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Revitalizing Anglican Churches

Over the past nearly two years, a group of Anglican clergy across seven different time zones in five different nations have met together via a bi-monthly Zoom call for mutual encouragement, the sharing of best practices, fellowship and prayer. The common thread linking each of the clergymen is their leadership in a parish church committed to revitalization or, in several cases, the re-planting of a local congregation.

So, what is parish revitalization and why is it so difficult? To "revitalize" a parish church is to work with God's Holy Spirit to breathe new life into a congregation after a period of stagnation or a season of significant decline. A couple of our brothers lead congregations with only a handful of parishioners. One beautiful historic church in The Free Church of England currently has precisely zero members. To revitalize or re=plant a congregation takes a unique skill and gift set as leaders are required to both exhibit great patience and display an energetic entrepreneurial spirit, two traits infrequently found in one individual.

Over time our group adopted a phrase made famous by an American college football coach as he turned around, or revitalized, an ailing NCAA Division I football program. Over the course of five years, Coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers University encouraged his players to "keep chopping wood" in every aspect of their lives by showing resilience and a never-give-up attitude as their program slowly, yet systematically transitioned from one with a defeatist attitude to a program with a once again winning disposition.

For those of us engaged in the difficult work of revitalizing or re-planting Anglican parish churches around the world, the mutual encouragement to "keep chopping wood" has been a welcome and powerful mantra. Unlike larger congregations with hundreds of parishioners, multi-clergy staff and ample financial resources, the parish revitalizer typically serves as a "one man show" for the first five years or so of the revitalization project, often times experiencing the dangerous combination of exhaustion and discouragement as seasons of ministry ebb and flow.

So, we constantly remind each other to "keep chopping wood" as we lean on the promises of God to give growth to His Church (1 Corinthians 3:6) as we labor on His behalf. As our patron Saint, our group adopted Saint Boniface (675 - 754 AD), the English church reformer, planter and organizer who served powerfully as a missionary to modern day Germany and the Netherlands, and eventually became Archbishop of Mainz.

According to legend, St. Boniface once came across a group of pagans worshipping an oak tree sacred to the pagan god Thor. Seeing the pagan worship as an affront to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, St. Boniface took an axe to the root of the tree and kept chopping until the mighty oak fell, revealing nothing but a sapling inside. Witnessing the persistence, faith and passion of St. Boniface, a number of people to converted from paganism to Christianity on the spot.

To this day. St. Boniface serves as a wonderful example of the influence one man full of passion and God's Spirit can have in a world desperately in need of the hope of the Kingdom of God. Pray for your priest(s) in their work for the gospel, work along side them and encourage them regularly to "keep chopping wood." They'll be thankful for your support and encouragement.


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