How does a church die? By doing nothing. If a church is not willing to change, it will evitably grow inward and old. We get stuck doing what we’ve always done and thinking if we just try harder, things will turn around. It doesn’t.
Here is a diagram of the life of a typical church:
Take a moment and ask yourself where your church is along this spectrum. Notice how a church is born and what happens as it slowly dies (follow the capital letters).
So what do you do if you are on the downhill slope? Here’s the secret: You start over again with a new life cycle through a revitalization process. To revitalize means to “impart new life or vigor to: restore to an active or fresh condition.”
The good news is that every church has the potential for revitalization. Jesus promised that he would build His church, and nothing can stop it (Matthew 16:18). Here are six ways we can move from church for us to church for others.
- Commit to a fresh vision. Every new church started with a clear vision. Likewise, we need a renewed and relevant vision for the church today.
- Join the team. The church needs all of us to be committed, even when things seem a bit uncertain. Join with your pastor and others in what God has for your future. Support, don’t sabotage. Sadly, some people never experience the joy of going through change because they give up way too soon.
- Let go of sacred cows. Someone defined a ‘sacred cow’ as any “church tradition that has been exalted to a position of normalcy without Biblical warrant.” There are things we hold on to that no longer work, they are not in the Word, but we still want them. A new vision requires a new approach (Mark 2:22).
- Look to the outside. Who are you trying to reach? I hope our goal is not to reach other Christians. That’s called sheep-stealing, not being fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). Healthy churches reflect the demographics of their community.
- Don‘t panic. No one likes to see anyone leave a church family. However, you will never make a significant shift in ministry without some people leaving.
- Pray. Pray. Remember it’s Christ’s Church, and He is the one who will build it. Unless we depend on Him, nothing can be accomplished (John 15:5).
BEFORE YOU GO
As pastors and leaders, we must have “patient persistence.” Any change must be done with love and grace. Revitalization requires loving people and changing direction at the same time.
What other ways we can help the church make needed changes? Check out this article by Ron Edmondson.