Oʀɪɢɪɴᴀʟʟʏ ᴘᴏsᴛᴇᴅ Nᴏᴠ. 9, 2016
Editor’s note: The following column, written in 2016, has continued to be one of the most widely read articles ever posted on the B&R website. In 2020, it was the seventh most viewed article of the year. With COVID-19 still with us, it may be time to run the article again to remind us that now, more than ever before, we must not be complacent as Christians and churches.
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Complacency can apply to individuals or organizations, including the church.
I found the word “complacency” in the Bible only once in Proverbs 1:32, HCBS: “For the waywardness of the inexperienced will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.” There may be other verses that actually use the word itself, but there are many verses throughout Scripture that refer to the meaning of complacency.
Christians, especially, can fall prey to the sin of complacency. Complacency — a sin? Yes, and it can negatively impact a person’s individual witness and ministry and even an entire church.
Most church statistics reveal that about 80 percent, if not more, of all Southern Baptist churches are either plateaued or declining. In other words, these are churches that have become complacent. They may have been congregations that once were on fire, reaching their communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were churches that cared about those who lived in their neighborhoods. They showed the love of Jesus Christ without abandon. They met needs. When that happened, God blessed in a mighty way and those churches thrived.
But somewhere along the way, those churches (filled with individuals who became complacent) also became complacent. They began to look inside the four walls instead of outside the walls.
They began to care more about appearance and perception of the church. People began to move away from the neighborhood and those who moved in were “not like us.” Over time, the churches stopped reaching out to the community. As time passed, attendance and membership decreased drastically. Some churches survived because “they had money in the bank.” God does not want His people and His churches to “survive.” He wants us to thrive.
Stories like these are repeated over and over in Tennessee. We have churches that are either on life support or are dead and don’t know it. If you are wondering where your church falls within the spectrum, consider these questions.
When was the last time your church baptized anyone? If it’s been a year or more, there probably is a serious problem.
When was the last time your church baptized anyone other than a child or grandchild of a current member? If it’s been a long time, then there probably is a problem.
When was the last time your church has had visitors on a regular basis, not just during the major holidays? Better yet, when was the last time you, as an individual church member, invited anyone to church?
Tough questions, no doubt. That’s why there are so many churches in Tennessee that need to be revitalized. It’s no shame for churches to seek to be revitalized. It’s also no shame for Christians to want to be revitalized. Revitalization is the cure for complacency.
This issue contains articles on church revitalization. Read them. They are stories of churches that finally realized they were dying and if things did not change soon, their church doors would close forever. They recognized their complacency and took steps to change and are once again making a difference in their communities.
Those are stories that can be repeated over and over, but sadly may not be. Too many churches bury their collective heads in the sand and refuse to admit they are dying. That is tragic because, in most cases, churches don’t have to die. There are usually ways the ministry of a church can be saved — either through revitalization from within, merger with another church, or assimilation by another church.
Revitalization is not always easy because it involves changing from the complacency mode to once again being on fire for Jesus Christ.
Steve Holt leads the church revitalization task force for the Tennessee Baptist Convention. He and a team of trained ministers are ready to help your church once again catch the fire and vision it once had to reach your community for Christ. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
God does not like complacency. Revelation 3:16 (HCSB) reminds us: “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.”
That’s not a pleasant picture or thought. God does not want His people to be cold or lukewarm. He wants us to be on fire for Him.