Six Attitudinal Adjustments Scrappy Church Leaders Made


God’s not done yet.

That is the subtitle and theme of my new book, Scrappy Church.

It’s a book about real churches that had real turnarounds when most people said it was impossible. Most had given up. Many were ready to shut the doors.

But when we interviewed the leaders of these scrappy churches, we noticed a pattern. These leaders at one time had been discouraged and despondent. Many were ready to leave the church. Some were ready to leave vocational ministry altogether.

Then God grabbed them powerfully and persuasively. In a myriad of different ways, He told them He wasn’t done with their churches yet. They began to believe Him. They began to have hope. And they began to have major attitude adjustments.

Here are the six major adjustments they made. They were all profound and life changing,

  1. From excuses to ownership. The neighborhood is changing. The bigger churches are taking all of our members. The denomination is not helping us. Those are some of the excuses these leaders had. Then God gave them a new perspective, one of hope. He had called them to the church for a reason, and the reason was certainly not to make a litany of excuses. They took ownership of the call God had given them. Indeed, by taking ownership, they made a statement that they believed God was not done with them or their churches.
  2. From obstacles to allies. You’ve heard the well-worn joke. Leading a church would be fun if it wasn’t for the members. The reality is we’ve all had those thoughts. Scrappy church leaders, though, saw the critical and difficult members as allies instead of obstacles. God brought them to the church for a reason. They became determined to help the members find those reasons.
  3. From limitations to abundance. Scrappy church leaders got it. Their churches have enough money. Enough people. Adequate facilities. Enough people to reach. The right aged people in the church right now. They no longer complained about scarcity and limitations. They saw they were serving the God of abundance, the God who supplies all their needs according to the His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (see Philippians 4:19).
  4. From despair to joy. Marcus served a dying church. He lost his joy. Then, in a study of Philippians, familiar words hit him with fresh conviction: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). He made a major attitude shift. He stopped focusing on the negatives. He made a commitment of joy and the church followed.
  5. From fear to courage. Roger’s wife, Peg, was God’s instrument in his adjustment. “She told me I was living in fear,” he said. “I was disobeying God because I was not trusting in Him. I was more concerned about my paycheck than obedience. My security was my job, but not my God.” That was Roger’s paradigmatic moment. That began his attitudinal adjustment.
  6. From impossible to possible. “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). All things. Impossible things. Dying churches. Difficult church members. Every. Single. Thing. How did these scrappy church leaders do it? It began with six major attitudinal adjustments. They truly believed God is the God of all possibilities.

God’s not done yet.

That’s the story of Scrappy Church.

And I am convinced it is the story of tens of thousands of churches yet to be told.

The church revitalization revolution has begun.

The scrappy church revolution has begun.

To be continued . . .

Scrappy Church will be available exclusively in LifeWay Stores starting October 2. However, you can order your copy today at

Posted on September 26, 2018

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • This is another great post. I’m looking forward to reading Scrappy Church. I was greatly inspired by Autopsy of a Deceased Church and have read many other books on the subject including Comeback Churches by Ed Setzer and Reclaiming Glory by Mark Clifton. Other than you, I’m not finding a lot of people writing about the subject. Could you suggest any resources with up to date statistics and stories regarding struggling churches.

  • Kathleen Corey-Pittman says on

    The churches I work at (as an administrative assistant) and the church I go to, they are dying or potentially dying churches, they all need to be scrappy and sometimes I feel like I am being the scrappy one for the churches I work for and still feeling my way in the church I go to. (All are UMC which has its own problems right now). This sounds like another interesting book, loved your “Autopsy of a Dead Church” and I hope I can motivate the pastor at the church I go to to look at it. Thanks for writing about this.

  • Bennett Smith says on

    Boom!! Lived this. Love it.

  • Brad Childres says on

    I love the term “scrappy church.” I was a Deputy Sheriff prior to being called in the ministry as a pastor. The concept of never giving in and fighting to live was something that was ingrained into my mind. The church that I pastor is in the midst of a revitalization and I love that the people refuse to let the church for. I am working on my D.Min thesis on defining revitalization and found your site to be a great resource. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • As always, great insights. I’m looking forward to hearing more on #2.

  • Zeth Smith says on

    I’ve got a question to ask you and I’m a young minister. I’ve only been at my church serving as pastor for abou 18 months and we are starting to revitalize the church. My church is very traditional (so much so that we still do discipleship training on Sunday night before evening service). The people are “good” people and we are doing you “Becoming a Welcoming Church” right now in one of our D.T. Classes. I have a leadership problem on my hands though and need some help. We had a woman who was the leader of our praise songs and the choir director but never lead the congregation in the hymn we sing because she also plays the organ. She has been here for a long time (because she informed me of this when I first came). The problem is she now is only here half the time on Sunday morning and when she is here she still expects to lead the opening praise song and dictate some things even though she’s only here half the time because the other two Sundays is when her husband isn’t working so they are at the lake and every one knows this. I know you know this is a big problem but my only fear is the drama that she will cause when I confront her which I’ve been praying about for months brocade this has been going on for about 6 months now. I guess I’m asking for advice on how to approach her. Thanks

  • Hi Thom
    I’ve found your podcast and books on Revitalisation incredibly helpful, I think they are a big part of why we are still in our current church. Our church which we’ve been working at revitalising for almost 6 years sounds very much like a Scrappy Church. I’m in Australia – just wondering how I can get my hands on Scrappy Church if its only available through Lifeway.