Is Church Revitalization Necessary?

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“ … and they restored the house of God to its proper condition and strengthened it.” ~ 2 Chron. 24:13b

During the early years of king Joash there was a great revitalization of faith and worship among those in Judah. When I read through this passage it reminds me of the great need that the Western church has for revitalizing Christianity; we’ve become extremely complacent, trudging along with lack-luster faith.

Western Christianity is hemorrhaging! Seventy percent (70%) of the U.S. population reports a connection with Jesus Christ, yet according to David Olson, on any given Sunday, less than 17.5% of the population actually attends an orthodox worship service.[1] Even more sobering is the reality that American churches would need to plant 2,900 new churches a year, just to keep up with the current pace of population growth.[2] With 80 to 85 percent of churches in America either plateauing or in decline,[3] there is an urgent call for church revitalization and planting. For this reason, the church must re-engage the missio Dei, the sending of God, and shift to a missional praxis. The Western world has become the new mission field.

Even though Olson’s statistics display that only 17.5% of the population in North America is attending Sunday services, Doug Murren of the Murren Group, declared that number to be too high and suggested Olson’s 2008 numbers were lagging a bit behind; his ghastly number of only 12% is staggering.[4] Furthermore, Murren’s research indicates “20% of people leave their church every year, which would require a visitor rate of at least 30% of a church’s size per year, just to grow.”[5]

The Barna Group assessed that “more than one-third of America’s adults are essentially secular in belief and practice.”[6] With a population of roughly two hundred forty million Americans, one hundred seventy million of them (71%), either consider themselves as having no religious affiliation at all or Christian in name only.[7] As JR Woodward observed, “Functional Christendom has given way to a ‘spiritual,’ secular and pluralist society where a growing number view the church with suspicion and some with downright disdain.”[8] The Western world is officially a mission field and is in dire need of apostolic movement.

If these numbers do not cause you to see the vital need for revitalization and church planting then nothing will—but perhaps you’re among the complacent crowd? My call to you today is not for you to get up on the soapbox and scream out for revival, but to begin revival within your own heart. Start living the life of Christ on mission within your home, neighborhood, and community—get activated in your faith. If evangelicalism is to re-engage the Western culture it will not be with political agendas but with a true apostolic movement, where Christ is Lord and the Church is on mission.

[1] David T. Olson, The American Church in Crisis: Groundbreaking Research Based On a National Database of Over 200,000 Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 181.

[2] Ibid., 181.

[3] Aubrey Malphurs, Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 200.

[4] Doug Murren, “De-Churching or Re-Gathering,” themurrengroup.com, March, 2015.

[5] Ibid., 5.

[6] George Barna and David Kinnaman, Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2014), 16.

[7] Aubrey Malphurs, Planting Growing Churches For the 21st Century: A Comprehensive Guide for New Churches and Those Desiring Renewal, 3rd Ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 12.

[8] JR Woodward, Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2012), 30.

Three Areas That Propel Church Growth

It is my privilege and joy to be a servant of Christ. I have found such great love and witnessed a great fortitude among many within the church that I pastor. Recently, I shared with them the three vital keys to our growth. When I arrived at the church, three years ago, there was approximately twenty active members; today, we are in the midst of an authentic move of God; true conversion growth, with new members coming forward. So, some might think this makes me more of an expert—hardly!

But, being a past church planter, an evangelism pastor, and now a church revitalizer, I do have a sense for finding a the missional DNA (mDNA) of a church. So, what’s the formula? What’s the new program? Honestly, you’ll never hear or read that from me—as I believe that God innovatively and authentically works within each body of Christ to reach each community. However, when the church’s mDNA meets the community’s DNA, a double helix is formed for interlocking growth–but, that’s my next book. Suffice it for now, that I provide the three key areas that we have focused on and continue to focus on.

