I received a copy of Revitalize by Andrew M. Davis. I was looking forward to reading this book as I’m very interested in revitalization. I pastor an established church that is just celebrating our 184th anniversary. I long to see new life breathed into our church.
While there are some very good principles in this book, overall I was disappointed. I need to be fair that Davis and I are coming from very different places theologically (even though we are both Baptists).
I had a hard time getting over one of the first stories that he shares in the book. Early in his career at his current church, the congregation voted for a woman to be on the deacons’ board. Davis strongly disagreed with this and not only did he oppose it, he called his church to repent of the sin of allowing a woman in that type of authoritative leadership.
I have no problem with women in leadership or ministry. I have served on staff with women pastors and the deacons’ board at my current church is half female. I encourage women (and men) to act in the gifts that God has given them. So with his stand against women in ministry being an ongoing theme in the book, I had a hard time.
But it was not just a disagreement about women in ministry that turned me off. In one chapter, he is quite critical of using leadership principles from the business world. Then in the next chapter he positively uses an example from ancient history to illustrate a leadership principle. While I agree that all church leadership should be consistent with biblical values, there is much overlap not just with military leadership (he uses an example from Alexander the Great) but with business leadership as well. Jesus often used principles from the non-religious world to illustrate the way the kingdom of God worked.
I had one last problem with this book. He has a chapter called “Wage War Against Discouragement.” There is plenty of good things in the chapter but I did have a concern. It looks like he is teaching that a leader can overcome depression just by preaching scripture to themselves. While I find the Bible very encouraging and I agree that biblical truth can realign our perspective, there is more to depression. There are many leaders who have clinical depression and they need more than just a study of the Psalms. I suspect that Davis is responding to just the depression that arises from discouragement in ministry but I would have preferred that he acknowledge that there is more to depression than that.
Is Revitalize worth reading? I suspect that pastors who are more conservative than I am will get more out of it. Even with my own disagreements, I did get reminded of some very helpful principles of pastoral leadership. It is not the best book on church leadership I have read but it is not the worst either.