Wednesday, May 27, 2015

This church will have either a revival or a funeral!

So writes Leonard Ravenhill in his classic, Why Revival Tarries. As Ravenhill recounts a minister putting that sign on the outside of his church, he notes, “With such despair God is well pleased, though hell is despondent.”

I wonder often if I/we have this desperate desire to see our church revitalized and fired up for God and the Gospel, or if we are content with business as usual and the routine of passive ‘participation’ without transformation.  Is God pleased with us and hell despondent at us?  I sure desire that!

According to the folks at Simple Church, here’s a snapshot of the American church:
80% of churches are plateaued or declining.
For those that show “growth”, the vast majority comes from “switchers” (people moving from church to church).
3500 people leave the church every day.
7000 churches close their doors every year.

But here’s the truth: Churches don’t die overnight.  It takes years of neglect before you receive a fatal diagnosis.  Neglect of Biblical doctrine. Neglect of prayer. Neglect of unity. Neglect of the Gospel. Neglect of the people all around them that are hurting, lost, and hell-bound.  These and many other neglects ensure the demise of any church. 

Those churches that are experiencing revival, however are churches that have …
Unity … among leaders and throughout the congregation
An outward focus … more concern about the lost than our preferences
A clear discipleship pathway … a plan to help all people grow in Christlikeness
And raised expectations for all members … membership matters in healthy churches

In those churches, the Word is central. The Gospel is proclaimed. The Spirit empowers. The people are a body of believers, not a crowd of customers. The pastor and staff are trusted and honored.  And making disciples of all people – near and far – is the clear and focused mission.  

Those that are facing a future funeral are churches that …
Are mostly concerned about their preferences and comforts and not growing God’s kingdom
Abandon the biblical responsibility of disciple-making to a few paid staff 
Value the traditions of men more than the teachings of God 
Complain, murmur, gossip, slander about their staff, each other, and the church 

Gypsy Smith was a nineteenth-century revivalist who did something unusual when he came to a new town. He’d stop on the outskirts and draw a circle in the dirt. Then he would stand inside that circle and say, “O God, please send a revival to this town, and let it begin inside this circle.”

So, if we want to see revival at Calvary, we all might need to start drawing some circles.  As we do, we might find God convicting us and changing our hearts.  Some might have to sacrifice personal preference for the sake of the church’s overall effectiveness and mission (Phil. 2:4).  Some might have to stop sowing seeds of discord and instead become eager for unity (Prov. 6:19, Eph. 4:3).  Some might have to start praying daily for lives to be changed, people to be saved, and for God to give us all the courage to stand out and speak up for Jesus (Acts 26:18, Eph. 6:19).  Some might have to start seeing their pastor as God’s chosen man in leadership of this church and begin to trust him and the pastoral staff, pray for them, and follow their leadership (1 Tim. 5:17, Heb. 13:17). Some might have to go to someone and seek forgiveness (Matt. 5:23-24).  Others might have to repent of bitterness and give forgiveness for offenses they continue to harbor (Heb. 12:14-15, Eph. 4:31, Mark 11:25).  Some might need to examine themselves and see if they are really in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).

Truth is, every church (as my old high school principal used to say about people) is either green and growing or ripe and rotting.  That is, every church is either growing in God-honoring, kingdom-useful purpose, or it is surely dying a slow but inevitable death.

So, which will it be?  A funeral or a revival?  I’m drawing a circle, stepping in it, and praying for and trusting God for revival!

For His glory alone,

Paul A. Thompson

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