Church revitalization is an ever-present challenge facing churches. Leadership and congregation must walk together through three challenging doors if they are to see positive results.
A recent report indicated Southern Baptist churches dropped 236,467 members in one year, the largest annual decline in more than 130 years. Total baptisms declined 305,301, the lowest since 1947. Clearly, we are facing challenges like never before.
With each challenge, however, comes an open door to make a difference. If we would face reality and walk through these open doors, the days ahead could be very different.
While in Ephesus, Paul wrote to some friends in the church at Corinth that he would love to come visit them but, despite the challenges he was facing, “a wide door for effective ministry has been opened for me….” He was not saying life in Ephesus was a breeze. Just the opposite, he was saying the challenges he faced provided open doors of ministry.
Here are three doors open to everyone willing face the challenge of church revitalization.
Door #1: Opportunity
There is an old saying that the difference between a pessimist and an optimist is that a pessimist sees a problem in every opportunity, while an optimist sees an opportunity in every problem.
Every church in need of revitalization must see the challenges as opportunities. The recognition something must change is opens this door of opportunity to bring lasting and meaningful impact. These challenges are doors of opportunity placed before us by God. This should drastically change our outlook, but instead we are often guilty of looking at our challenges as a problem, rather than an opportunity.
Ephesus was not exactly an easy place for a Christian to live. The Temple of Diana was there, with all its gross immorality and powerful influence. Yet Paul saw it as an opportunity to make a difference. Embrace the challenge of church revitalization as an opportunity to address needed changes inside and outside the walls of your church.
Door #2: Obligation
Paul also saw a door of obligation. He said, “The door is opened to me.” He didn’t say it was opened to Timothy or Barnabas or someone else. It had opened to him. He felt a personal obligation to stay and face the challenge.
Almost every pastor and church member will agree something must change if we are to transform our communities with the gospel. Who will seize the challenge as a personal obligation? Will anyone stand like Isaiah and say, “Here am I, Lord, send me”?
Church revitalization requires a personal commitment to walk through this door of obligation. We can’t just run off the preacher or run away from the problem. We each have a personal obligation to admit the status quo is not an option. We must open the door of obligation.
Door #3: Opposition
Paul also saw a door of opposition. He said, “There are many who oppose me.” That is true when it comes to church revitalization. There will always be opposition to the drastic change necessary for revitalization to occur. Expect it.
Opposition will come from both outside and inside the church. The most vehement opponents may be found among those who sit in the pews week after week. Vance Havner once said, “The temple of truth has never suffered so from woodpeckers on the outside, as from the termites on the inside.”
Church revitalization presents doors of opportunity, obligation and opposition. Expect and see them as open doors from God for his church to walk through by faith.
Bob Brown is the Church Revitalization Specialist for the TBC. He served as a pastor in the local church for thirty years before coming to the Convention. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.