I’m afraid that too many pastors and churches are operating without a proven system of discipling people and caring for people. You cannot build a healthy church without having workable systems in place.
As I travel extensively across America I use this opportunity to ask pertinent questions to pastors and leaders, questions concerning their local church ministry. One of my first questions deals with the process they are following in their churches to make it balanced and healthy. I am blown away by most responses. In short, if a church had a working process, the pastor could easily articulate it and excitedly explain the functions when asked. If they had not designed a process, they usually didn’t understood the question, or began to fumble, trying to make it up along the way until finally, I already knew the answer: They did not have one.
I was sitting at a table with a pastor at a nice restaurant one day. He requested this meeting to discuss the practical ways of developing a healthy church. “We need a move of God, and we need it now” was the way he approached the subject. His statement made me uncomfortable because I knew where this would typically take us. I asked the pastor, “What is your congregation’s vision?” Without flinching, he said, “Our vision is revival; we are desperately seeking revival!”
It felt as though the blood drained out of my head. Of course, I understand we all desire a move of God, but if all we want to do is sit back and wait for something supernatural to happen, it may never come. After all, Jesus never told us we should wait for people to come, He said we should Go, and make disciples. To do that, we should begin by training our members in evangelism, organize substantial prayer, and start getting a process in place for when the people come. Revival does not just happen, but when it does, we should be ready to accommodate the harvest and provide the essential care for them to develop personally and grow spiritually.
When the church I pastored experienced a divine visitation of God’s Presence we saw more than 4,000 people make a commitment to Christ over only nine weeks. This was the result of an extensive prayer process among the church members and not the mere desire of the leadership. Among several other things, our prayer initiative included a 24-hour prayer room—168 hours of prayer, non-stop every week, led by my wife. I realize God can do whatever is needed, whenever He wants, but prayerful preparation has always been a prerequisite for any move of God.
A few years ago, I made it a point to involve pastors in engaging conversations regarding the state of the church in the 21st century. The knowledge I gained from these many discussions caused me think intensely and made me dig deeper into what churches are facing. Often, these discussions became distressing. I was quite frankly shocked to discover so many well-meaning pastors and churches who were merely going through the motions and being seemingly content with where they were regarding managing their churches. In many cases, they could not remember when they last saw someone saved. Those who were still winning the lost could rarely give any account of those who accepted Christ. Questions concerning discipleship were responded to, in many cases, as though it belonged to a by-gone era. And let me be clear: This was not the case in all churches, and neither was it the case in only small churches.
It’s amazing how history tends to repeat itself, even for the church. Just like during the first reformation, there is once again a swelling tide of restlessness in the church-world. I believe God is preparing us for another transformation, another grave, but necessary makeover. Something new is about to be birthed. And just as a newborn child entails significant adjustments in a household, so this re-applied truth requires some of our traditional thinking to change. Among the qualities we will most certainly have to restore at-large is the fact that ministry is meant to be a shared effort between vocational ministers and church members alike. And this means more than people just volunteering in some minor role. It refers to actual functions of ministry, which in the past, for the more significant part, were exclusively held by credentialed ministers. Through involving people in ministry-partnership, incredible enthusiasm is going to be released, which will become the catalyst for significant numbers of individuals participating in building the church.
The sleeping giant called the body of Christ is rising to take its rightful position. This breath of fresh air we are talking about is God’s intentional means of having the saints arise and letting the church be the church! We can already see positive results through churches building community through developing meaningful relationships and strategically bonding people with each other. Developing relationships is becoming the catalyst for restoring strong interconnection among church members that will result in new life. It’s starting to surface more and more as the experts of church strategy are referring to a vacuum in churches and enthusiastically recommending how we could get back to basics and pay attention to the principles Jesus taught.
Something is stirring, and we have the glorious opportunity to respond.
Dr. John Bosman has been a pastor for most of his adult life and now leads an international ministry consulting with churches about effective pastoral care. This article is an excerpt from his book, The Care Revolution: A Proven New Paradigm for Pastoral Care.