by: Rev. Ed Schneider   {revitalizeyourchurch@gmail.com}

Image result for pictures of change or die

Building a New foundation

Let’s start with these few points of emphasis….

This may appear a little odd but if your current leadership isn’t in complete agreement regarding the need, strategies, methods, language to be used as well as the urgency to become healthy and vibrant you are not ready to seriously undertake the task of revitalization and renewal.

One of the common mistakes “good intended” people make is to assume “if it makes sense to me” it must “make sense” to others. For the most part this is not true. Any hope of revitalization will require a hard look at the readiness to begin the journey of renewal. In the Bible it offers two very important points of emphasis regarding future goals of Christian congregations;

(1) My people are destroyed because of a lack of vision, (Hosea 4:6) and

(2) A house divided against itself will surely fall (Mat 12:25).

Before we go further in this article I think it is essential to truly understand the actual definitions of two words; RENEWAL & REVITALIZATION.

Renewal has the meaning; an instance of resuming an activity or state of being after an interruption. It also has the additional meaning of the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken.

 

Revitalization has the meaning; to prompting and implementing a tangible newness and an overt vitality that has been lost.

journey2First, I want you to accept that NO renewal or revitalization efforts happen outside of a TEAM ATMOSPHERE!  It is NOT prompted or sustained by one committed disciple or some super-preaching apostolic icon.  Renewal and Revitalization is foremost accomplished within a group of Holy Spirit driven, intentionally motivated, and practically trained and empowered to do the hard work of helping to lead a congregational transformation that, in no small way, redefines the local expression of their Christian identity.   It is essential to understand whatever leadership team eventually leads this effort of renewal and revitalization, it must have a firm grasp on need, direction, and the strategies to effect positive outcomes. Never rush this portion of the journey. It is far better to prepare for the process ahead than to start the journey with little practical anticipation of what will be found along that journey.

I am not saying “walk by sight.” I am saying prepare for the “walk-of-faith” well, so that, God will be glorified in the fullness of divine possibilities.

The longer any local congregation or denomination exists, the more it falls into the age old trap of doing the “same-ol’-thing” in the “same-ol’-way.”  

Regardless of the actual size of a church’s membership, every church is called by God to keep an extra special vigil to allow their local congregation to remain “alive” and “vibrant.”  One of the more important realities on how to achieve this goal requires an intentional commitment to make an honest attempt to review all aspects of the application of local ministries. Every church and each Christian associated with each congregation must make sure their ministries actually still work. Is the bible study reaching out to new and unknown participants and finding fruit in their efforts? Does the prayer ministry not only have an ever expanding base of individuals participating but is there also fruit being seen in the application of the prayers being offered? Whatever the ministries that are currently supported, are they actually…honestly accomplishing the outcomes they were designed to achieve?

If there is any hope of tangibly turning a congregation around into a vibrant example of God’s empowerment there needs to be honest and open evaluations of effectiveness of every aspect of every ministry.  

Don’t be afraid of a blatant, transparent, and humble evaluation of whether or not the local church represents the needs of the parish it is called to serve. Does your congregation actually know the “real people” who live and work in the area directly around the church’s physical property? Awareness of the businesses, their owners and management is an essential part of getting a sense of where the revitalization and vitality goals may need to delve into. I suppose what I am bluntly asking is, “Do you even know the parish where your congregation is called to be known and felt?

Fervent desires to get boldly connected to God have to be open and easily…..and SINCERELY….seen and experienced both inside and outside the walls of the local congregation.  

Churches can only be kept alive, vibrant and relevant through their active and persistent participation with the Spirit of God. Believers must actively pursue deeper and broader connection to The Divine. Constant evaluations regarding how well the local congregation’s efforts to provide an environment that directly supports this goal is critical to the sustainability of spiritual growth.

It is equally important to understand that churches and their leadership are not kept alive and vibrant by a denominational affiliation, someone’s expensive car or clothes, great music ministries, or even brand new carpeting in the sanctuary. Churches are not kept alive and vibrant by new flat-screen TV’s in the lobby, a shiny fleet of vans, or redecorating the second floor bathrooms. NO! Churches are kept alive and vibrant in the building of God’s Kingdom by real….faulty….flesh and blood….people who have been changed forever by the power and presence of God’s overwhelming grace. Everything associated with the Christian journey begins there; it is sustained there; it’s entire validity rests on being seen and experienced as a transformational tidal wave.

