ALLEN PARK, MI – In the eight years of being a pastor, my focus has been on revitalizing churches. In the last two and a half years in my current position of Senior Pastor of the Southfield Road Baptist Church, we have been in a continued effort to revitalize our church which means breaking through the church culture that is no longer effective. This year alone through the work of God we have seen a 33% growth rate and a 280% increase in baptisms.
Many of our churches are struggling because they cannot seem to let go of the Church culture from the good old days, and embrace new ways of reaching those both inside and outside of the church. The struggle of evolving the Church culture from the past is real, and undoubtedly a major factor in the struggle to go into the world to make disciples, baptize, and to disciple its members. It is also the single reason that churches struggle to maintain relevance in the ever changing cultures within our communities.
The fact is, change has to come within the church in order to grow our members and to be relevant to those who are unchurched. Evolving the Church culture is not easy, but it can be done. Many of our older members remember a time when the church was full and ministries abundant, but those days are gone. The truth is many churches are dying before our eyes, and there are many others who are in need of desperate repair and revitalization.
We must answer the statement of “we have never done it that way before” by casting the vision, and not letting the Church limit God. Let’s be clear: The Word of God never changes. God’s Word is as true and relevant today as it was yesterday. But, the way we connect with our neighbors may need to change to share the Good News with them. How do we do that?
After Nehemiah surveyed the crumbling walls surrounding Jerusalem, he cast a vision for revitalization: “You see the trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned down. Come, let’s rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, so that we will no longer be a disgrace.” I told them how the gracious hand of my God had been on me, and what the king had said to me. They said, “Let’s start rebuilding” (Nehemiah 2:17-18) HCSB.
First, we must catch the vision that God has cast for He spoke of the present issue: “Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned down”. He painted the picture of satisfying the goal: “Come, let’s rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, so that we will no longer be a disgrace.” We are to cast the vision by being honest about our current situation, but also we must convey what the future holds.
Second, we must encourage and empower the church members by telling the members what they are doing right. The Bible tells us “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Paul admonished the leaders of the church in Thessalonica to encourage the members. One of the most essential things I have done as a leader is to encourage God’s people by reminding them of the things that they are doing right and sharing how God has worked through their obedience. When you encourage God’s people with the things that they are doing right, you empower them to do even more. Change means you have to have each other’s back. The people of Jerusalem rebuilt the walls halfway up, then received opposition, they became discouraged. Nehemiah could have given up, but what he did instead altered what happened to the completion of the wall and empowered the people. “So I stationed people behind the lowest sections of the wall, at the vulnerable areas. I stationed them by families with their swords, spears, and bows. After I made an inspection, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the great and awe-inspiring Lord, and fight for your countrymen, your sons and daughters, your wives and homes.” (Nehemiah 4:13-14).
When you encourage the people, and remind them of things that they are doing right, it builds their confidence and strength to accomplish anything. When your members know that the leadership will fight for them - even in opposition - individual members move forward with increasing boldness. We break through the old church culture and empower the people to embrace how God wants them to change the world.
Third, give all the honor and the praise for everything that has been accomplished to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Teach the people that God is working through them to complete His glorious mission to reconcile others back to Him and praise Him. By far my favorite part of this step is watching the awe and wonder in the lives of people who come to realize that God’s power is truly unchanging! The joy is infectious, and when that happens you find your members running toward the next obstacle with faith and boldness.
Gathering together, working together, building together, we can accomplish more together than apart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rev. Timothy Jones serves as Pastor of Southfield Road Baptist Church in Allen Park, MI. He also serves as our Greater Detroit Baptist Association Moderator.