I have a theory about churches that are in need of revitalization. My theory goes something like this: Somewhere along the line, these churches lost sight of the Kingdom of God and began focusing primarily on keeping their own doors open. In a church that is struggling to pay the bills from month to month, it’s easy to understand why the focus may turn inward.
So, one of your most important (and most challenging) tasks as a replanter will be to refocus your church’s vision beyond the walls of your own building. In the churches I’ve served and the conversations I’ve had with church revitalization pastors, I’ve seen three things that happen when we lose sight of the larger kingdom of God in favor of building up the kingdom of our local churches.
When we are focused inward, people become commodities
God values people, so we should value them as well. However, I’m afraid we can begin valuing them in the wrong ways. For instance, when you are struggling to meet your monthly budget receipts, each new family who walks in the door can begin to represent nothing more than dollar signs – “Hey look! A new family! I hope they give today!” While I’ve never met a pastor on the planet who would vocalize that, I’ve pastored long enough to know those are thoughts that race through our minds. Right? No? Just me? Ok. Moving on.
When we are focused inward, other churches are seen as enemies
Read these words carefully: the other churches in your community are not your competition. OK, now re-read that sentence. Got it? Just for good measure, read it a third time. If your church experienced a split at some point in the past, it’s possible there are large numbers of people who were once members of your church who are now attending another church. Even so, that church is not the enemy. They are brothers and sisters in Christ and we need each other. There is too much darkness in our world to be worrying about who has a higher attendance in Sunday school or who is giving more to Lottie Moon. We desperately need other kingdom-focused churches in our communities to be strong. (Note: I will make one exception to this statement. If there is a church actively involved in sheep-stealing, while that still doesn’t make them the enemy, that is something that needs to be addressed between your church’s leadership and their leadership. No one is called to build a congregation to the detriment of other congregations).
When we focus inward, we lose sight of the Great Commission
Generally speaking, churches that are focused inward are not reaching people for Christ. Why? Because usually lost people aren’t beating down the doors to our churches. Instead, they’re in our neighborhoods and our grocery stores and the cubicle or the office next to ours. Why are they not in our churches? Maybe because no one has invited them. Or maybe it’s because they just don’t get what church is all about because they have no idea they are lost and in need of a saving relationship with Christ Jesus. So hear me replanter: if you want to reach the community, you’ve got to meet them they are.
Get to know the staff at your local coffee shop. Get to know the folks behind the counter at the Dairy Queen or McDonald’s. Learn some of the checkers’ names at Wal-Mart. Meet your neighbors. This will take some time, but it will also allow you to get to know the people in your community who desperately need a saving relationship with Christ. And you can’t simply get to know them with the goal that they will eventually come to your church. If that is your only goal, they will see right through that veneer. The ultimate goal is not that we can introduce them to our church, but that we can introduce them to our Savior. If they end up coming to our church, that’s just icing on the cake.
Take stock of your church. Are you focused inward or outward? What steps can you take today to begin turning your church’s focus outward? For more on making a Kingdom impact, I highly recommend “Kingdom First” by Jeff Christopherson.,
Published January 29, 2019