A revitalizing church needs a course correction. At lunch today I heard about a church in my area with over a thousand seats and just 150 members to fill them. Each seat was at one point filled (back in the 60's). This church is not alone. Here in the Bible belt, many steeples sit on top of used-to-be-full church buildings. How does such a drop happen?
It starts by getting off course (losing a Jesus-centered focus). It stays by never correcting (refocusing specifically on the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus).
Something to note: Getting off course is a problem, but it's not the biggest problem.
Anything run by people will inevitably get off course. The major issue is going months, years, and decades without correcting course and thus ending up at the wrong destination.
If a plane takes off and heads just a few degrees South of where it's supposed to be heading, eventually, given enough time and distance, it will be on the opposite end of the world of it's intended destination.
Same is true with the church. If we are even a little bit off in our emphasis, and we don't course-correct by pointing back towards Jesus, we will miss the point.
Emphasizing Jesus is Correctional
When Jesus isn't front and center, we get off course in two particular areas that cause a subtle but definite decay: our concepts and our systems. Worshiping Jesus corrects our course and lands us safely.
Off-course: We (the church) gather, we hate darkness, and we're a remnant of a better society.
Emphasizing Jesus: We go, we love the Light, and we're participants in the redemption of society.
Off-course: Church decisions are made that make us comfortable, idolatry of old programs (thus, no new programs introduced), a leader does the ministry.
Emphasizing Jesus: Decisions are made based on the needs of our area, new programs are implemented to meet those needs, and leaders equip those in the pews to do the ministry.
Do you see how emphasizing Jesus makes the correction and will, eventually, change your direction?
Emphasizing Jesus is Motivational
FYI, to revitalize the Biblical concept of church and re-implement Jesus-centered systems is typically pretty uncomfortable for a church used to fading away.
At Griggs, revitalizing hasn’t been entirely comfortable. There have been good but hard Saturdays full of work. There have been people we’ve poured into who seemed to be committed that have randomly left. There have been services disrupted by intoxicated attendees.
If you're looking to revitalize, which starts with emphasizing Jesus and living like him, you will disrupt all that is comfortable about your remaining congregation. Make no mistake, someone is going to leave, something awkward will happen, some hard work will be required of you.
So where will your church get the inspiration to keep revitalizing? I hate to go Sunday School on you, but the answer again is your renewed emphasis on Jesus.
The Jesus we love was unceasingly interacting with people who were less than comfortable to be around. I’m talking about people like tax-collectors, lepers and the demon possessed.
Further, Jesus interacts with us! WE are just as sinful and uncomfortable as anyone else. Yet, he did the hard work of taking up his cross for us.
The more we dwell on this, the more motivated we are to take up our cross and revitalize our churches no matter how uncomfortable the process.
There will be some turbulence but if you'll emphasize Jesus you'll at least be flying the right direction.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sparreenger/