Editor’s Note: It’s not too late to attend a Church Revitalization Conference March 14-15 at Union University in Jackson. For more information, contact Steve Holt at email@example.com.
Church Revitalization Specialist, TBC
I suppose everyone has experienced that moment when something about which you were clueless suddenly becomes very clear. I have vivid memories of such a moment in my ninth grade algebra class. I had struggled for a good portion of the year, trying to grasp the finer concepts and meaning of this noble subject. Everything I tried amounted to no avail. The tutoring, the trying harder, the tearing and tossing of paper in frustration … all was useless. Then one day while gazing at the black board, inexplicably and without expectation it came to me. It was an “Aha” moment.
Aha moments happen all the time. However, they rarely occur in a vacuum. Typically they come after a period of study and seeking answers to whatever questions or problems being considered. We should never discount the value of walking along the path of seeking. Seeking can bring frustration but in the end it can bring the fruit of Aha moments as well.
Job had such an Aha moment. In fact, he had many along the way. The book detailing his story is filled with accounts of twists and turns, frustrating and confusing episodes that took Job toward a defining Aha moment in his quest to trust God.
Having spent most of the book arguing and musing with friends and with God over his dreadful situation, he says to God in chapter 42, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” He further states, Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. And finally he significantly utters, My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2-6).
This is Job’s Aha moment, his moment of enlightenment. It is the moment when all things come together before his very eyes. He sees that God is much stronger than his predicament; that He is much smarter than himself or his friends. And perhaps most important, there is a huge difference between hearing about God and seeing and experiencing Him for yourself.
His response to all this is perhaps even more telling and important. His response was one of humility and repentance (change) of attitude.
We need Aha moments in churches across the TBC. It’s been shown that 80-90 percent of churches are in need of some level of revitalization or turnaround. Thousands of churches cannot keep going in the same direction if they hope to impact our culture with the message of Christ. We’ve heard this, but are we seeing it?
I believe every church needs an Aha moment if we are to see church revitalization become a reality. A church in stagnation or decline must come to see the reality of their situation and the consequences that will surely follow if fundamental change does not come.
Unfortunately, we tend to prefer Band-Aid approaches. Many make the mistake of listening to the solutions of friends and allies as opposed to listening to the Word. Or perhaps an even grimmer attitude is accepting and/or ignoring completely the power of God to bring about change. We are mistaken on both accounts. And be forewarned, tough times expand the consequences of our mistakes exponentially.
Therefore, how can we foster those Aha moments in our churches?
Seek Him. Jesus said if we seek, we shall find. God desires to bless our churches. He wants to see men and women saved and testify to His glory. Regrettably, some are more interested in seeking (you fill in the blank) than seeking Him. Are you hungry to not only hear about God in your church but to see Him?
Seek Help from Others. At first glance you might think this is what got Job in trouble, seeking help from others. However, I’m not sure Job sought their help as much as they sought him. Any difficult situation in a church is always accompanied with opinions and solutions from a plethora of sources.
Another observation I would make is that they were all friends of Job to varying degrees. Sometimes, it’s helpful to have someone outside the situation offer some help. A fresh set of eyes can do wonders to identify the areas of need. Your TBC staff stands ready to help whenever and however we can.
Seek Healing. Be careful not to settle for a strategy of just covering the issues to provide some relief. When you get a cut you want it to heal. Simply covering it up or ignoring the problem will produce greater infection and ultimately death. A church that seeks to make cosmetic or temporal changes will only prolong the evitable.
These weren’t the last of Job’s Aha moments. Later in the chapter he would discover that God would lovingly restore all that he lost and then some. Now, God did not suddenly become compassionate and merciful to Job; He has been that way all along. God’s unchanging character is compassion and mercy. His trials and tribulations were not the end of Job’s story. The years that followed would be filled with blessings beyond compare as God provided abundantly more than he could have imagined.
God is still writing our story as well for the generations to come. I’ll never forget talking with a group of deacons at a church in steady decline. We had talked about many different scenarios of change the church would need to embrace if they were to survive. None of the solutions seemed desirable or even plausible in some cases. All would require drastic change. We seemed to be stuck in a ninth grade Algebra class.
Suddenly and most unexpectedly, one from the group spoke up. He said he had been in that church most of his life and acknowledged that he longed for days of yore when they were three times the size and decades younger in median age. However, he quickly acknowledged the reality that if major changes were not incorporated, the congregation would die within ten years. And more personally he added, he had always prayed to see his grandchildren come to know Jesus in that church. Whatever change of course God required, he was willing to take it enthusiastically. It was his Aha moment.
Wouldn’t it be nice if churches across our Tennessee Baptist Convention had some of those same Aha moments?
That’s what church revitalization is all about.