By Phil Young
Director of Missions, Knox County Association of Baptists
“Lord, there must be more to it than this!”
I uttered the words in frustration. I was the pastor of a good church with good people and good resources, and yet it seemed that we had little impact on the lives of people in our city. In fact, it seemed like we had lost both our passion and purpose as the church. In the days that followed, I was drawn in by the words of the prophet Isaiah (61:1-4); the prophetic words which Jesus Himself fulfilled:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion — to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.”
The words captured me. I began to realize that there was “more to it” than what I was seeing. It is not uncommon for churches to lose their passion and sense of purpose as well. When this happens, the process of church revitalization often begins with a renewed sense of awareness; an awareness that there is “more to it” than what we see on the surface.
Let me suggest four truths that are essential in helping a church renew its passion and sense of purpose in the church revitalization process:
(1) Church revitalization is about more than just making people comfortable and happy. The process is about experiencing the “good news” that brings complete healing, hope, and freedom in Jesus (Isaiah 61:1-2). Striving to make people comfortable and happy is an endless pursuit with temporary results. Leading them to find satisfaction and hope in Christ nurtures a passion and purpose that endures.
(2) Church revitalization is about more than trying to make “bad people be good.” It is about seeing “dead people become alive” (Isaiah 61:3). The imagery in verse three is that of “death to life.” Frustration arises when we spend time and effort trying to correct people’s behavior; but passion and purpose are renewed when we focus on the gospel that makes those who are “dead” in sin become “alive” in Christ.
(3) Church revitalization is about more than making a name for ourselves. It is about extending our influence to make His name great (Isaiah 61:3). We must guard against the desire to be the “best church in our community” for our own glory, and seek to be the “best church for our community” for His glory.
(4) Church revitalization is about more than being a “good church with good people and good resources.” It is about rebuilding, restoring, and renewing the city (lives) that had been devastated for generations (Isaiah 61:4). Many “good churches with good people and good resources” need their passion and purpose revitalized toward making a Kingdom impact.
Sometimes we just need to be reminded that “there really is more to it” than this; so much more indeed.
If you’re wondering what the next steps are, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to help you get started in finding that renewed sense of purpose.