Church Revitalisation : one size doesn’t fit all !
A revitalised church is quite simply a healthy church. But churches can lose their health at various stages of their life. This diagram shows four critical moments in the life of a church.
The first one, surprisingly, is when the church is growing, because it is all too easy to get into a routine and not plan for the next stage of growth. This may be because the church is becoming inward looking, or because their ways of reaching out to non-Christians are no longer effective. Without change at that critical moment, the church will probably plateau within a few years.
Thom Rainer in his book Autopsy of a Deceased Church suggests some responses for a plateauing church which has “symptoms of sickness”:
Evangelicals Now DECEMBER 2016
REVITALISE YOUR CHURCH
The challenge of falling congregations is a reality for many churches. Phil Walter asks ‘How should we respond?’
Does your church need more strength?
When churches face the situation of lower numbers, the consequences are widespread.
A sense of failure – even guilt – amongst the leadership can be crippling. A falling congregation often means less impact on a community, fewer visitors to Sunday services, fewer workers available and, of course, the fear of closure unless something can be done to reverse the trend.
What is faithfulness?
For churches that are small and struggling the effect is multiplied. Often what follows is a siege mentality: ‘Let’s guard what we have and survive for as long as we can’. Churches focus on being ‘faithful’, in the context of continuing to do what they have always done. Being ‘faithful’ may look different for each church.
In Acts 2 v 42-47 we catch a glimpse of what the health of the early church looked like. Too soon was such health under pressure as the church grew, prompting Paul to write to the churches, sometimes with harsh words as they allowed tradition to impact the church in a negative way. So what does a healthy church look like in the 21st C? Is it a matter of size, make-up of the church or location? Is it about age range?
Is it dependent on style of worship or the version of the Bible you use or even whether you have a full-time pastor? Whilst all of these may be significant they do not make a healthy church.
The importance of leadership in revitalisation
Leadership in any organisation is important if forward movement and growth is to be achieved. In churches it is equally important to follow the example of Jesus who trained his disciples well and then equipped them with the gift of the Holy Spirit. The area of church revitalization is no different. So what is needed in the European context today in our churches? Well it is easy to say – “good strong spiritual leaders” but in practice that is not as easy to accomplish. Let me suggest three things that you could consider.
Firstly, recognise there is a problem and agree amongst the leaders what must be done. Are the “values” shared amongst the leaders? Is one man holding back the rest of you?