Before, I divulge those; let me just say that the vision that God gave to me three years ago is terrifyingly precise. I say terrifyingly because there is a love that Christ has for His church—make no mistake that it is His—in that, He is unyielding with fervor, passion, protection, and strength for her. As the pastor, I passionately pray for the church universal and the one I serve, especially, as we engage our faith on either the frontlines of casual Christianity or brutal martyrdom. I pray for wisdom repeatedly—to lead with integrity and resolve and to lead by example. Everything we do is prayerfully conceived, thought out, and done with the aspiration of serving our King—everything that we do has purpose—from the way we worship, the style of worship, to the liturgical way our service is conducted and scheduled—these are all sought to honor God, exalt Christ, in the power of the Spirit, to edify the body. There is a vision and there is a mission. With that all being said, I’ll now address the three things, which have propelled us to move forward.

1. The Gospel

This is my first love. When I was baptized years ago, the verse which I declared was Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation.” As well, I relate to the Apostle Paul’s words, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel…” (1 Cor 9:16). As the pastor, I am fully dedicated to the gospel—I will not waiver, I will not compromise, I will not sell out to worldly goods, satanic attacks, fleshly pride, prosperity, or coercion.

One of my favorite pastors is now the president of the International Mission Board, David Platt; when he gave his last message before the church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, he said, “We don’t have time to waste on games in the church… resist comfortable, casual, cultural Christianity, because that’s not Christianity.” If our focus is on anything more than the gospel transformation through Christ—we’ve missed God’s will for our lives & our mission. Every week, the one constant that comes from the pulpit and taught, is the gospel.

As well, the gospel must be sent. Those with the gift of apostleship are cultural architects. We are to engage our modern culture, read it and understand it. The gospel is the driving force of our lives. As we endeavor to show grace to those who may not know Christ, we recognize God’s great love and mercy that was given to us. The gospel reminds us that Christ came and humbly served man–we are directed to do the same within community.

2. Unity in Love

When I arrived at the church, God gave me a mandate—that mandate was to love a people, but not just any love, a missional and Christ-centered love—to reach the hearts of the congregation and the hearts of the community. And so, I stress, WE MUST BE OF ONE ACCORD (Phil. 2:2)—inseparable—the time has come for the church to engage the faith in truth—we are THAT generation.

Our forefathers faced hard times, and our fathers faced difficult times—it is now our time to face up to the challenge and do it in unison. Yet, one thing I know and have experienced, you may agree, churches never grow when there is division more than unity, tradition more than innovation, complacency more than passion, and love of self more than others.

And so again, I as a pastoral elder, I have promised to defend them unabashedly, for the unity of love in the church, and if I ever see division or a cause for division, by the power of Christ and the authority of the church, which was given to me, the church can rest assured that their under-shepherd will protect them. I love them each very deeply and uniquely.

3. Worship in Heart

Worship is more than music; it is our walk, our talk…our thoughts. The word worship comes from worthiness, or honor—God is rightfully due honor. But we also honor God with our music. One of the saddest things I have witnessed in churches and assuredly the Lord has seen, is discord within His church due to worship styles—to me, it is an aberration of godliness…it is unacceptable. We have more important issues at hand—namely, the gospel.

When I arrived at the church, four summers ago, the music director and I sought the best possible way to incorporate the old hymns and the new music, for the sole purpose of the gospel, reaching across cultural, generational, and age lines—it was/is not an easy task. The current vision of the church stresses that we humble our hearts and raise our hands to God—for He has put a new song in our heart. We put aside our “comfort zone” with the understanding that church is not about me—it’s about the gospel—it’s about seeing true conversion growth. Our worship must come from the heart—whether from a screen, a hymn book, or something else—if it is not from the heart then it is all lip service—God will not reward lip service. Worship from the heart.

And so, I encourage you now, to love one another, serve one another, reach out to one another, and allow the gospel of Christ to transform you. Seek how your church can find the missional pulse of its church and community, fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt 28:19), and doing so with one accord.

Let’s also make this declaimer: While these three areas have proven results for the church I serve, it is not a cookie cutter blueprint. There is no silver bullet. Unity and the gospel; however, I would stress are non-negotiables, but love can be expressed in differing ways. With wisdom, seek how the Lord can be moving the body of believers that you’re connected to. If you have any questions, feel free to email me pastor@oakhallbc.org