Ten Reasons I Am Optimistic about Churches in 2019

Despite the tough reality many congregations face today, I remain an obnoxious optimist as we move into 2019. Just yesterday, I received an email about a church that I thought was headed for closure. Through a series of God-blessed events, the church has turned the corner and will remain a presence in the community.

That one anecdote has been a common theme for so many congregations: there is hope. God is not done with us yet. And here are ten reasons why:

  1. More church leaders are admitting their churches are struggling. On the surface, this reason seems more like a reason for pessimism. I don’t see it that way. You can’t begin to get healthy until you admit you are not healthy. It is a vital first step.
  2. Churches are increasingly connecting with their communities. They are breaking out of their holy huddles and becoming a witness and a positive presence in the neighborhoods and towns where God has placed them.
  3. There is significant evidence of greater Great Commission obedience. We recently conducted a survey of 1,700 church leaders. The number one area where they are seeking to improve is evangelism and outward focus.
  4. Toxic church behavior is less tolerated. Many churches struggle because issues such as bullying and toxic leadership are swept under the rug. Just yesterday I spoke with a pastor who was celebrating the reality that we talk about these issues openly and frankly.
  5. Church revitalization has become a major movement. This one reason excites me beyond measure. Such is the reason I created the non-profit organization, Revitalize Network. I wanted a place where we could connect and help one another.
  6. More young pastors feel called to lead a church revitalization. Related to the revitalization movement is the incredible number of young leaders who are and will be leading churches toward revitalization. I can’t wait to see what God will do!
  7. More church leaders are seeking coaching and consultations. I love the humility and vulnerability I am seeing with these leaders. They are seeking God’s wisdom, and they are calling on others to help their churches move forward. I know. We at Church Answers are receiving more requests for coaching and consultation than at any point in my ministry.
  8. Churches are working together toward fulfilling the Great Commission. There are so many areas where we can work together even if we come from different denominations or non-denominational churches. For three decades many of our churches and church leaders have criticized and fought each other. More than ever today, we realize we are on the same team.
  9. Church planting and church revitalization are not perceived to be either/or. We need both. We must have both. They are each critically important. I love the dual emphasis that is taking place.
  10. The multi-site and multi-venue movement is entering an era of growth and maturity. Because of this movement, existing congregations are finding new opportunities for Great Commission growth. Because of this movement, fewer churches will close their doors.

These are exciting days to be a church leader and church member. While we don’t deny the reality of struggling churches, we embrace the excitement about God’s work in so many congregations.

I really believe it: 2019 will be an incredible year for thousands of churches.

I can’t wait to see what God will do.

Posted on December 17, 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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  • I am part of a new Evangelical Anglican Church plant in Germantown, PA. We are white in a mostly black neighborhood and we are reaching out with a literacy program for children and young people. We are small (about 25) and hope to grow. We are a member of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) a breakaway from The Episcopal Church. Full disclosure, I am an Anglican journalist with the largest Anglican online news service in the Anglican Communion. We expect this to be tough work, made tougher by the fact that evangelicals in the US have aligned themselves with Donald Trump which may have set back gospel proclamation for two generations. We shall see.

  • I’m noticing these same things. Now is a very encouraging time for churches and leaders.

  • I must admit I’m fairly new to the SBC (3 years.) I have been in the ministry 28+ years but as an Independent Baptist. I have started one Church on the Mission Field, pastored one, and reopened a closed one before my present ministry. As you see my experiences are varied yet I had many multiple and varied struggles. The Church I started on the Mission Field was an uphill struggle the all the way. Unrealistic expectations on the part on my stateside supporters, internals conflicts, and the advice I received as a neophyte Pastor “lead, Brother, lead.” The other two churches I pastored, the membership of the one wanted “status quo” and nothing more which led to my resignation or being fired. The one I reopened God blessed and we grew then sin entered into the picture in the congregation and when I tried to address the issue my efforts were totally rebuffed and the Church started slowly withering down again. I was then written off by former friends as a failure. The one thing I have came to appreciate about being Southern Baptist are the friendships I have established as well as the support systems and resources that I never had when I was in my previous 3 churches. I especially appreciate the Church Revitalization ministry here and the helps (and encouragements it provides.) Please pray for me and our other members of leadership as we are continuing to lead our Church towards effective ministry. Thank you again for all you do!!!!!

