In the day and hour in which we live we see far too many churches on the verge of shutting their doors. This is a truth that is not exclusive to any one denomination. In previous blogs I have discussed the many reasons/signs of a dying church. More often than not members of a dying church seek a miracle to keep the doors open, but they expect the Lord to work a miracle divorced from any effort on their part or any new course of action being taken. We must do our part if we expect God to do His part. As an example, we find in John 11 the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. As Jesus approached the tomb where the lifeless body of his friend lay, He told those who were standing nearby to roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb. Upon their removal of the heavy stone, which no doubt took several men and some effort to do, Jesus called froth Lazarus from the grave. The men were obedient to Jesus in moving away the stone. In other words, they did what they could do…roll the stone away. Then Jesus did what they could not do, he raised Lazarus from the dead.
If a dying church desires to see a miracle from heaven, it must begin first with the members being obedient in the areas in which the Lord has commanded. The church must do what it can do, and then God will do what the members can’t do. Moving away the stones takes effort and requires arduous work. Resurrection power will not be experienced without first doing our part. If a church continues down the same path and expects a different outcome, resurrection will not occur. Positive changes that will stretch the church to go through new doors must be undertaken to see God’s resurrection power descend. Sometimes radical reconstruction and revitalization within the church must occur before His resurrection power can be witnessed and experienced.
If a dying church is to see the resurrection power of Christ do a miracle in their midst, what are some steps the congregation first must take? What are the areas in which a congregation must be obedient and do what they can do before God in His intervening power does what only He can do in putting flesh on the dry bones (Ez. 37)? What follows are seven steps a dying church needs to undertake/consider in order to witness the transforming, resurrection power of Christ.
First, Repent. Repentance means a change of mind, a change of direction. Repentance is confessing we have erred, realizing we need a change of mind, that there is a need to go in a different direction. Jesus commanded the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three, “Repent.” Churches must come before the Lord with sincere hearts and sincerely be willing to take new direction.
Second, Relentless Prayer. Prayer must undergird all that is undertaken before a church witnesses the resurrection power of Christ. Desiring and seeking change without fervent prayer to gain wisdom concerning God’s direction and guidance will result in failure. If prayer is not the wind that pushes the sails upon the Ship, then a standstill will be the end result.
Third, Return to first Love. Often congregations will contend their church is dying because people no longer love the church. No, a lack of love for the church is not the problem…the problem is that members have left their first love, Jesus Christ. If a church expects Christ’s resurrection power to be evident in the midst of His people, there must be a falling in love with Jesus again. Reading on a consistent basis God’s Love Letter (the Bible) to us is essential in bringing about a rebirth and renewing of our first love.
Fourth, Replacing of Leadership. One of the most common roadblocks to a dying church experiencing the resurrection power of Christ is entrenched leadership that is vehemently opposed to change and has no vison for outreach. If this is the case, the members must reconsider leadership positions, and courageously put in place new leaders (deacons, elders, SS teachers, etc) who will have a vision and are willing to change the mindset of “business as usual.” It is sad when entrenched leadership continue “business as usual” even though it is obvious their way no longer works and will result in the eventual death of the church. To replace leadership positions within a church takes courage and requires making decisions that will upset and make some unhappy, but it is better than letting the “old guard” continue to serve, who resist change and run off the people who could be beneficial to the ministry. If this is a step that must be taken, calling upon associational and denominational help in the restructure will prove prudent.
Fifth, Refocus on Purpose. A dying church is often exclusively focused inwardly as it has lost its purpose of reaching out to the lost. A church that has no active focus on evangelism, no active focus on reaching the community where it is located, will find it will eventually dry up on the vine. When there is a refocus on the purpose of reaching others with the Gospel, the resurrection power of Christ will empower the members as they go in the name of Him who instructed us to be about focusing on the Great Commission.
Sixth, Readjust Attitude. There must be a change in attitude. A change must take place from having an attitude that dwells in the past of “the way it used to be” and from having a defeatist attitude that says “we can never grow.” A readjustment in an attitude that has confidence in the power of Christ’s redeeming grace, and reliance upon the presence of the Holy Spirit, can accomplish more than was ever thought imaginable.
Seventh, Remember all is for Christ’s Glory. While the goal of a dying church is to experience rebirth and reach the lost, the goal that should transcend beyond even the church’s survival is that the church must above all else seek in all that it does to glorify and exalt the crucified and risen Christ. That is one truth that must never be lost or forgotten in the church’s mission. We must forever exalt and lift up Christ that He might draw all people unto Himself.
For a dying church to witness the resurrection power of Christ, a church must begin doing what it can do, what it should do, what it is expected to do, what Christ commanded to do, and then Christ will do what we can’t do. True, it is not easy being a part of a dying church, but when the church begins to embrace in obedience and takes seriously the Great Commission, ventures out into the unknown, makes the necessary changes within the congregation that will no longer be obstacles to growth, members will be astounded what His resurrection power will accomplish and bring to pass.