Editor’s Note: “Rekindle: Fanning the Flames of Christian Leadership,” a church revitalization conference, will be held on Thursday, Sept. 1, at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church, Knoxville. Guest speakers include John Mark Clifton of Kansas City, Mo., and Tom Cheyney of Orlando, Fla. More information.
Director of Missions, Robertson County Baptist Association, Springfield
In a meeting with several directors of missions and members of the Tennessee Baptist Convention staff, we looked at ways to help churches revitalize. Most church leaders are aware that 80 to 90 percent of Christian churches have stopped growing or are declining.
Why do churches stop reaching their communities for Jesus. All kinds of reasons are offered. Here are some examples: “The community has changed and no longer looks like the congregation that meets here.” “The problem is the pastor. He is not leading his congregation to connect with the community.” “The problem is the congregation. The congregation has lost interest in reaching its community.”
The list continues: “The problem is theology. The church just does not understand the nature of God’s salvation.” “The problem is the church’s programming. The church must change its order of worship, music, and how it offers training.” “The problem is the age of the congregation. The older folks don’t want to reach the younger folks.” Still others say, “No. The problem is the culture. People are more interested in activities that have nothing to do with God.” And the list just keeps getting longer.
In our meeting we were asked what is or are the main issue(s) which are keeping a local church from experiencing revitalization. I observed that there is only one main issue and all other issues, though serious, are secondary.
I believe the greatest issue facing the church is a spiritual issue. Is a church choosing to follow the leadership of Jesus Christ? When a church stops following Jesus’ leadership, that church jeopardizes its relationship to Jesus. In Revelation, Jesus spoke to seven different churches. He addressed the heart of the congregations. The point? A church must make Jesus its first love. When it does, that church rediscovers Jesus’ heartbeat for reaching the lost and unchurched in its community.