As I was writing this article, I was warned about using the word – CHANGE! It was originally titled, “Advancement Requires Adjustment.” I received suggestions such as adjustments, alterations, and modifications, but I have come to grips with the truth that unless we accept the horrible consequences of doing nothing, we will die and so will the church we serve! The soldier who is afraid of the prospects of dying will never storm the enemy’s line of defense. We must trust unwaveringly in our God Who is invincible and eternal!
I hear the voices of numerous pastors I have known and to whom I have worked alongside. The questions that grip us over and over are – “Am I the one who is hindering our church’s growth,” or “Do I really want to go through the valley for a change that is not guaranteed?”
Do we really want life-altering change? Of course! Do we expect God to do something amazing if we relinquish our will to His?” Sure! BUT, do we trust ourselves? Do we believe we have the tools, the skills, the stamina to go through what is necessary for change to become a welcome reality in our ministry setting? Rarely! Our own weaknesses knock us down and our lack of strength often pins us to the mat for the “ten count.” So, what can we do to keep our head in the game and our heart in the ministry?
In Paul Nixon’s book, I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church, he gives some great ideas for helping leaders join with their people in becoming a growing, thriving church, but the reality is – Every pastor is leading a dying church! You may say, “Wow, how cynical can you be,” but let’s face it, all our churches are in a world setting our world is passing away. Even Nehemiah’s great rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem only lasted a few decades. After Nehemiah’s great victory, the walls of Jerusalem were almost completely destroyed in 70 A.D. during the Roman siege (First Jewish-Roman War). Once again, they remained in ruins for decades. The walls we see today were rebuilt during the Ottoman Empire (1535-1538). Revitalization or rebuilding can have limitations and restrictions. That is why revitalization is a process, not a program! It is a consistent conduct of living, not a mountain top experience to be attained and forgotten.
What I have experienced is church leaders (I’m not pointing a finger at pastors alone) are excited about the prospects of their church regaining vigor and productivity, but they draw back when the process is presented and they view the lengthy labor of that process. As has been seen for about 3+ decades, we welcome the fast-food version of living, but we steer away from slow, laborious technologies and methodologies.
I think we ought to learn a great phrase by which to serve the Lord, as presented in Star Trek – LET US BOLDLY GO WHERE NO ONE HAS GONE BEFORE! Here are the major points:
1) Let us give our best and die to self, even if no one will go with us.
2) Let us be unstoppable in our quest for finding the new life and helping those who crave a new civilization.
3) Let us remain undeterred in the face of opposition or threat.
4) Let us remember, there is a real hell and real people are going there.
5) Let us focus on the fun of the finish line and not the woes of the journey.
6) Let us be diligent and selfless, not mediocre and lazy in reaching those who are yet to believe.
7) Let us stay true to the Owner’s manual – Man does not live by bread alone!
We cannot help but walk amid the constant degradation of the world around us, but we must not allow the spiritual demise of our planet to overcome the task we have be called to – preparing the Bride for the Bridegroom’s coming. We are to be ever expanding the Kingdom on earth, and we are to be steadfast in our holy trek at the same moment.
True revitalization is indisputably and unequivocally linked to a spiritual catharsis in each of us. Rebuilding walls destroyed by the enemy is a great thing, but the victory of Nehemiah’s time was his people experienced a season of repentance and revival and they were blessed with peace.
So, how can we obtain “the tools and the energy” needed to invite the Spirit of God to bring revitalization? How can we remain steadfast in the work before us while being torn between work, church and family? Would we be willing to labor for 52 days to see our homes and families safe and secure again? We often shy away from any project, meeting or training that takes “too long.”
Here are some thought-tools for your toolbox:
1) There will be resistance. Whether due to fear or loss of status or stability, change can be uncomfortable and unwanted.
2) Change may mean death to something or someone. “A grain of wheat cannot bear much fruit unless it first dies” (John 12:24).
3) Revitalization without spirit-empowered revival is merely a band-aid.
4) Those who appear to be “resistors” may just be wrestling with the change that we have already embraced. Give the congregation time to hear AND receive from the Lord.
5) Help the church to see that the change will help them be successful in meeting their needs and accomplishing their values with less negative impact and with God’s favor.
Are we daily, dying to self so our Lord can use us to bear much fruit? Or, are we striving in our own flesh to produce fruit, only to find we are producing the bitter fruit of this world’s system?
Some pastors, who have requested the revitalization process, quickly change their tune when we unpack the commitment required. I close with some of Paul Nixon’s ideas/tools as well as a few of my own:
1) Keep the Biblical Rationale/Foundation for revitalization always before your people. Help them to be unified (in one accord) and to find joy in regular fellowship and camaraderie.
2) Remind them to always choose what brings life and vitality, not stability and survival. We were called to thrive, not survive. We are to bear much fruit, not protect the fruit basket.
3) Choose to be focused on the yet-to-believe, not on the ninety-nine already in the corral. We spend so much time, money and effort on the structure, rather than on the mission (Acts 1:8).
4) Equip the congregation to be bold witnesses, not fearful followers (Phil. 1:19-21; Prov. 28:1). Consider “How Can I Share My Faith Without an Argument?” by William Fay (https://discoveryseries.org/discovery-series/how-can-i-share-my-faith-without-an-argument/)
5) Intentionally and regularly get the congregation out into the community. Your community needs to see the body serving, once a quarter or even monthly. How will they know you care if you hide inside the walls of the sanctuary?
6) Do what you value! Purpose-driven church has a biblical base, but values-driven churches are usually more passionate and aggressive. When we value something, we tell people about it. We have no qualms promoting what we value to the rest of the world. Ever seen or heard the claims of, “You can make thousands of dollars per week from your own home!” Ever buy a new car and not tell someone about it? I verify my point!
7) Choose your new frontier. Google “revitalization” often and read all you can on the subject. Glean what is helpful for you and your church and discard the rest.
8) Last, but of greatest importance, PRAY! Seek first His plan! Then, ask the Lord to guide your steps and empower your efforts. If we abide in Him and He abides in us, we will ask what we desire (which is also His desire) and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).
So, I ask one last time – Are you the one to advance your church by making adjustments, both easy and hard? Ask Jesus and then decide!