Why We Need Revitalized Churches More Than Ever

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It has been a turbulent year. The COVID-19 crisis caught us off guard and threw the whole world into a panic with a rising death toll, social distancing restrictions, and a slumping economy. The recent protests, rioting, and civil unrest sparked by George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis has proven racism and injustice are alive and well in our country. This is also a presidential election year, which means we will also be confronted with all of the political issues that divide us as we move close to November’s election.

The Church was always been an “essential” element of society, whether it was recognized as such or not. But now more than ever, we need strong, healthy, revitalized churches in America. We need churches to grow past their disunity and dysfunction so they can make an impact on the world for Jesus Christ and the gospel.

Here are three reasons why we need revitalized churches now more than ever.

  1. The reputation of the church is tied to God’s glory.

The local church gathers in God’s name and for His glory. Like the Israelites of old, New Testament believers belong to God and are called by His name (2 Chronicles 7:14). New believers are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

If the reputation of the church “stinks,” so does people’s impression of God. That is especially true in a neighborhood or community where a church is perceived as uncaring, quarrelsome, or snobby. An unhealthy church robs God of His glory.

  1. The church is a place to model healthy, diverse relationships.

All people are made in God’s image and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (Genesis 1:26-27). Those who have a biblical worldview should lead the way in loving those who are different than themselves. The church is an ideal place for those relationships to happen. In fact, if Christians can’t model healthy, diverse relationships in the church, what does that say about the gospel we say we believe?

  1. Strong, healthy churches are a blessing to the communities that surround them.

In Reclaiming Glory, Mark Clifton explains that one of the characteristics of a dying church is that “they cease, often gradually, to be a part of the fabric of their community.” Conversely, revitalized churches and the people who belong to them look for ways to meet emotional, physical, and spiritual needs within their community. This outward focus allows believers to showcase their reason for hope – the gospel of Jesus Christ.

These turbulent times provide a wonderful opportunity for the church to become the best version of herself. Christ Himself is calling churches all over our country to shake off their apathy and to put His Word into practice (Ephesians 5:26). Not just for themselves, or their children, but for the sake of the cities, towns, and neighborhoods in which they have been planted.

What reasons would you add for the need for revitalized churches? Please leave your response below. I would love to hear from you!

My Experience in a Discipleship Group

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I made a startling discovery earlier this year. I did some research on the baptism, membership, and attendance trends in the church I serve as pastor and I realized that as a church, we have lost 500 people in the last 10 years! We have welcomed an entire sanctuary full of people (our sanctuary seats about 500) into our membership through baptism and transfer of letter, but our Morning Worship and Sunday School attendance have stayed about the same. Even though some of those people have passed away, moved out of the area, or stepping into places of ministry, you would think that we would be able to retain at least some of our newest members.

One of the reasons we have not retained our members, new and well-established, is because we have not done a good enough job collectively of discipling them. We have allowed baptism and new membership to become the finish line of faith instead of the starting line. We have welcomed people of all ages into our church and given them a variety of ministry opportunities without a clear plan for spiritual development.

This discovery led me to a new type of ministry that isn’t new at all. When Jesus Christ was on earth, he ministered to thousands of people yet focused the majority of his time on 12 ordinary men. Jesus narrowed his focus even further by investing in Peter, James, and John more than the rest of this disciples. Jesus made disciples in small groups. The Apostle Paul followed Christ’s example by teaching and training a select group of men out of the hundreds, maybe thousands, that he had contact with. Timothy, Titus, and Luke are familiar names to us today because Paul worked so closely with them during his time on earth.

The new type of ministry that I discovered is a Discipleship Group. A Discipleship Group is an intentionally small group (3 to 6 people) that meets for spiritual development and replication. Unlike Sunday School classes, these groups are gender-specific and closed to outsiders to facilitate deep relationships, open communication, and accountability. After twelve months, group members are prayerfully challenged to turn around and start their own group for the next year.

I have been involved in 2 exploratory Discipleship Groups in the last 2 years and experienced great benefits. As a believer, I have been prompted to spend regular time in Bible study and prayer, to invest in meaning relationships with other believers, and to live out the gospel daily. As a pastor, I have seen men in our church hear from God through His Word and look for ways to share it with others. I have only been involved with these particular kinds of Discipleship Groups for a short time, but I can see and anticipate the benefit they would bring to the church that I serve and the greater Kingdom of God – especially those who join in the next 10 years.

What experience do you have with small group discipleship, if any?