Starting Over

rebuild the church

As we rebuild from the pandemic, these three principles are precisely what pastors need to remember.

The pandemic has left a lot of churches a shell of who they once were. The average church in North America is running less than 100 people, and on a good Sunday, most run half of that. Each Sunday, pastors stand in the pulpit, look out over half-empty sanctuaries and ponder the local church’s fate. If one were to wander around the church facilities for long, they would find outdated classrooms with toys that look like they belong in a yard sale, along with old Sunday school literature from years past. All around the church, you can find nameplates with names that many don’t remember, and there is a sense that change has not entered the church doors for several decades. 

While the rubble of the past rises while the church’s hopes and dreams to survive are slowly dying. I’m reminded of the book of Nehemiah, where he is called to the task of rebuilding the wall. There were times of disappointment and challenge, yet he never let up on the call on his life.  While the facility and grounds look like it’s from a past era of Christianity, the church is very much alive. Every day, pastors and lay leaders strive to do their best to rebuild the church using pieces of the past while holding to God’s promises in their hearts for the people and community around them.

There are three key components that Nehemiah teaches amid the rubble that is precisely what pastors need to remember when they find themselves amid the ruins: vision, connection, and perseverance.

Share and celebrate the vision

A significant component in a turnaround is all the negative voices that push back against all the change. For far too long, members have gotten used to the church’s smell, look, and feel and have forgotten to view the church through guests’ eyes. In rebuilding from the rubble, the pastor needs to share God’s vision for the church, including preparing for future growth. This part can be painful as people begin to doubt the turnaround, challenge the changes, and try to return to comfortable. 

Nehemiah kept sharing each day through conversations with small and large groups the positives of what was taking place while guarding the people against the attacks coming from below. The church revitalizer, too, must protect the people from the pain of others by spreading positive news and stopping the opposing talk from carrying much weight, all while keeping the church focused on moving forward by celebrating victories small and large that are taking place.

Connecting with people and programs

When Nehemiah arrived to rebuild the wall, he was shocked at the destruction. The once fortified city had seen her walls breached and scarred with black soot from the fire that burned. After assessing the situation, Nehemiah began developing teams of families to step into the breach and start the early task of using current resources to rebuild and obtain new supplies of people and material to reconstruct the breach. 

Like Nehemiah, before the pastor has to assess the current state of the church and help the people understand the desperate need that they find themselves in. Develop a list of usable resources within the church to recreate a fresh perspective and remove unwanted clutter to intentionally redesign classroom space for future outside use. And expanding community connections with other nonprofits developing a community hub inside the church where citizens know the church is there for them and where possibilities are more important than programs.

Persevere to attain the promise

Nehemiah faced major opposition from people, and I imagine it was painful to hear and see. What should have taken years to rebuild, the wall got rebuilt in 52 days. It is a reminder that when people are working together for a common purpose, God can use the faithfulness of his people to do extraordinary things. When a church begins to rebuild from the past, people will try to slow down or stop altogether the good works that the Lord has called the church to achieve. That is when the pastor and the leadership have to preserve to attain God’s promises for the local church.

In the infancy of a turnaround, the devil fights the hardest, as it becomes an easy time to discourage, dissuade, or even dismiss a turnaround. The leadership, to be successful, must maintain a prayerful and positive posture that encourages the people to keep pressing forward even when things look bleak. Nehemiah had each worker carry their sword at the ready as they worked, and it’s a reminder to the church needing revitalization that a praying people can defeat back the forces of evil for God’s good. 

It is easy to become discouraged when a leader looks from the pulpit and sees fewer and fewer people weekly. However, Nehemiah shows that God is still at work even in the darkest hour of ministry if the local church’s leadership will look for God.

From Outreach Magazine  Prepare to Reconnect with Your Community