Revitalizing a church is fun. It’s more fun than I could ever imagine. It brings me great joy to pastor Griggs because the people of Griggs bring me great joy. And I’m not just saying that - they’re awesome!
Is there anything difficult about it? Sure. There are some tricky parts. One tricky part is fighting what I’ll call the battle of two thoughts.
When I graduated college I lived in Greenville for the summer before moving out to Seattle (and then eventually back to Greenville). That first summer in Greenville (2010) was incredible. My friend Austin Patton and I basically traveled all over the south East. Every Friday around 11 one of us would text the other the name of a city. My phone would buzz and it would be a message from Austin that just said “Atlanta.” Within 30 minutes we were on 85.
On these trips our main goal was to eat. And after several meals together Austin noticed that I always got two things. I didn’t even realize I was doing it - but it was true. Like if we were on the road and had to stop through a drive through on our way to the real restaurants of Charleston I would get a burger AND a chicken sandwich. Or a burrito AND a taco. It’s like I couldn’t decide what I really wanted so I would just get two things. It became a running joke throughout the summer. FYI, since then I’ve quit that habit, mostly due to its expensive nature.
Here’s some food for thought: thoughts are different than food. You may be able to eat two things at once, but you can’t be driven by two thoughts at once. When our minds can’t decide between two thoughts eventually they have to pick one. Make sure you pick the right one.
The battle of two thoughts for revitalizing the church is the strain of picking between the following:
You can think, "We will love people and our church will grow."
You can think, "We will grow and then our church will love people."
When you’re in the trenches of ministry these two thoughts can be interchanged without effort. They seem so similar while you’re deep in your work. When you take a step back however, you realize that though these thoughts are so similar at first, in the end they breed very different cultures. Even different results.
The first thought is what you want in your mind all the time. This is where real, Jesus-like ministry takes place. This is the thought that got you into ministry in the first place.
This thought is blessed because it lays a gospel foundation. Whatever you “build" your church on (theologically speaking Jesus builds the church) you have to maintain it on. Therefore, build it on the greatest thing you can - love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.
It may be slow, it may be gradual, it may be hard to see at times, but if this thought drives us, we will bear fruit.
The second thought can get you into trouble. But if I’m not careful I end up thinking it at times. Why? Because it can quickly, emphatically bring about what appears to be fruit. “Appears" being the key word.
What actually happens when this thought drives us is spiritual abuse.
We get lazy with our hermeneutics. We preach what we want our people to do for our organization, not what Jesus wants people to do for him. We start using people for their spiritual gifts, rather than letting Jesus use their spiritual gifts. We start counting people, without being someone they count on.
And it doesn’t even dawn on us that we’re doing this because the motive is actually kinda good - we want to grow so that we can love people.
But growth is like money - it’s never really enough. So we never get around to that loving people part. Thus, we go through people faster than donuts at Sunday School.
We need to keep that first thought the only thought!
So what should we be doing? As a pastor in a revitalizing church what should I be doing? What do I want my church to be doing? What do I want my leaders to be doing?
Do whatever you can for whoever is right in front of you.
- Don’t worry about who didn’t show up to the service, worry about the person who did.
- Don’t grab coffee with the guy you think should be committed, grab coffee with the people who are committed.
- Don’t use people to get more people to come, calling it evangelism. Love people in the name of Jesus and they will learn to share that love, which actually is evangelism.
Love people and the church will grow.
Photo Attributed to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ricoslounge/