I ended the post with these words:
Ongoing revitalization is a battle; but it is a battle which can be won.
Our churches are not condemned to grow old and die.
Here’s what I’ve learned from churches which overcome “ecclesiastical gravity” and keep thriving, year after year:
Their senior leaders prioritize ongoing, personal revival.
I believe that churches live or die with the pastor’s devotional life.
After leaving the prayer closets which they love so dearly, these pastors:
Don’t take themselves overly seriously. They do take the joy of their salvation, which requires ongoing repentance, (Psalm 51:12) very seriously.
Are determined to “choose joy,” as the Apostle Paul describes in his letter to the Philippians and to “keep their spiritual fervor” as the same writer urges in Romans 12:10.
Are determined to keep learning and growing. Somebody taught them that leaders are learners, learners are leaders and leaders are readers. They insist that their church’s leadership team keeps its “learning loop” wide open; listening to outsiders as well as each other.
They keep their churches laser-focused on disciple-making.
There are so many ways to get off track, aren’t there? Politics, social issues, doctrinal disagreements, denominational distinctives, social justice, good works in the community…to name a few.
Having an evangelism or disciple-making committee or team usually means that we’re missing it. The whole church is a disciple-making team. Vibrant churches get it, practice it and don’t let anything take them off course. They get, and keep, disciple-making into their discipleship paradigm, fearlessly teaching that evangelism is a vital part of every Christian life.
They fight the spring-loaded switch.
As I shared in Why All Churches Need Ongoing Revitalization, a spring-loaded switch exerts strong pressure in every congregation to turn inward. The best leaders work continually – through preaching, programing and personal example – to see that their congregations remain outwardly focused.
They get and stay excited about the power and presence of Christ in their churches.
We can have “Jesus Christ, obviously present and actively in charge” of our churches (Oliver Price). He is our righteousness, our first love, our life, our strength and our leader. Because of the powerful presence of Christ Himself, every church can be a great church.
They get and stay excited about the Christian gospel.
Our message is the best news that our neighbors could possibly hear. It was in the first century and it still is. If we can’t get excited about this message, there is something wrong with us.
They train “young eagles” and let them fly.
Young potential leaders need their church’s senior leaders to nurture and train them, but those senior leaders have just as great a need for the young eagles to keep them fresh. It’s trying the way they challenge our patience but it’s important that they challenge our thinking.
They make incremental change normal and expected.
Ongoing, incremental, carefully implemented change is life-giving. With enough good-humored teaching on the subject and with the positive experience of some well-executed changes, congregations can actually learn to expect and enjoy incremental change.
They fight against building-inertia-complacency.