book with his personal experiences in dealing with troubled churches and their leaders. While I’m always weary of buying into self-proclaimed “experts” who offer empty solutions to church problems, I never once had those concerns while reading Church Revitalization. Every bold assertion is tested against Scripture, and every prescription is born out of a heart that obviously cares deeply for the Body of Christ.
In the end, I cannot help but agree with Pastor Stuart in his assessment. The church needs godly leaders who meet biblical qualifications; otherwise, our lamp stand is destined to be removed. May God raise up faithful shepherds who can lead the way toward revitalization.
Title: Church Revitalization from the Inside Out
Author: R.D. Stuart
Publisher: P&R Publishing (February 29, 2016).
NOTE: A review copy was provided by P&R Publishing.