The Coming Wave of Church Revitalization
Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Yes, I tend to be an optimist.

I am not, however, that type of optimist who refuses to face reality. If you have been a reader of my blog or listener to my podcasts, you know I am not hesitant to face harsh realities head on.

So, when I say a revitalization wave is about to come to our churches, I am serious about it. Indeed, I am obnoxiously optimistic about the future of congregations. In this post, I will address how churches will be impacted from a high-level perspective. In my post on Wednesday, I will share why I see this major trend on the horizon.

First, let’s agree there are 350,000 churches in North America. You can quibble with our estimates. Some say less; some say more. The exact number is not that important.

Second, let’s also agree there are 300,000, or 85%, of all churches needing some level of revitalization, from modest to radical revitalization. Bear with me until my Wednesday post where I make my case for these numbers.

So, how will these 300,000 churches in need of revitalization be impacted by the wave that is coming? Let’s look at three major categories.

1. About one-third of these churches will revitalize organically. I wish you could see what I am seeing. Never in my life or ministry have I seen church leaders seeking a path of revitalization for their churches as much as I am now. I wish you could see on a smaller scale how many of these churches are using the Church Health Report™ for their congregations. I wish you could see the hunger, the desire, and the willingness to pay the price to revitalize. About 100,000 congregations will likely revitalize organically. In other words, their revitalization will take place from within, rather than from a merger or being acquired.

2. About one-third of these churches will revitalize through replanting and/or being acquired. Another 100,000 churches will not be able to revitalize organically, but they will have the faith and sacrificial attitude to give their facilities and other assets to another church for a church replant or acquisition or both. Frankly, this new attitude and willingness was largely unheard of just a few years ago.

3. About one-third of these churches will decline and die. Unfortunately, 100,000 of the churches will not revitalize organically, nor will they be willing to give away their assets to another church. Some of these church leaders and members are in denial. Others have just given up. They give new meaning to the hymn, “I Surrender All.”

I get it. The near-term closure of 100,000 churches is not good news. But look at the other side. Two of three churches, around 200,000, will revitalize organically or through replanting. That’s incredible news!

If you want to see what many churches are using as first-step tools for revitalization, see the Church Health Report™ or join us at Church Answers™ where we are growing healthy churches together.

It’s an exciting time. It’s a hopeful time. It is my prayer God will use many of us as His instruments for a mighty wave of revival and revitalization in our churches.


This article was originally published at on July 9. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at

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