When we look around today’s churches, we notice that many of them serve the same purpose as a stylish coffin. Their structures are little more than nicely painted enclosures that once housed something alive. If you wait long enough, you might hear a narrative about “the good old days” of busy Sundays and people encountering Jesus. Isn’t that similar to a funeral, talking about what happened while the individual was alive? When individuals reminisce about what their church used to do rather than what it is doing today, it is an indication that the church is dying.
It’s also not a novel notion to have a lifeless church. As Jesus talks to the church at Sardis in the book of Revelation, He names one, stating,
“I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive — but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1)
“But we go to Church every Sunday!”
There are many churches nowadays that appear to be alive. People congregate there. There are people who pray there. People are generous there. New people, on the other hand, aren’t arriving, and if they do, they’re not staying. People aren’t able to locate Jesus.
Unfortunately, many of these abandoned churches are adamant about not changing (or be buried). They are frequently family-owned and run, risk-averse, and inward-focused. The Gospel is pushed to the back burner by tradition, and despite years of weekend meetings, visitors remain few. Few, if any, individuals have the opportunity to encounter Jesus.
“Is there a solution to this?”
Yes, there is. There is a means to get healthy as well as a means to resurrect a dead church. When Jesus’ friend Lazarus grows ill and dies, we get a depiction of this in John 11:
“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days. Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:39-40, ESV)
“So how can we help?”
· Push away the stone
Pastors frequently reject change for the same reason Martha refused to remove the stone: no one like dealing with stench. Bringing a defunct church back to life necessitates a willingness to face the unpalatable. Demise reeks of lifeless ministries, unhappy leadership, and non-resonant worship services. “Let us expose this and deal with it,” Jesus said as he commanded the people to remove the stone. Sure, keeping stinking things hidden away in a tomb is simpler, but the easy thing and the right thing aren’t often identical. Avoiding disagreement and confrontation breeds ineptitude, which spreads throughout the team and, finally, the entire church.
Removing gravestones gives people a new perspective. It compels you to confront the problem. Rolling back stones to disclose what’s behind requires bravery and a lot of prayer. It is not until a team can be honest about what’s behind the stone that they can begin the path to health, vitality, and, finally, a church resurrection.
· Put your faith in the Lord
When Martha refused to comply with Jesus’ request, he said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?” Finally, we must believe that God desires for our churches to be healthy. He desires for our churches to serve as a crossroads for the Gospel. He’s on our team! This is why, even when things don’t make sense, we must trust God. We, like Martha, must trust that God only wants the best for us – and He knows better than we do.
We can easily be deceived and allow our behaviors to drive us into spiritual death if we don’t know the Bible and stick to the fundamentals of Christian faith. We are not saved by attending church services, contributing to the destitute, or praying for the sick. These are unintended consequences of religion. We are saved because we believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, and He died on the cross for our sins. We become a new creature through Christ, and the old existence is buried as a result of our faith. We are dead in our sin if we are not living for Christ.
· Be a good human being thus being a good Christian
It doesn’t matter if someone else thinks we’re a good Christian- what counts is if our name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. We may deceive others, but we will never deceive God! He recognizes those who are obedient to His Word and live in accordance with it. He knew there were a few at Sardis who had not “defiled their garments” despite the immoral majority of the church.
· Communicate with the Pastors and Congregation
You’ll very certainly find that the pastor is on your side. The life of a pastor isn’t easy, and it doesn’t pay well either. Despite this, some accept the call because they really wish to assist others in deepening and strengthening their faith. If something doesn’t seem right at church, if there’s a sense of emptiness, it’s not because the pastor likes it that way. Listen to him if you want to comprehend this church. He knows the members of the congregation better than anybody else, as well as what prayer groups, programmes, and book studies have worked in the past.
Take the initiative and make contact. If you observe someone who attends midweek services on a regular basis, or anything that gives you a hint, and approach them to strike up a discussion. Check to see whether you’re reading the same books, or share something special that happened during worship. Construct bridges.
