The church in America appears to be fast asleep (Romans 13:11), dreaming of yesterday’s victories and longing for tomorrow’s rescue. Still, we sleep like there’s no urgent cause — no real hope for today. Some might say the church has moved from slumber to spiritual death, but the church of Jesus Christ is marked by life. It has been built on the Rock of Jesus, not on top of a spiritual graveyard. Jesus Himself said, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against [the church],” Matthew 16:18. Does this sound like your church?
Oxford Dictionary defines life as an organism that possesses “the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change.” Let’s apply that definition to our faith. Are most Christians actually growing in their faith? Do most believers multiply themselves by discipling others? Are Christians normally open to change? By definition, it’s safe to say that most Christians are not displaying signs of life. The tragedy is that dead Christians produce dead churches.
People often use the term “dead church” to describe a less than enthusiastic worship service. Admittedly, many churches feel more like funerals than celebrations, with dragging music or boring preaching, but the spiritual life of your congregation is not dependent on the music style or quality. Turning a church inside out will require that we dive beneath surface-level methods and trends and awaken to our God-given purpose again.
We’ve determined in past weeks that in order to turn our churches inside out we must drop the rocks, trade suits for boots, pull back the curtain, and surrender self, but these steps are all dependent on our truly pursuing the purpose of God. This awakening to purpose must start with the message of the Gospel. This good news is our primary concern, over respective opinions, circumstantial challenges, and personal preferences. The Gospel must become preeminent above all other matters in life, even in the face of a culture obsessed with self.
Focus on the cause
Our spiritual awakening is dependent on our willingness to embrace the cause of Christ. His cause is greater than the success or survival of any company, institution, denomination, or leader. This is the mission to which we’ve been called, and it’s a calling worthy of our sacrifice. I fear we’ve grown so accustom to sleeping, drawn in by the beauty of our own dreams, that we’ve forgotten what it feels like to be awakened by the Spirit of God. If we want to invest in something real, we’re going to have to wake up and get to work.
While it’s important that we have a purpose, it’s equally essential that we have a plan. Much frustration in church life stems from a random approach to ministry. We often say yes to everything that sounds good, quickly becoming overwhelmed by the enormity of the collective task. As believers, we must begin to take a more intentional approach to creating an intentional ministry strategy, evaluating opportunities and prayerfully determining which ones best fit our unique mission. Otherwise, we find ourselves over obligated and burned out in the short-term, when God has called us to a life-long journey.
This task requires that we ask some important questions. Why? Where? Who? And how? We can’t do everything, go everywhere, or help everyone. Nor can we invest resources we don’t actually possess. Therefore, we have to create a process for determining the direction God has for us as His people. This will not happen naturally. In fact, we’re prone to simply continue doing what we’ve always done, but missional adaptation will be necessary if we hope to change the current trend.
Believers must adjust at every stage of life. We understand this in other areas of our lives, but we often forget to make the needed changes in our faith walk as our life circumstances change. From our personal spiritual walk, to a congregation’s methodology, or a denomination’s vision, we all must learn to embrace change. Methods are always changing, but the message of the Gospel must remain the same. Still many Christians refuse to change their personal approach to life and living, remaining stuck in the methodological rut of the past.
I recently read that Netflix founder, Reed Hastings, offered to sell his company to Blockbuster CEO, John Antioco for $50 million back in 2000. Antioco’s decision to pass on this offer goes down as one of the most foolish business decisions in history as Netflix’s value has now hit an all-time high of $56 billion (Business Insider: July, 2015). I’m sure you know the story of Blockbuster’s eventual death, and the inevitable rise of new technologies. Those who adapted to these changes continued to find success. Others, like Blockbuster, assumed they were above the fray, exempt from vulnerability and failure.
I’m afraid Christians often posses a Blockbuster mentality in a Netflix world. We’ve spent a lot of time blaming the next generation for rejecting a Blockbuster methodology, but if we’re selling 8-tracks in the 21st Century…no one will hear our message, no matter how true it is. A church that refuses to change its approach is bound for eventual death. While we never compromise truth, we must stop blaming and start claiming the next generation!
Yes, this world is turned upside down, but hope remains in Jesus Christ. How will the world hear of this Savior and the hope of forgiveness and eternity we have found in Him? The only hope for a church turned upside down is a church turned inside out. What is the answer? You are it!