Church Revitalisation: Strengthen What Remains
Church revitalisation is nothing new – it’s simply the desire to become a healthy church. Phil Walter began his ministry with FIEC full-time at the beginning of July and we asked him to reflect on what he has learnt so far.
The letters to the seven churches in Revelation reveal some typical examples of fellowships that need to take a good look at themselves. Jesus has a message for each of them and the descriptions often make tough reading.
There’s a church with a reputation of being alive but it’s dead, while another has to strengthen what remains and is about to die. Descriptions like “lost your first love” or “lukewarm” are not words we would want Jesus to say of our church!
But in the short time I’ve been serving as Revitalisation Coordinator I have been helping churches that are struggling with some of these things. I have already learnt some important lessons.
First – leadership is key.
I’m not suggesting that the leadership of any of our churches are straying from truth or allowing the world to dictate their actions. But it seems to me there can be three kinds of leadership style in a struggling church which may or may not be conducive to restoring health:
- a leadership of maintenance (growing does not seem an option so let’s maintain what we have),
- a leadership that still has a vision but without having the necessary ability or manpower to support it, or
- a leadership of realism for the sake of the gospel (willing to change, receive help and do whatever it takes).
There is of course a fourth one, which is basically no leadership at all.
Ultimately, any church needs to live in the realism of their situation they find themselves in, be willing to seek God, and to change for the sake of the gospel.
This seminar from our 2014 Leaders’ Conference helps churches to think through some preventative and corrective treatments.
Second – decline is a slow process.
I’m often asked what is happening to cause churches up and down our land that have been a faithful witness for years to be now facing possible closure?
Well this has been a slow process fuelled by an ever-changing culture. Because we might not always understand the changes, we ignore them as if things are still the same.
I think the challenge is to put Jesus right back at the centre of our personal and church life. Too often the past gets in our way, it holds us tightly, squeezes the life we once had from us and rules what we do and are today.
Third – there is hope!
I will share with you over time how churches have overcome and are strengthening what remains – there are already some great examples of how churches are beginning to partner in revitalisation up and down the country.
In the meantime, if you are struggling as a church – perhaps in maintenance mode or even near to death – let me encourage you to do three things that may just start the process of revitalisation:
- Pray and get your church to pray. Keep praying. Have days of prayer. Have focussed prayer and cry out to God.
- Repent! In five of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation the word repent is mentioned. This is more that just a word it is a state of heart. Take a good look and see what perhaps your church needs to repent of. (Why not read Revelation 2&3 for some ideas?)
- Let the Word of God dwell in you richly! Allow God to speak into your situation and listen to Him.
That’s all for now, feel free to comment or ask me anything about church revitalisation via the contact page.