The next section may shock you, so be prepared: these folks may not be your age. They may not dress in ways that you find appealing. They may not read as much or as widely as you do, or they may not read the same books. You could notice a bumper sticker you don’t like if you go with them to their car. Don’t get thrown off by these things. Things that were first off-putting might alter and become endearing as you become fond of someone. There’s a good chance that some of these persons will be tiny old ladies. That’s alright. Someone with decades of prayer experience could be just what you need right now in your life. Also, old ladies may be quite fascinating at times.
Every day, pray through a page or two of the church directory. Restart when you reach the finish. Invite your church mates to join you in praying for each person individually. Don’t pray for God to transform your fellow worshipers; simply remember them, as St. Paul did
“I remember you constantly in my prayers” [2 Tim. 1:3];
“I remember you in my prayers” [Philem. 1:4]). Lift up their names to the Lord, who knows what they need better than you.
Of course, you can include specific requests for prayer, such as healing, if you are aware of them. Let the pastor know that he can share any prayer requests with you and your friends that he deems appropriate. Praying through the directory has the added benefit of teaching you the names of everyone in the congregation. It will assist you in recalling who is married to whom, whose children belong to which family, and so on.
Continue to pray through the parish directory, raising up each individual by name, and you’ll notice that something has shifted inside you. Your fellow devotees will eventually cease to seem to you as a tangle of indistinct faces. Instead, they will be exposed as they have always been: distinct people, each of whom is intimately known and loved by Christ. The congregation is a mosaic made up of innumerable faces, rather than a solid block of stone.
That’s how spiritual progress usually goes: you recognize something you’ve known all along. Before you came through the door, Christ was already present and working in these lives. He had already begun to love each of them and was drawing them closer to Himself. And, thankfully, they are folks who already attend church on a regular basis. A lyric from a hymn, a passage from the Bible, or a sermon example can be precisely what they need. It is your responsibility to pray. With time, you’ll observe additional pious and dedicated members of the church that you may have previously neglected. They may have been previously undetectable to you due to superficial variables such as dress and age.
A chemical shift occurs as time passes and church members who are devout and deliberate find one other. They recognize that inside the church, they form a living community. They have the impression that they are supported by each other’s prayers. They come to worship with the intention of loving and serving God. They are accompanied by a sense of warmth and illumination, which begins to pervade worship. Others can sense it, too, even those you’d previously dismissed. Everyone desires life, and Christ is life. Faith’s warmth is appealing in the same way that a magnet is appealing, and it attracts others forward. You’re approaching a tipping point where the light of Christ becomes so pervasive that the Sunday morning worship experience is altered.
· Reforming Oneself
Similarly to how external moralistic changes cannot transform the human heart, external changes to a church’s programs or structures cannot revitalize a church. Try bending a metal rod without first heating it. It will either completely resist change or split in half.
Only the gospel can bring about internal change in a believer’s life. As people learn more about God and what he has done, they become more ready to stretch themselves to reach out to others. There are times when you should advocate for change and other times when you should just proclaim Jesus. Knowing what to do when necessitates intelligence. A church that has forgotten its “first love” (Rev. 2:1-10) will be forced to make even the most painful reforms in order to finish the mission.
· Be aware of the power of the Lord
Be heartened by the fact that God never forgets about your faithfulness. On the other hand, we must remember that He is aware of every act of evil and cruelty that occurs in this world. Don’t be discouraged if you believe that evil and corruption are more powerful than our Savior, Jesus Christ. Those who triumph will walk with Him clad in white, and He will never wipe our name from the book of life, according to verse 4! What a relief to know that no matter what we encounter, nothing or no one has the power to wipe our names clean!
Resurrecting a dead church necessitates making difficult decisions. Despite the stink, we must put our faith in Jesus and obey his commands. He is pleading with churches to come forward. It starts with removing the stone and dealing openly with what is beneath it, followed by resurrection. Those who approach church as if it were a store may never be satisfied, but those who commit and endure may see a desert blossom. There is resurrection where Christ is. You may help a congregation come to life by identifying and befriending spiritually strong church members, following the pastor’s vision, and praying for the job God is already accomplishing.
Churches don’t have to die. Every church, I believe, has hope, but it will take significant effort. Revitalization is seldom quick and sometimes necessitates difficult decisions. But there is no greater activity in which to be involved than rejuvenating a dying church in order for God to miraculously bring it back to life.