As a church revitalizer, I’m beginning to see revitalization all throughout Scripture. Nowhere is it more evident in than in the coming of the Messiah. Four hundred years of silence and sameness is suddenly broken when God interrupted the life of a has-been couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth. Then a young teenage girl and her espoused husband Joseph allowed their perfect wedding plans to be trashed.
And out of those initial meetings, the gears of radical change began moving. For those living in darkness, a great light shines. For those living in grief and sorrow, gladness is given. For the spiritually hungry and thirsty, spiritual bread and everlasting water is given. And for all of us guilty of sin, forgiveness and pardon are granted through Jesus Christ.
As we pray and look to Christ during this season, God is stirring His Church to awaken and follow Him in the new year. So many churches are on life support or struggling to maintain the status quo. The need for change is everywhere in our ministries, missions and methods. We know it and feel it, but we struggle in leading our congregations to change. Let me assure you change is possible. Here are a few elements that will help.
We must be willing and we must believe that we can triumphantly join Christ in the renewal of His Church. God is on mission, and we are called to join Him. Many of us lose that vision to which we were called, and the results are sadly predictable. Renewing our love of and passion for Christ is essential to revitalization. All the key players we see in the Christmas story said yes to God. They were willing to offer their bodies, lives and reputations – everything – so that the will of God would be fulfilled.
We must also learn how to shepherd the flock. It has been said that change doesn’t kill us, the transition does. Knowing how to lead a congregation forward is an acquired skill for most of us. A good place to begin change is by mobilizing the willing to join you in passionate prayer for revitalization. Commit yourself to the task and skillfully work with your leaders first then your congregations to institute small changes today that will result in greater opportunities tomorrow. Sheep are not driven but led. Learn the difference. Consult with other pastors as to how they were able to navigate their congregations from the mundane to the miraculous.
Remember the Christmas story. It all started with some unassuming people: an old couple, a teenage girl and a carpenter who were willing to follow God – and God used them to accomplish something miraculous.
Bruce James serves as the director of evangelism and church growth for the Baptist Convention of New England.