Will your local church change or keep doing the same thing, expecting different results?
Ready, set, go!
Hearing those words can inspire excitement and maybe even nervous anticipation for the race you are about to start. All the special dieting and exercising were for this moment. But all the training in the world would not change how you will react to the conditions you face on the course, as you have to live in the moment. You have to be prepared to adapt how you approach the race. So, too, is it for the established church.
The church was planted longs ago with a missional seed to reach a community with the gospel of Christ. That seed germinated in the hearts of others. The early planters and converts tended it with the faith they had. So, what happened? Why is it that so many churches are plateauing or declining?
Somewhere along the course of the race, the people veered off God’s missional vision for the church. Maybe a pit stop happened during a pastoral transition. A pull-up occurred during infighting between the members. Whatever the cause, the race that started so strong has become a struggle. All the goodwill found early on in the hearts of the planters has dissipated over time. Now the church is just trying to hold on.
When a church faces a crisis of identity, they either double down on what they are doing wrong or begin anew in a different direction. The record of achievement only will be known in the one church that lives or dies, and even then, only eternity will know which one produced the good fruit.
So ask yourself: Will my local church change or keep doing the same thing, expecting different results?
Find Your Purpose
Plaques, trophies, and other hardware show what the church used to be, but today the established church is bleeding members, aging as a population, and has lost most of its missional zeal. But that does not have to be the ending point. Use the negative feeling as a warning sign to change and adapt to the demographics and needs currently experienced by the community just steps from the steeple of your church.
Walking the halls of your church, what do you sense is the purpose of your church? To help members? Serve in the community? Reach the lost? Share the gospel? The church cannot go in the community as lay missionaries until it knows why it should go in the first place.
Regardless if you are a pastor or a lay member of the church, you have an obligation to begin to evaluate, observe, and talk through who the church is today and where you want her to be in the future. Conversations will lead to conversions down the road if the church is willing to find its purpose.
Find Your Passion
What you are passionate about will be lived out. So, what is your local church’s passion? While just a building, the church is made up of wonderful, passionate Jesus followers like you. There are things that the church people are passionate about that have to be delineated. Sometimes passion is seen in tradition, dedicated rooms, or special nameplates on furniture. Whatever the church’s current passion is, it is there to be evaluated.
Instead of the passion being on things, God wants the passion to be for winning the lost, discipling the multitude, and walking in obedience with Him. Derive the passion from what is attainable and use it in your local context. For instance, you may see a homeless person on a street corner, and you know the local community kitchen needs volunteers. You can take your knowledge of the problem, combine it with your passion for serving others, and be the hands and feet of Jesus in helping the homeless.
It does not take a lot of money or time to be effective. On the other hand, it does take a passion for propelling the church forward into the community.
Find Your Position
Many established churches are shells of their former glory. They have a large building footprint but a small footprint compared to the average weekly attendance. With the average size of the church smaller today than it was 10 years ago, the church cannot do what it did in the past. Simply replicating the former glory days will not help the church turnaround. It will instead quicken the pace toward closure.
While the position of the past does not dictate the missional health of the church today, you can use it to lay a strong foundation for future missional outreach. The community does not need nor want the grand, glorious buildings or programs of the past, but a people who will accept the unacceptable, care for the aging and love orphans of the community. Using the limited resources the church has in a narrowly focused way can meet the community’s needs through a missional church.
While the church may feel winded by the race she’s run up to this point, the church still has more in her tank to give. This leg of the church’s journey is not an ending or even a detour from the missional call, but I see it as a portion of the race where all the past training will pay off.