One of my greatest desires in ministry is to be a leader with the passion and guts of Nehemiah. He prayed, cared, strategized and led the people of Jerusalem in such effectiveness and productivity that they rebuilt the wall, rehung the gates and reinvigorated the downtrodden inhabitants of the city, AND they completed the entire renovation in only 52 days! In most churches today, during that same timeframe, the project would still be in committee, debating what building materials would be most conducive and arguing who would be the chairperson for the project.
We need Nehemiah-type leaders for revitalization. I’m sure there may be someone who has all the leadership attributes of a Nehemiah, but even having a few would give one a leg-up over most of us!
That being the foundation for the rest of this article, there has been a consistent weakness in EVERY church I have engaged with the revitalization process. Without fail, the two glaring weaknesses have been in the areas of discipleship and evangelism. Jesus’ two parting commands to his followers were “Go, disciple and baptize” – Matthew 28:18-20 and “be faithful witnesses, even unto death” – Acts 1:8. We must be students leading others to Christ and discipling them to become passionate gospel sharers, but this appears to be our greatest weakness.
Yes, we must reach out to our communities. Yes, we must intimately relate to our Lord in spiritual worship. Yes, we must impact our world in missional fervor. Yes, we must spend quality time with our Father, listening and speaking, but we should not be guilty of ignoring His final words to us before bodily leaving planet earth.
So, how can we know if revitalization is being successful? I believe there will be some very defined markers if we are leading congregations to be strong followers of our Savior’s great commission and great commands, immediately and unswervingly. I am also absolutely convinced it takes a strong leader and godly example to help the body of Christ live out our Lord’s commands in this post-Christian world. So here are three markers:
1. Leading others to repent – Acts 20:20,21 “I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes. I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the requirement of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
2. Passing on the faith to others – Discipling faithful learners to pass it on as well – 2 Timothy 2:2 “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”
3. Being a Persistent Witness – Prov. 11:30 – “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” If we are wise and faithful followers, our easiest message is to blabber incessantly about our love for the One Who gave His all for us!
A wet baptistry, worn prayer altars and weekly praise testimonies of new converts and transformed lives are signs of successful renewal, personal revival and corporate revitalization.
So what tools can a leader offer that will position the church body to be poised for a successful revitalization process?
1. Teach them to share their testimony in 90 seconds or less – naturally and confidently!
2. Preach on the reality of hell and grieve with them over the thought of friends, family, neighbors or co-workers ending up in that horrific place.
3. Train them to boldly and lovingly share their faith and the love of Christ with those they engage in their community.
4. Equip them to be faithful stewards, willingly giving quality time to teach new believers what God has instilled in them.
We have forgotten the basics. We need to return to the blocking and tackling of the Christian life. We spend way too much time and energy on events and programs. Yes, they are necessary, and can be a bridge to lost people being willing to listen to the gospel message, but we wear out the body of Christ with a myriad of good things while often running past the best things. These next few paragraphs may make you angry, but I pray you will hear the heart with which I present them.
In our generation, the Sunday morning worship service has become the defining event of Christianity. Yes, we should go to church because Jesus did, and He is our example – Luke 4:16 “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was (emphasis mine), He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” I’m concerned that what happens in most churches on any given Sunday across America has become a liturgical ritual and routine. The worship hour has become our religious idol.
The book of Acts unpacks the lifestyles of a follower of Christ over ten times, yet it never once describes a worship service. If we were composing a book about the twenty-first century church, we would likely spend 90% of the pages describing the Sunday morning services and church events, rather than the life-changing power of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church was designed to be God’s people joyfully displaying the journey to transformation He performed in us!
As a leader of the family of God, how do we change our church’s present mindset to impact the future?
• Encourage your people to choose the center seat in the service and leave the end seats for guests. An initial comfort in the worship venue is vital!
• Present the gospel in the common language of the people. Don’t be vulgar, just be relevant and understandable. Avoid seminary terminology and scholarly phrases. Remember, there are young ears in many worship centers who need to hear and understand.
• Teach your congregation that ministry is the result of proper equipping and spiritual maturity.
• Offer regular opportunities for mission action within your service area. Your community needs your service; that is why He placed you where you are! Don’t take a trip across the country or on the other side of the planet just to entice your people to do what they should be doing at home.
• Live out a lifestyle of constant and consistent mission activity. Avoid missions being a vacation to a place you like to visit or have never been!
• Equip the people to give quality time to digging spiritual wells instead of repainting marred walls. He church is about transformation, not reparation. We are to mentor and coach new believers how to live productively for the Kingdom of God. It is for spiritual oneness that we were reborn.
• Lead with the banner that declares, “Every Member is a Minister.” We are the team, the pastor is the coach, and Jesus is the Owner Who bought us with His blood. We are to run His plays and make touchdowns for Him!
• Develop patterns, not programs. Believers reproducing themselves in new converts, to be examples of the Christ-life.
• EXPECT the laborers to go into the fields that are white unto harvest. If a member does not want to labor, recommend they find a place where they can be satisfied watching people be forever separated from Jesus Christ. The church is not the place to recline! We are saints, not sloths.
• Do something new and outlandish for the glory of God! Jesus was a trendsetter, not a pew sitter.
• Our calling has eternal significance. It is a matter of life and death for eternity. Revitalizing leaders must be concerned with scriptural obedience, rather than social solace or religious rewards.
It is high-time for the church to be the church once again! March, Army of God. Head for the frontlines! That is where we will find our Commander.