A Great Commission approach to reaching North America is not either church planting or church revitalization; it is a both/and commitment. An honest look at the church in North America (and in much of the world, for that matter) reveals an obvious need for church revitalization. At the same time, we need church planting, especially as an average of 75 churches in America close their doors each week. Here are eight requirements for revitalizing the church that can then lead to healthy church planting.
1. Eyes of faith. Unless we genuinely believe that Jesus will build his church over against the devil’s opposition (Matt. 16:18), the task of revitalization will be overwhelming. Apart from faith, we will focus on the challenge and not on the God who is bigger than the challenge.
2. A deep love for the church. This truth we must hear: Trying to revitalize a church we do not love seldom works. Instead, it reduces the people of God to a project.
3. An admission that the church is not healthy. Church leaders and church members must be willing to face a “wake up” moment of reality. A church’s health will not improve unless we first accept the diagnosis of a problem.
4. Preparation for the battle. The church has too often become a place to retreat from the world rather than a place to re-arm for the battle. Revitalizing church leaders make sure they’re wearing the full armor of God (Eph 6:10-17).
5. Revival among the leaders, beginning with the preaching/senior pastor. Even those who are blessed to lead God’s church must admit that our fire for God sometimes burned more brightly than it does today—especially if our church is now struggling. As long as our own deepest delight in God is now past tense, revitalization must begin first with us.
6. Proactive prayer. For most churches, we pray more in response to problems than in preparation for what God might do. God brings new vigor, however, to those who seek him with gut-wrenching longing and proactive praying. Renewal thus begins in our prayer closet rather than our staff conference room.
7. Commitment to see one repentant life at a time. Our role in revitalization is not about changing the whole church; it is about influencing individuals who combined are the church. Our responsibility is to focus on igniting one spark at a time and then trusting God to produce a fire that fully engulfs His church.
8. Renewed emphasis on evangelism, discipleship and church planting. With that finding, we have now come full circle in this post. Inwardly focused churches that desperately seek God return to the centrality of the Great Commission when renewal comes. Members begin to evangelize as they see again the spiritual lostness of their neighbors and co-workers. Making disciples becomes a priority. Planting churches turns out to be a joy rather than a threat to our own church’s growth.
What requirements would you add to this list?