  • George Adrian says on

    Churches need to realize that they are not a business and should not be run as such. For the church of today to move ahead and grow, they must get back to the roots- faith. They need to depend on God for growth and not man. No budgets just people steeping out in faith believing that whatever God has put on their hearts, like ending homelessness, will happen. Then take the actions to make it happen. Money and resources will take care of themselves. It is only when people (churches) step out in faith that we will see unstoppable growth.

  • A church is made up of a congregation (congregation meaning: a group of people who have come together in a religious building for worship and prayer). THE Church (capital “C”) is the body of Christ & includes the church (small “c”) but importantly the non-religious believers out in the marketplace. The American church is paying the price for rejecting much of the leadership-by-example of the New Testament Church. Cessationism, stiff-necked rejection of the presence and move of the Holy Spirit. The “we don’t do that here” rote tradition. Sad for me.

    • Minister of Worship says on

      Peter, quit putting yourself outside the box, Until people learn to join in Gods work to use them, they are staying outside the work of the Lord. It’s the Lord that builds the church that uses people who want to follow what God is doing not what they want to do. The body of Christ (Churches),need people who are willing to yeild theirself, surrender to humbleness in trusting God will to use them for his purpose not theirs! The church ( Body of Christ is hurting for people God wants to use. I’m so tired of seeing so many young and old coming into the building Looking for want they want, or can do not willing to let God use them to bless the work of God. That’s one of the major reasons churches are dying, people looking for what they want, Not surrender their own will to what God wants with them

  • Dear Dr Thom Rainer,
    I live in South Africa and have been listening to your podcasts on Revitalise and Replant. You are truly an ambassador for church growth and your resources greatly inspire and bring encouragement to Pastors.
    Thank you for having a heart for leaders and Kingdom ministry. Stay Blessed.
    Brian Gopaul
    Encouragers For Christ.

  • Dear Thom , your regular output of encouraging emails has been and are a great source of help and motivation for me. I am 83, been retired for 20 years here in New Zealand after a great career in many levels of education and church ministry and leadership. Currently, since 2000 I have been New Zealand Director of Omega Discipleship Ministries, See website below. Referring to your point 3 re ‘greater Great Commission obedience’ I would like share how the thrust of evangelism should be a bi-product of ongoing intentional discipleship training and equipping, which was Jesus’ model of preparing his disciples for world Kingdom impact.Establishing discipleship and evangelism in a continuous cyclical process in every local church creates the growth dynamic we all desire to witness, especially in these days of growing secularism and disintegrating Biblical teaching about what it means to ‘Come follow Me’- Jesus’ invitation to all those who chose to believe in as their personal Savior and Lord.

  • I just came out of a really tough situation in another Church. I Wasn’t sure if I or my family was ready to get back on the “ministry horse” so to speak but, in very real and obvious ways the Lord led us to small Church with a big vision that was ready for leadership. In the short time we have been here God is blessing the work, healing our hurts and showing us that even in our hurting God is in control and teaching us valuable lessons. I am thankful for God’s providence, timing and leadership. God sure is good!!!

  • I became pastor of a 170 year old church in central Alabama 6 years ago. Great church and great spirit, but God changed us in significant ways and used revitalization and Disciple-Making to show us the need to address the things in your article. Today, after a name change and clear missional directives, The Lord is leading a resurgence in our church, community, and state. It is fun to be a part of The Lord’s work. It takes hard work, determination, and a steadfast spirit to stay and see things through. I am blessed beyond measure because of the great things The Lord is doing in His church! Amen and Amen! Thanks for this article.

  • David A Booth says on

    As a pastor, I’m excited about the Church in 2019 for the same reasons I was excited about the Church in 2018:

    (1) Christ is building His Church;

    (2) The Holy Spirit indwells the Church; and

    (3) The Church is God’s plan A for discipling the nations and the LORD doesn’t have a plan B.

    I hope that some of the things on your list are true too!

  • My favorite points are 1 and 7. As a counselor, admission of need is one of the first goals in my practice. As an advocate for mentorship, I testify that my growth as a minister is a direct result of the influence of godly men and women who have invested in me.

    Ministers who see their need for healing and growth would benefit from the perspective and experience of others who have gone before. Look for someone who is honest about their successes and failures.