“The stress in these passages of sacred biography should be laid upon the words, ‘by faith.’ The mighty deeds of heroes and the obedient acts of pilgrim fathers are only told to us because they spring out of faith.” – Charles Spurgeon¹
When you stop and think about people you have known or read about who lived by radical faith in the Lord, who comes to your mind? What are some of the ways these individuals sought to walk by faith and not by sight, day in and day out? In the same way, can you think of specific Christian leaders you have known or read about who led others by radical faith? What did this faith look like in their leadership over the years?
Leading with faith is a critical component in shepherding a church that is declining or dying. Hebrews 11, which is often called “the faith chapter,” shows us some of the godliest people in Scripture, all of whom lived and led by radical faith in the Lord. Noah, Moses, Abraham, Jacob, David, Samuel and the Prophets of the Old Testaments, among others, trusted God in a way that the world would have seen as absolutely foolish. These individuals had radical faith. They believed God and God showed His faithfulness to them.
Today, we as revitalizers and replanters can learn a lot from these men and women. They not only show us what it means to live by faith, but also what it means to lead with faith. Hebrews 11:6 tells us it is impossible to please God or to live the life that God has made us to live apart from a sold-out faith in Him:
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”
God is faithful to us, and He calls us to believe Him, to trust Him, and to live by faith in all that He is. This is true in our personal lives, but it is also true as we lead in church revitalization.
What is biblical faith?
There are many different thoughts and ideas on what it actually means to have faith. But we aren’t interested in just anyone’s thoughts and ideas on this topic. We are interested in the truth. This is why we need to know God’s thoughts and ideas on faith—what it is and what it isn’t, according to the Bible.
When we go to the Scripture, we see that biblical faith is trusting that God—with all of His attributes and all of His actions—is who He says He is, did what He said He did, and will do what He says He will do in accordance with His Word. We can understand biblical faith in the form of a simple equation:
Biblical faith = Belief + Action
Biblical faith is not just belief. It is not simply acknowledging that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. Biblical faith involves moving forward, acting on our beliefs with radical trust and dependence on our God who is faithful to keep His promises. It is trusting the Lord and moving forward with assurance and conviction. When we walk by faith in ministry, we bank on God’s steadfast love and faithfulness in both our own lives and in the lives of our churches.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)
In accordance with Hebrews 11:1, biblical faith leads us, as revitalizers and replanters, to move forward humbly yet confidently, believing that God is not done with dying churches! God is sovereign over all things—past, present and future—and He loves to display His strength in weakness. God loves to do the impossible, like breathing new life and vitality into a church most people have given up on. In faith, we move forward with assurance and conviction, trusting that God is in control. After all, this is His church, not ours. He loves His church far more than you or I ever could. He died for it.
Revitalization is impossible without faith
While assuredly we need faith in every area of Christian ministry, it is absolutely imperative that pastors walk by faith and lead with faith in church revitalization. We are walking into church situations in which many will tell you, “You’re crazy! There’s no hope in this. Why would you give your life to that dying church? Why would you go there and waste all your time and energy with folks who may never want to change?”
Take heart. Put your faith in God. A.W. Tozer wisely explains,
Remember that faith is not a noble quality found only in superior men. It is not a virtue attainable by a limited few. It is not the ability to persuade ourselves that black is white or that something we desire will come to pass if we only wish hard enough. Faith is simply the bringing of our minds into accord with the truth. It is adjusting our expectations to the promises of God in complete assurance that the God of the whole earth cannot lie. Man looks at a mountain and affirms, “That is a mountain.” There is no particular virtue in the affirmation. It is simply accepting the fact that stands before him and bringing his belief into accord with the fact. The man does not create the mountain by believing, nor could he annihilate it by denying. And so with the truth of God. The believing man accepts a promise of God as a fact as solid as a mountain and vastly more enduring. His faith changes nothing except his own personal relation to the word of promise. God’s Word is true whether we believe it or not. Human unbelief cannot alter the character of God.
Faith is subjective, but it is sound only when it corresponds with objective reality. The man’s faith in the mountain is valid only because the mountain is there; otherwise it would be mere imagination and would need to be sharply corrected to rescue the man from harmful delusion. So God is what He is in Himself. He does not become what we believe. “I AM That I AM.” We are on safe ground only when we know what kind of God He is and adjust our entire being to the holy concept.²
Here then is how we should respond: “Why would I go into a dying church and seek to lead it back to health and vitality? Because I believe in a God who is faithful and true. I believe in a God who redeems broken things for His glory. And I am going to bank my life and ministry on that very truth as it pertains to His church.”
What drives us in revitalization? Our faith. We believe God can do what He says He will do. We know He can bring dying churches back to life for His glory. More than that, we believe He wants to! He can breathe new life into the hearts of saints who are tired, weary and downcast, while instilling within them a fresh, vibrant passion for Christ and the gospel.
God is looking for faith-filled leaders. Leaders who have faith, not in their own ability, but in His ability to bring dying churches back to life.
This post originally appeared at Mark’s blog.
¹ C.H. Spurgeon, “The Hiding of Moses by Faith,” spugeongems.org, accessed November 12, 2018, http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols22-24/chs1421.pdf
² A.W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian: How Heaven’s Children Live on Earth, (Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Wing Spread Publishers, 1964) 22.
Published April 21, 2023