Every church and every Christian believer is kept vibrant and alive because those who have been transformed by the life and mission of Jesus Christ are simply not capable of holding the JOY that has been given to them silent or inactive.

These transforming Christian brothers and sisters have a real sense of urgency to share the power, presence, mercy, and the JOY of God’s love with others who have yet to be fully exposed to this life altering reality.

We must not approach every decision in our local churches with the attitude of “How does this fit within our accepted tradition or personal comfort?”

This entire way of thinking is so incredibly counter-productive to the cause of Christ I am still amazed it happens over and over and over again. How completely wrong it is to hinder what God may be offering for our forward movement by clinging to the past as if it were the sole life-jacket in a stormy sea.

Let me just say what should already be obvious….not all change is bad….even the change that makes you uncomfortable.

I am not saying that honoring an established “tradition” is a bad thing. Certainly, in many instances it is a good and appropriate consideration. However, Christian Faith has never had anything to do with a series of laws to follow, but rather a series of faithful…God centered…Christ glorifying…and Holy Ghost driven…decisions. These decisions or newly prompted “Divine Awakenings,” will inevitably provide forward movement in our journey of Christian discovery.

The fact of the matter is that each person’s Christian growth is formulated, empowered, and proven through their discomfort… NOT COMFORT.

Each follower of Christ is “wholly defined” by their Divinely given and innate willingness to openly… unselfishly… intentionally… supply someone else’s needs before their personal desires. Within honest Christian expression OUTREACH IS EVERYTHING! We should always be looking outward toward others by practically sharing our inward awakening of Christ in our lives.

The moment we try to morph Christianity into some sort of quiz or religious contest of scriptural knowledge, we severely cheapen the magnitude of God’s blessings upon the life of the believer.

In the Bible it speaks clearly about the Christian context of “love.” The word “agape’” is where we find the translation of the foundational word “love.” Agape’ DOES NOT MEAN, nor has it ever meant….warm hugs, blueberry muffins or soft fluffy puppies. It means….SELF-sacrifice! It means….Reaching out to others and their NEEDS before we concern ourselves with our SELF-SERVING “wants.” If any congregation has any hope in revitalizing, renewing or RE-birthing their future, they MUST reestablish our godly commitment to find ways to practically demonstrate how incredibly good God is through our sincere efforts to help others find out just how good and wonderful God actually is….before we think of our won comfort. We must be able to demonstrate the “self-sacrificial love” of Christ over and above any law, any tradition, any set of restrictions regarding current demeanor or past life-style choices.  If we can not allow our faith to be stretched beyond worldly limitations and personal fears, we have NO HOPE in realizing our potential in demonstrating Christ’s own likeness…SELF-SACRIFICIAL LOVE.

We must do everything we can, even if it seems a little uncomfortable, to keep local churches fresh, alive, vibrant and spiritually rewarding to all…not just to some…not just to the folks we already know…not just to the ones on the membership rolls….not just the good people….not just the well-off and wealthy….not just the people who look like you, sound like you, or act like you.

No!

A vibrant and relevant church must grow. It must expand. It must transform lives. It must reach out rather than protect what is already known. It must find ways that will not only open people’s eyes but their hearts.

A vibrant church must intentionally actually “go to people” not just invite them to “come to you.” Kingdom building churches must be willing to work for the cause of Christ. They must be able to prayerfully, boldly, and enthusiastically try new things to bring the Good News of a Risen Savior to as many people as possible.

  • There is no other way to remain vibrant.
  • There is no other way to remain relevant.
  • There is no other way to sustain a Christ centered church.

All of us believers must become Followers of the Way of Christ. We must care for others. We must feed their souls and minds. We must open doors for the left out. We must uplift the left out. We must both challenge the lazy heart and encourage the gifted soul.

The Christian church must adapt when it is necessary. It must find newness and innovation compelling not arduous.

Discovering what God has in store for us is truly exciting, especially when we have come to the understanding that God is a “way maker” and a “promise keeper.”  So, if God provides Divine solutions and keeps the promise that the believer shall never be left void of The Creator’s presence and support…..WHAT ARE WE WORRIED ABOUT?  Stop all the stress and conflict and just learn to trust that the journey is in God’s hands NOT YOURS.

As you begin this journey-of-faith it is critical that you lean on the reality of the fulfilled promises of God. Trust that God never leaves the believer without hope. God Almighty is also an empowering source for those who are both faithful and obedient in their desires to demonstrate just how remarkable God truly is through the life and mission of Jesus Christ!

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