What is church revitalization? The Forbes would say it's about remembering the original vision of the church and helping restore that. "Somewhere along the line, they’ve lost their way, their passion, their direction. They’ve lost their purpose," Graham said. So Graham and Melinda seek to provide solid biblical teaching and use that foundation to help them remember their purpose of discipling and edifying believers for the glory of God. Sometimes it's focusing on loving God and your neighbor since often when congregations get small, people fight. But Graham is quick to point out there are no perfect formulas for church revitalization, but one of his goals is to try to attract young families. "Messy" church is one of the ways the Forbes do that. It's a time for local parents and their children to hear a lesson, sing, eat, and of course make messy crafts. They want to reach out to families with young children as a source of growth. Another outreach of Cradley Baptist Church in Birmingham, England, is the celebration of Guy Fawkes night. This is the celebration of the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, and commemorated every November in the United Kingdom.Graham said they usually have around 300 hundred people that come for the fireworks and bonfire as pictured above.The church also gives them a time to talk and eat during this celebration. They send them home with a copy of the New Testament, a Christian book, tracts and candy. Music during a service at Cradley. Melinda plays the piano for the church.
The Forbes have been doing church revitalization since 2000, and Cradley is their third church. They started out in Paisley, Scotland and stayed there until 2008. Then they helped with a church plant in Beauly, Scotland, from 2009-2011. And since 2011 they've been in Birmingham. Melinda said they were ready to move on from their church, but things changed in 2020 with Covid. They wait until a church seems stable and has leadership that can take over. But the pandemic left everyone feeling unstable and things are still very slow to fully open up in the U.K. Their church can meet but is still supposed to be socially distanced and the congregation isn't supposed to sing.
The Forbes said church revitalization is like many other church-related endeavors that begin with seeking and developing personal relationships with people in their community. Melinda works part time at a doctor's office. That's where she gets to know people and can tell them about their church. "British people are no different than anywhere else in the world. It’s a cultural difference, but the longer you're here, the easier it is for you," Melinda said. The Forbes were also able to make friendships through their daughter's local school.
Graham said he's met a lot of people who know something about the gospel from Billy Graham campaigns of the past. He and Melinda both said it’s more of a slow and gradual church attendance and discipleship. Then even after becoming a believer, congregants might still wait a little longer to get baptized as it seems like another level of commitment they want to think through. Cradley Baptist Church also hosts an Easter lunch. Graham said it can be another outreach tool. He said he's always considering ways for both members and other local people to come to church. Whether it's Guy Fawkes night or messy church, these are some of the many ways God has enabled the Forbes to build up their church.