Not Every Church is a Candidate for a Restart
Interestingly, many laymen often ask me if I think that their church could be a candidate for a restart. Usually they share of the need for their church to be revitalized. A series of questions frequently follows of which I will answer each and every single one of them. Once they wear out in asking questions I ask one. That question is: “How willing are you and your lay leadership willing to let go of the controls of the church for the next three years and allow someone else to make the decisions necessary to restart your church?” One of two things happens at this point.
No Need to Bleed
The first response is that the individual and his co-leaders see no need to make such a drastic decision. There is no real need to make those necessary decisions that will stop the bleeding of the exodus. After all they have been leading the church for over twenty years and see no reason to make this change despite the decline they are facing. Failure to admit ones weakness and need for a restart is often the initial response. Their emphasis on former glories over present or future glories is a key to the polarization and stuckness they face.
As a layperson, you have more to do with the church in its present state then you often take credit. Whether the congregation in which you belong is thriving or declining, it is ultimately up to you and your fellow members and because of you and your fellow members. Pastors are called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and they can teach, inspire, train, lead, and inspire! But when the rubber meets the road, your church’s health is a function of how you and your fellow members relate to one another, to the community in which the church is located, and to how they respond to God’s leading within their lives. John 10:10 remind us that Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” We need to be reminded that as laymen we are the church!
When a local Church is spiritually journeying as a vibrant Church:
• Church members willingly work together!
• The community finds hope from the church!
• There is a sense of belonging and togetherness!
• Members easily and frequently forgive others!
• The laity find their individual and corporate sense of purpose!
• God’s leading and direction is apparent to everyone!
Your pastor can be the greatest pastor and preacher, but his message only has the power to the extent that the people of God within the specific local church live it and practice it with each other!
Is There a Guide to Stop the Slide?
The other response is less common and that is when the leader asks how this could happen and who would assist them in considering such an option. The question was once asked this way, “Pastor is there a guide we can follow in order to stop the slide we are facing?” Some laymen desire to stop the near death throws of their dying church and take the drastic steps necessary to help it become healthy and vibrant once more. They are more concerned about the future needs by allowing the Lord to bring about a resurrection of life the way God wants over what man has become comfortable in.
The church dying or in rapid decline must face the hard realities and wrestle with the biblical passages dealing with reinvention, realignment, and restarting. Scriptures speak of the message of death and resurrection and for rapidly declining churches it is a testament that God can bring life out of something that was once dead. You do not begin in the Bible with new life. You begin with life, death, and being raised in newness of life. Rapidly declining churches often want to skip the journey and jump right to newness of life. Jesus is a fitting example of not missing the process necessary to embrace newness of life.
Next week, we will talk about ten reasons churches are challenged when making the necessary changes.