There’s no arguing that this pandemic has been challenging in so many ways. Life as we’ve known it has changed dramatically since March of 2020.
Church life is no exception.
Unless we’ve got a time machine, we all realize that there’s no going back. What does that mean for our churches? It means we have to make some important choices. We must choose to listen attentively, take an honest look at our situation and sharpen our focus on kingdom purposes.
No matter how long your church has been around, the pandemic’s force has pushed every church to examine who they are and what they do. It’s been a season of incredible listening and learning. This crisis has given pastors and their leadership teams an opportunity to seek God’s direction, hear God’s call, find new ways to do ministry and to invigorate congregations toward being disciples.
If you’ve been wanting to change things in your local church, you can rest assured that things have changed. How have you been leaning into the work God is doing in this time? As you’ve been listening, what is the Holy Spirit saying to your people? How does God want to use the changes we’re experiencing to actually make a difference in your church? This is your opportunity to do some things differently. This is also a wonderful opportunity to do some different things.
Now is the time to begin revitalizing the church you serve. These days, there are many voices clamoring for your attention. You need to be listening. Listening to trusted mentors, to your congregation, to your community and to the Spirit of God. You also need to be discerning. In the power of the Holy Spirit, you can gain a fresh perspective on your church’s future and boldly take steps in that direction.
What can you do, in the middle of this pandemic, to move in the right direction and begin revitalizing your church?
Pray. Often our prayers begin with the words we want God to hear. Let’s begin with listening to what God wants us to hear. Listening to God’s Word, sitting quietly before the Lord, meditating and hearing God’s voice. Prayer can be less about what we want and more about discerning what God wants. We’re all looking for the next thing we should do. We know something needs to be done — and we’re ready to do it! In reflection and prayer, we may be challenged by the Holy Spirit to undo something instead of doubling down on our previous efforts.
There is no substitute for prayer that surrenders your will to God’s will. Prayer reflects our confidence in God’s presence in our lives and the ministry of the church. Prayer demonstrates our faith. As you seek the Lord and listen in prayer, you get God’s perspective on your situation. This is not about showing God how well you can pray; it’s about experiencing a fresh connection with Jesus, “the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NLT). Do this together with others. Find ways to pray with each other, not just for each other.
Be honest. This requires humility! The pandemic has pulled back the layers and revealed things about our churches. We’ve seen commendable things. We have strengths to celebrate. The inability to function “as usual” has also exposed some concerns and vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. Own your reality. Honest assessment is critical — you can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. It can be hard to honestly come to grips with the church’s condition. Honest assessments are often disappointing, perhaps even disheartening. As a church, take the time to gain deeper self-awareness. It’s worth it.
Commit to the kingdom mission. If we’re not careful, the church can hit autopilot and allow maintenance to become the mission. The Great Commission becomes our great omission, or, at best, our great ideal. We find ourselves doing our best to fulfill our ministry obligations and the routine becomes drudgery. We get tired, frustrated and discouraged. Be encouraged. Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, is building his Church by still drawing people to himself and empowering them to become disciples. We are called to participate with God’s redemptive plan. Find authentically fresh ways to seek (go), baptize and teach others to be lifelong followers of Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20).
Build your team. Bring together a handful of likeminded people, who love Jesus, are committed to his kingdom and care deeply about the church’s life and future. Pray together. Be thankful for the ways God has helped so far. Read a book and learn together. Discuss the church’s current reality and dream about the future. Brainstorm responses to these questions:
- Given the ways our world has changed this past year, how have those changes impacted the church?
- What adjustments does the church need to make in moving forward?
- How can we best bring the Good News to our community?
- What’s really important now?
- What’s no longer important?
- What must I surrender in order for someone else to come to Christ?
Ask for help. Revitalization takes time, teamwork and tenacity. The good news is that help is available, and you don’t have to do this work alone. Enlist a coach. Find a mentor. Sometimes you need that outside perspective and objective voice to partner with you. We’ve launched the Church Revitalization Collaborative, a network of Wesleyan practitioners who are available to come alongside you and your church in this process.
You don’t have to wait for things to “settle down” before taking the steps to renew vitality to the church you serve. Begin with yourself. Ask God to revitalize you and allow the Holy Spirit to blow fresh wind into the sail of your life and ministry. Listen. Learn. Lean into God like never before. The Holy Spirit is the revitalizer. Trust him to do his work and position yourself so he can use you in the process. In the words of the apostle Paul, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” (Ephesians 5:16-17 NLT). You’ve heard it before, and it’s worth hearing it again. If not you, then who? If not now, then when? You can start today.
Rev. Richard Meeks serves as the discipleship catalyst for church revitalization in The Wesleyan Church (TWC). He has been formally engaged with church revitalization for over 30 years, serving as a local church pastor, a district superintendent and a denominational leader in TWC. Meeks is currently the head coach of Messenger Ministries, where he coaches pastors and their teams to “revision the church.”
Dr. Gerry Brannon Krupp pastored Wesleyan churches for more than 30 years. He currently serves as a transitional leader in local churches. Krupp is a senior consultant with Design Group International, Inc.