Answers abound aplenty to address our failing churches. While details vary all agree that a new vision is needed. Here is mine. As a church we need to:
- Rediscover our identity. We need to become less institutionalized and more personal. The first church in Acts had few institutional trappings. They engaged people where they were. Too often today the church is seen as detached from people- operating from a institutional mindset of protectionism, fear and judgmentalism. To erase the erosion we have to remove such barriers and become relevant in individual lives again. Our identity should be wrapped up in Christ’s thinking- not institutional thinking.
- Remember our purpose. God did not call us to come to a building, sit in pews and expect our preferences to be pampered. Peter clearly defines why we were chosen- “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). If the church is to grow our focus must turn outward. Our purpose as Christians is to serve- not be served.
- Redefine our priorities. When Christians are indistinguishable from their culture, the message of Christ is compromised. This is one reason why churches are now failing. Our priorities are skewed. We seek many other things before the kingdom. God cannot bless that. We must return Christ to his throne in our hearts and churches.
- Rekindle our faith. From where I sit, I see a culture of fear in our churches. More often I hear discussions about why we can’t rather than how we can. Part of this- in my opinion- stems from our institutional thinking. We operate from a “protect it first” reactionary mentality instead of outreach thinking. Faith is the causality here. “By faith” is how God’s people have always accomplished his will. We must return to trusting him in order to grow again.
- Re-engage fellowship. A fractured, divided, strife-filled church undermines everything Christ stands for. Infighting and a refusal to engage even those within our own fellowship disqualifies our Christian claims to our already skeptical world. When we can demonstrate that the love of Christ and one another overrides our often petty differences, that the church is indeed a welcoming place for all sinners, and that we actually cherish being together- then maybe our Christian claims will be more authentic and others will be inclined to join us.
God, strengthen us for this challenge and grant us humility and wisdom as we search for ways to revitalize your church in our communities.