All living things, including your church, progress through predictable stages of growth and decline. Churches are living things. The Bible calls the church a body. Colossians 2:19 (HCSB) says, “He doesn’t hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, develops with growth from God.” A body can be healthy or unhealthy, in shape or out of shape, growing or shrinking, thriving or dying. The lifespan of a church is determined by many factors but is greatly impacted by the strength and foresight of its leadership.
There are many skill sets that are useful to leaders and churches.
• Are you listening to the Lord’s directions? Is every move you make God-initiated?
• Are you determined to continue and endure hardships as good soldiers of the Lord?
• Are you willing to make whatever changes He instructs you to make? Are you willing for those adjustments and changes to begin with you?
In most churches, the growth of the church is directly related to the growth of the leader. God is far more interested in the work He is doing in you than through you. Make sure you are growing as a child of God and as a leader.
Jesus challenges seven churches to renewal and revival in Revelation 2 and 3. He emphasized the need for consistent biblical evaluation to assess if the church is on the right track and what adjustments might need to be made. Repentance is key to the process and that requires constant confession of sin in our individual lives and in the life of your church. Are there any barriers or obstacles in your life or in your church that are holding back the manifest presence of the Lord? Many churches have allowed strongholds to be established and to remain that hold back the presence of the Lord.
Revelation 3:17 is very sobering: “Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” Bob Roberts Jr. said, “There is only one thing worse than God’s judgment on the church, and that is His absence from it.” J Oswald Sanders put it this way, “We are, at this moment, as close to God as we really choose to be.” What adjustments do you need to make for revival to begin in your heart and life? What adjustments does your church need to make for God’s manifest presence to return?
In Presence Centered Church, Bill Elliff asks you to consider what kind of letter would Jesus write to your church. What would He point out? “Your humility or your pride? Your generosity or your materialism? Your brokenness or your stubbornness? Free-flowing forgiveness or judgmental unforgiveness? Holiness or immorality? Surrendered, willing service or selfishness? Edifying words or gossip and slander? Unconditional acceptance of others or proud prejudice? A burden for the lost or self-absorbed inwardness? Courage to follow Christ at any cost or fearfulness and timidity?” Go ahead and answer.
Where are you and where is your church in these areas? These are heart issues that must be addressed with a biblical prescription. Here are five ways God will work on your heart and the heart of your church:
• Lead your church to become others-centered by focusing on Phil. 2:3-4.
• Build courage and Holy Spirit-led risk by living by II Tim. 1:7.
• Allow God to mold you into the leader He desires you to be by focusing on II Tim. 3:6-4:2.
• Build up your confidence by trusting in Rom. 5:3-5.
• Ask Him to give you a heart for lost people as we see in John 3:16-17.
Most of all, trust in the power of the Holy Spirit and His Word (Jer. 23:29 and Heb. 4:12-13). Be in the Word and increase your time in the Scriptures. Without knowing the Scriptures and without having the text in your heart (Deut. 6:6) it is very difficult (virtually impossible) for the Holy Spirit to move you to make the right decision. This is especially true during temptation, points of pain and when conflict is occurring in the church. If your people do not know the Word of God and have the Word of God in their hearts, they might have one hour of inspiration on Sunday morning with seven days of temptation in between.
Preach the Word, which is a message of truth and grace. Bill Elliff said it well, “Never underestimate the power of persistent preaching filled with truth and grace.” He continued, “If you are a pastor, take your preaching seriously and approach it prayerfully. God knows what the people need. Let Him say what He desires.”
Allow your preaching to be personal and transparent by sharing your struggles and challenges. People relate well to your spiritual growth and journey in the same way you look to those who have gone before you. Do not be afraid to be transparent about how the Word is shaping and molding you.
Your preaching should not be just academic. The goal is not information transfer but life transformation. Paul shared his challenges very openly and you should consider allowing your people to see yours as well. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures.”
How has your faith increased? What experiences did God use to increase your faith? How have you struggled with forgiveness and what has God shown you about the importance of forgiving others? Be scriptural and be real!