Christmas is about hope. God sent His Son into our dark, broken world to reconcile us to Himself, and to give us the hope of a future with Him.
Individuals need to be reminded of this message more than ever as we continue to struggle with the effects of COVID. Churches need that hope now too. In his recent book, Anatomy of a Revived Church, Thom Rainer notes that at least 7,000 churches will close their doors this year. Twenty churches are closing their doors every single day. Ten years ago, it was estimated that ten percent of churches were in terminal or near terminal condition; today, nineteen percent of all churches (approximately 66,000) in America are in that category.
That sounds hopeless, but there is some good news. Most churches don’t have to die if they will choose to live. This requires a renewed dependence on God’s power, revealed in a deeper commitment to obeying God’s Word and to continue seeking Him in prayer. Rainer asserts that churches that experience revival (revitalization) will reflect seven characteristics in their “anatomy” over time:
- They will be honest about where they are and accept responsibility before God, rather than choosing to deny reality or to blame other factors. Then they will choose to act on what God has revealed to them.
- They will repent of their idolatry to church traditions and focus on making the changes necessary to share the Gospel, reach people, and serve their community to make an eternal difference.
- They will develop a new “scorecard” to evaluate their health and progress in revitalization. The author says this requires regularly taking measurements in five key areas of church ministry (worship and Bible study group participation, giving, conversions through church ministries, and involvement in ministry)–not to worship numbers, but to make themselves accountable to God for developing disciples who will sacrifice and serve others.
- They will commit to a sustained prayer emphasis to develop prayer warriors who are persistently interceding for their church and its impact on their community.
- They will deal biblically with a church member who demonstrates a pattern of disrupting church unity and spreading negativity in the congregation.
- They will not wait for a “silver bullet” (new pastor, money, program, building, etc) to take care of their problems, but they will move forward in obedience to God now.
- They will choose to promote meaningful membership in their church by asking new members to meet the expectations presented in their new members class.
In summary, Rainer challenges churches to live by moving beyond worship wars, divisive business and committee meetings, facility preservation focus, being program-driven, inwardly-focused budgets, inordinate demands for pastoral care, attitudes of entitlement, anger and blame, evangelistic apathy, and resistance to change—in order to see God bring new life to their congregations. He cites evidence from churches across our nation to demonstrate that this is possible now and to emphasize that there is hope for your church.
If you would like to have coffee to discuss the next steps for your church, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Praying that you’ll have a blessed Christmas, and a joyous New Year, John Horn