In Genesis 3 (NASB), God calls to Adam, after he and Eve had eaten of the forbidden tree’s fruit. We pick up the story in verse 9: “Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”
This is a question that should be posed to every pastor, and it is painfully apparent that the same question should be directed at the church today. We seem to be focused mostly on where we want to end up. But, you and I know that we can never get where we intend to go unless we first know where we are – where to start!
It is interesting that in the secular world we find the same understanding of this foundational concern. When I go into the mall, there is a directory that maps out the entire mall layout, but it has a star or some other designator to show me where I am. It usually states, “You are Here!” During a college orientation, the student often receives a map of the campus. It shows the new student where everything is located and it has that little designator on the map that says, “You are here!” The university orientation venue is the starting point for the new student to begin their tour of the campus. Even in a retail store, there are aisles with four to five labels disclosing the contents of the aisle and a number designating the aisle. If you are looking for something on aisle 20, you need to know which way to go from your present location. If you are on aisle 2 and you encounter aisle 3 then you are headed the right direction to your destination.
So how can we determine where a church is before we dive headlong into a revitalization process? How can we get headed in the right direction? Let me suggest four exposing tools to help determine where the church is stuck.
First, a pastoral readiness assessment is key to starting the process. It is imperative that the leader struggle with the hard question, “Are you the one who can lead this church into revitalization, renewal and revival?” If that is not clear, then the process is at a standstill. I recently talked with a pastor who said, “I’ve had twenty years of effective ministry, of course I can do this!” But as we analyzed his twenty years of ministry, he realized all he had was four years of good ministry repeated five times. After producing well for four years, he would run out of passion and energy and would move on to a new setting. Or a second pastor who could not answer the previous question. In two subsequent conversations there was still no commitment, but on the third contact, he told me there was no use in pursuing the process with his church. When I probed why, he said he had been terminated. They saw through his lack of leadership and decided for him!
Second, what are the past and present trends of the congregation? Statistics and data from past records and annual church profiles offer a decent look into historical and present trends. Also, there are congregational analyses that offer information by way of the Church Health Survey, staff and personal interviews, demographics, worship service observations, facilities and parking observations, “secret shopper” evaluations, social media assessments, church document reviews and community interviews. These may provide a clearer picture into present trends and the congregation’s reputation in the community.
Third. A weekend congregational workshop encourages members to remember the probable factors that ushered the church into this crisis. They unpack the history of their world, their community and their church. They get to realistically discuss the influencers that have forced both positive and negative impacts on their church. It sheds light on the factors that influenced church strengths and expose areas requiring adjustments and reinforcement, plus they are required to compile possible solutions and suggest concerns that might block the future effectiveness of the renewal process.
Fourth, is inventing the battering rams that can be utilized to knock down the hindrances, barriers and blockades to future success. The Holy Spirit is the greatest revealer and the most powerful bulldozer ever! He must be our source and He must have control over all we think and do and say!
Here are five probing questions and thoughts that can help determine where you are, even as you are reading this article:
1) Ask yourself the hard questions. Are you the one to lead this venture or should you step down and hand it over to more eager and capable hands? Is this the right time? Are these people willing to be moved?
2) Clean up yourself. If you are not confessed up and intentionally seeking the power and presence of the Lord, then maybe no one should be following you at this moment!
3) Run the direction God is going. Make certain you are not demanding the congregation to follow you, if your path does not mirror His. God’s direction is true; it lasts forever and leads to life everlasting.
4) Don’t worry if your friends make fun of you. You may be growing a church that is uncomfortable for them, but if it is sealed with the Father’s approval, who cares what they think! Stand strong, stand up, stand out and live boldly for His glory.
5) Listen to the voice of God first and then go His way! Don’t be a Jonah. Are you looking for Tarshish? Is there a great fish awaiting your disobedient carcass? It has been said of old, “There are few atheists in foxholes,” but for the Christian it is more apropos to say, “There are few happy campers or satisfied inhabitants in a great fish’s belly!” Run with God and you’ll always be running right! Our process is not perfect, but our God is!
Finally, let me warn you about the attacks of the enemy. Nehemiah had the threats of Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem to deal with while trying to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem, and the devil will do his best to throw threats and discouragement your way as well. He will mess with mind by saying you are done, washed up, burned out and finished. But the Lord says we are overcomers and victors. I read the back of the Book and WE WIN! Christ has already won the battle, so follow Him.
Where do we start? RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE! RIGHT NOW! If you know where you are and where He is leading you, then you don’t need a GPS or a map. Don’t go it alone. Get help and follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership. Don’t procrastinate, hesitate or make excuses. All you need to succeed is IN Christ! So I’ll ask once more – Where are you?