From the Pastor’s Pen . . .
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to
Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20–21)
The beginning of September marks the start of a new church year. It is always a time that brings a sense of renewed commitment and hope as we look forward to what God will accomplish in the coming year. This year, the sense of hope and promise is even greater as we begin an exciting new chapter in the life of the church by reexamining, restoring, resetting, refitting, redoing, and reestablishing—in short, relaunching—the church to optimize our effectiveness in making disciples of Jesus Christ in the 21st century.
Following the unanimous vote of the church at our Annual Church Conference on August 21, the Church Council will begin straightaway the process of evaluating, planning, and implementing the steps necessary to a successful relaunch. The Council will begin reaching out to individuals within the compass of the church family for help in virtually every aspect of the relaunch soon. In the meantime, if the Lord has placed on your heart an area in which you would be available to help, don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or to a member of the Council. You may be just the person who will be the key or the catalyst for moving forward. The goal is simple, but the work that will be needed to get us to that goal is challenging. It will require “all hands on deck.”
Some may be wondering if it is even possible for a church to move from nose-diving or merely surviving to joyfully thriving, especially given that thousands of churches across the country close their doors each year. The answer to that question is a resounding, emphatic, “YES”! For though there are churches that cease to function, there are many successful revitalizations and relaunches to prove that it can be done.
At present, I’m reading through a little book by Sam Rainer entitled The Church Revitalization Checklist: A Hopeful and Practical Guide for Leading Your Congregation to a Brighter Tomorrow. Sam, along with his father, Thom, and others have been working for decades in church growth and revitalization, and have been instrumental in seeing thousands of churches experience the kind of renewal that GBC seeks. They will be the first to say that there is no “formula” that churches can follow to guarantee revitalization. Every church is unique. But there is a fundamental truth that assures us that a successful relaunch is possible. Rainer states it simply: “If God can save any person, he can save any church.” Indeed, if the Lord can breathe life into any sinner who repents and trusts in Christ to save him, how much more can he breathe the breath of life into the church that is made up of those in whom His Spirit already dwells!
Further, Christ’s saving, sustaining work in the life of a believer does not end at the moment of salvation; in fact, it has just begun. In a manner of speaking, the same is true of the church. Christ’s work does not end the moment a group of believers unite in covenant with one another to form a church. Rather it continues as He builds the church for the unique mission He has assigned it. He will sustain it as long as it remains His church, and until its work on earth is done.
At this point, we would probably do well to draw another comparison between the salvation of a soul and the work of Christ in saving a church. Scripture tells us that “The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). So why, then, are not all people saved? It really comes down to one or more of three reasons: 1) They don’t know that they can be saved by simply trusting in Jesus Christ; 2) They don’t know that they need to be saved by simply trusting in Jesus Christ; or 3) They are unwilling to be saved by simply trusting in Jesus Christ. God will force himself upon no one (though sometimes we might wish that He would!). With the case of churches that die, it is much the same. Either 1) They don’t believe they can be saved; 2) They don’t know they need saving; or 3) They don’t want to be saved. Any church that believes that it can be saved, needs to be saved, and truly wants to be saved, will receive new life.
So, what must a church do in order to be “saved”? Again, there are important parallels or analogies to be drawn from God’s salvation plan. First, the church must believe that it can be renewed. This is where faith comes in. It is estimated that 60–90% of churches need revitalization and renewal, and have for decades. With years and years of failure and decline, it can be difficult to truly believe that churches can experience genuine renewal. But although “with men [renewal] is impossible, . . . with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). GBC has been around for a while now, and a lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge. Much of the church’s history has been good; some, not so much. But with God, all things are possible. He is more than able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could imagine or think. I believe He will.
Second, to experience revitalization the church must believe that it needs to be saved. Some churches are like the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14–19) that thinks it has need of nothing, not knowing that in the eyes of the Lord it is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” At GBC, we know that we need revitalization, as the unanimous vote on relaunch attests. We ask God to revive and renew and relaunch GBC for His glory. I believe He will.
Finally, revitalization requires that the church be willing. There are many reasons that individuals are unwilling to receive God’s offer of forgiveness and new life. Some are unwilling to humble themselves, repent, and seek God’s face. Others are unwilling to change, or reject the change that salvation would bring. Still others are pridefully unwilling to accept anything except by their own hand and on their own terms. With churches and renewal, it is much the same. Pride, unwillingness to change, and a desire to do things on their own terms keep many churches from experiencing the renewal that God desires to bring. Regarding GBC, I believe that God is ready, willing, and able to bring the renewal many have sought so long. I also believe that GBC is ready, willing, and able to receive.
As the 2022–2023 church year unfolds, I pray that we, both corporately and individually, will be ready, willing, and able to receive all that our God is ready, willing, and able to give. Let His glory be our goal!