Church Health Check

I have recently finished reading Harry Reeder’s “From Embers to a Flame: How God Can Revitalize Your Church,” and I wholeheartedly recommendembers it to you. Reeder has served as a Pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America, a seminary teacher, and a conference speaker, specializing in church revitalization.

 

Church revitalization is a necessary ministry, but one that is often overlooked.  We spend a lot of time and energy on planting new churches and on moderating fighting churches, but very little time or attention is ever given to the longstanding church that seems to find itself unable to grow.  “Embers to a Flame,” doesn’t offer a program to launch church growth, but brings the church back to its foundations to fan the ember to a flame.

Reeder presents 10 strategies for revitalization:

  1. Connect to the Past: Learning from the Past without Living in the Past
  2. A Call to Repentance: Cover Up or ‘Fess Up
  3. Gospel-Driven and Christ-Centered Ministry: The First of the First Things
  4. Personal Gospel Formation: The Discipline of Grace
  5. The Priority of Intercessory Prayer: The Ministry of Prayer
  6. The Primacy of Preaching: The Ministry of the Word
  7. Staying on Mission with a Vision: Simplicity in Focus in a Day of Complexity and Chaos
  8. Servant Leadership Multiplication: An Effective Yet Neglected Strategy for Church vitality
  9. Small-Group Discipleship: The Biblical Delivery System for Effective Discipleship
  10. A Great Commitment to the Great Commission: The W.E.L.L. Church.

What I thought I’d share here is a brief overview of the wellness check of the Church. If you see your church in this, perhaps it’s time to pray for and work toward revitalization. Here are some of the symptoms of a sick church:

A Focus on Programs – Dying churches tend to be focused on programs, pinning their hope for success on the latest organized ministry for pre-packaged church-growth plan.

Nostalgia and Tradition – Dying churches are often living in the past… People are hoping that the pastor will move the church backward, to recapture the “glory days.”

A Maintenance Mentality – Hoping to just hold on, replacing the people they lost just so they can meet budget. They are merely polishing a monument rather than building a movement of God’s grace.

Distraction from the Gospel – Churches have grown ineffective in reaching the world around them because they have lost sight of the centrality of God’s grace. Something else has become more important than living according to the gospel and sharing it with others.

Do you see these symptoms in your church? How can you address these problems? If these are the problems your church faces, what is the solution?

I encourage you to get a copy of “Embers to a Flame” and see how revitalization is possible, and let us pray and work to that end.

You Need More Gospel!

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:15)

It never ceases to amaze me what people will do to shed a few pounds.  Here’s a couple of novel approaches that I’ve seen recently.

There’s the “Nothing But Twinkies” Diet: The theory is, Twinkies are only 150 calories, so if you eat 10 a day, that’s only 1,500 calories.  I’m sorry, but what?!?  That’s what got me overweight in the first place.

Even I see how stupid that is!

Even I see how stupid that is!

It’s similar to another fad called the “Eat-All-Day” Diet: In this program, you graze all through the day on approved foods.  I know of others who graze all day, this is what they look like…

mmm... food...

mmm… food…

Then there is the “Sleeping Beauty Diet.”  I kid you not.  The theory is that lack of sleep can often lead to weight gain, so then the reverse is true.  Sleep a little more, close the eyes, fold the hands, and you’ll see the pounds just walk away.  Wait a minute, that was an episode of Doctor Who.

Yeah, that'll work.

Yeah, that’ll work.

While I’ll give props to creating a diet based on my two favorite past times – Doctor Who and Sleeping – I’ve got enough common sense to know it ain’t gonna work!

I know I need to lose weight myself, and trust me, if there was a tried and true way to do it without having to break a sweat or take a break from sweets, I’d be all over that.  But the simple truth of the matter is this: there is only one real way to lose weight and keep it off, Eat Less and Exercise More.  If you want to shed the extra pounds, it will probably take as long as it did to gain them in the first place.  But all the shakes, formulas, tricks and shortcuts are simply an avoidance of reality – you have to eat better, eat less, and move your body if you want to lose weight.  Remember this was once the recommended way to get skinny again:

Words fail me!

Words fail me!

For every fad and gimmick in the weight loss industry, there are just as many in the realm of Spiritual Disciplines.  We don’t like the sound of spiritual discipline, it’s too much like exercise, it’s too formal and complicated.  I just want to enjoy Jesus, and know His blessings, right?

I can’t tell you how many times I hear stuff like this.  “I just want to connect with Jesus.  I don’t need the church, or some preacher, or some ‘organized religion’.  I can just center myself, and listen for His voice.  That’s real spirituality.”

Those were my words once.  I faithfully attended Bedside Baptist, covered by the tutelage of Pastor Whitesheets – I had taken the “Sleep Your Way to Heaven” approach.  Is it any wonder, then, that my faith was stagnant, my life riddled with hypocrisy, my heart full of sin?

What shook me from that spiritual stupor?  What do we need as a healthy, sustainable spiritual diet?  It’s simple: You Need More of the Gospel!

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that saves, and the only thing that will keep you saved.  It is the message that we are all desperately broken and headed for destruction, but that God, in His grace, delivers and forgives all who call on the name of Jesus Christ for their salvation.  You will never come to a point in your life where you have exhausted your need for, or the supply of, the grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Are you struggling with sin?  You need more Gospel!  Don’t come up with excuses to help cover it up or justify it, confess it, repent of it, turn from it, and call out to Jesus for your salvation.

Are you wrestling with doubt – can you be sure of God’s provision for you?  You need more Gospel!  Look there and see that God loves you, and sent His Son for you, so that He could bring you into eternal fellowship with Him.

Are you wondering what your purpose is in life?  You need more Gospel!  There you will find that God has forgiven you and given you His Spirit in Jesus Christ so that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, you may share the love of God in Jesus Christ with those around you.

Are you wanting to know God better, to live more like Jesus?  You need more Gospel!  Find Him where He has promised to be, in His Word, in His church, in the preaching, the sacraments, the fellowship of believers.  God has promised to pour out His grace upon those who seek Him there – why would you look anywhere else.

Leave the spiritual gimmicks, the devotional fads behind.  Turn to the Gospel again and again and again and again.  This was the call, is the call of Christ: “Repent and Believe in the Gospel.”