Can This Church Rebuild?
Can this church rebuild? I wondered to myself as I sat in worship on Sunday morning. The church in question is one I have attended for the last 10 years so I had a special interest in the answer.
I like this church. It’s well-positioned downtown. It’s got great people.
But it’s been through a lot of changes. The dismissal of long-time musicians, the exodus of some theologically conservative members who disagree with gay-friendly policies, a well-liked pastor with a hidden addiction, and frequent pastoral appointment changes. Not to mention the pandemic.
Through these changes, and more, the average worship attendance has shrunk dramatically. They once hosted three services a week. Now down to one. Familiar faces are gone.
It’s a fair question: Can this church rebuild? The answer is Yes. And no. As you read on, consider your own church.
Yes, this church can rebuild if:
1. The church is willing to SIMPLIFY.
Let go of ministries or activities that no longer have a champion. Many ministries hang on by a thread because they were once vibrant. But if the champion has moved, died, or is no longer interested, AND no one else is stepping up, it’s time to let it go. If the ministry or activity doesn’t forward the mission and the vision of the congregation, consider the lack of a champion is a gift in disguise.
2. The church is willing to SHED.
Let go of properties that drain you financially. Properties that do not forward your vision or drain you financially can undo a church. Release the sentimentality, sell the properties, and get back to your main mission.
3. The church embraces SOCIETY.
Gone are the days when a church could simply focus on itself and expect to maintain or grow. Pastors must be called to both church and society. But it’s not just the pastor who must have this focus. Worshipers, too. If the people refuse to extend themselves, the pastor is sunk. And frankly, so is the church. Church improvement plans don’t keep a congregation alive.
4. The church cultivates SPIRITUALITY.
People are deeply hungry for spirituality that makes a difference. Let prayer and Bible study move you beyond a discussion about God, or a rehearsal of beliefs, into the realm of experiencing God. It’s easy for church life to stray into the mundane. Too much focus on budgets and buildings, though, can tempt you to forget the miraculous. Don’t allow that to happen.
If the church is willing to simplify its activities, shed unnecessary properties, embrace society and cultivate spirituality, it has a good chance to rebuild.
However, rebuilding will remain forever out of reach without one more crucial element in place.
No, not money. Not even younger people. Or a prime location.
The most critical element for rebuilding is a willingness to dream like Jesus. In order to rebuild in a sustainable way, the church must have a big, bold, God-sized vision. Something compelling enough, and risky enough, to require them to grow in faith, depend on each other, and partner with God. Only a vision of this size and scope will draw people forward into the rebuilding phase.
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