I have been working in the field of church revitalization and renewal for almost twenty years now and I wanted to share in this edition of the Church Revitalizer blog about some of the nasty things which happen to the leader of a church’s renewal effort. Wise Church Revitalizers, while not liking some of the things which will come their way, should be ready for some of the big ones which often precede the turnaround of a plateaued church. It was John Maxwell, which taught me some thirty years ago a great principle of leadership and it is never more important to remember than as one who is working in the realm of church revitalization and renewal. John told many of us way back then:
“People will let you down, but Jesus Christ will never let you down!”
I have reflected upon this wise statement many times while in the midst of the challenge of the moment. The reality is that there are some nasty things that are thrown at leaders of renewal as they seek to turnaround a church.
For every Church Revitalizer which is part of our monthly Virtual Coaching Network, I spend time discussing the following challenges in revitalization and renewal in an attempt to assist them in a smoother transition when they encounter these trials. This is the second in a series of blogs focused around “The Nasty Punches That Come Your Way in Church Revitalization and Renewal!”
8. Most churches needing revitalization seem to be just days or hours from being put on life support before they realize they are dying!
There is no such thing as holding your own and waiting to consider revitalization at a later time. Most churches like us as individuals, are aging and death is growing closer. Allowing the critical mass to leave ones church because you as the leader are either unwilling to make changes or unwilling to stand up to those who are happy with the current state of decline is a sure sign of death for the church. Many pastors who have not been trained in the field of church renewal are unable to pull the necessary triggers at the moment they need to be pulled. They wait too long to make key decisions and those newer members who could be a vital part of the renewal efforts have left the church because of the leaders inability to make the call and take the ball down the field. While revitalization takes time, ones inability as the leader to make the hard call might just send the newer members away because they doubt your ability to make the turn towards renewal and health. Consider for a moment that perhaps the people who are dropping out and leaving your church are not leaving it because they do not want community, but because they think they will have a better chance to find it somewhere else! What does that say to you and your church if that is so?
9. There is often a clear contrast between our conduct on Sunday and our activities Monday through Saturday.
The church today is overwhelmed with its own evangelical version of a split personality. This has contributed immensely to the high level of conflict within congregations. Brokenness before the Lord and one another is so lacking in our relationships with fellow believers. We have too many dead churches full of believers who are alive to the flesh. As the Lord is faithful to point out people have been offended through our carnal behaviors; we must make the necessary restitution. Often the Church Revitalizer will be stuck in the middle trying to bring about change and seeking to develop the unregenerate to faith in Christ.
10. Distraction from the Gospel.
It is easy to become unfocused and distracted from the Gospel in some churches! When the voice of the Savior becomes vague within the worship services and the tone of the message to the community is anything but clear, the Gospel is no longer the primary concentration. The message is then weak and unappealing. Churches that are ineffective in reaching the community around them have often done so because they have lost the centrality of the Word of God. A word of Salvation and its offering has been replaced by everything else except the grace of God. Anything else is counter productive to the will of God.
11. The injured party outlook.
Have you ever noticed that it is often someone else’s fault in many churches as to why they are stagnant or declining?
· “It’s the laity’s fault.”
· “This is a hard place.”
· “The economy has brought on hard times.”
· “That previous pastor just destroyed this church!”
· “We just cannot minister here anymore.”
The list could go on and on. Another popular phrase is “it won’t work here!” The injured party churches have an often rehearsed terminology towards the reasons why their church is just not growing. The injured party church usually calls upon some outside factor to declare why they are not growing. When a church allows itself to become dominated by negative circumstances, it is or has lost hope.