By Thom Rainer
Despite the tough reality many congregations face today, I remain an obnoxious optimist as we move into 2019. Just yesterday, I received an email about a church that I thought was headed for closure. Through a series of God-blessed events, the church has turned the corner and will remain a presence in the community.
That one anecdote has been a common theme for so many congregations: there is hope. God is not done with us yet. And here are ten reasons why:
- More church leaders are admitting their churches are struggling. On the surface, this reason seems more like a reason for pessimism. I don’t see it that way. You can’t begin to get healthy until you admit you are not healthy. It is a vital first step.
- Churches are increasingly connecting with their communities. They are breaking out of their holy huddles and becoming a witness and a positive presence in the neighborhoods and towns where God has placed them.
- There is significant evidence of greater Great Commission obedience. We recently conducted a survey of 1,700 church leaders. The number one area where they are seeking to improve is evangelism and outward focus.
- Toxic church behavior is less tolerated. Many churches struggle because issues such as bullying and toxic leadership are swept under the rug. Just yesterday I spoke with a pastor who was celebrating the reality that we talk about these issues openly and frankly.
- Church revitalization has become a major movement. This one reason excites me beyond measure. Such is the reason I created the non-profit organization, Revitalize Network. I wanted a place where we could connect and help one another.
- More young pastors feel called to lead a church revitalization. Related to the revitalization movement is the incredible number of young leaders who are and will be leading churches toward revitalization. I can’t wait to see what God will do!
- More church leaders are seeking coaching and consultations. I love the humility and vulnerability I am seeing with these leaders. They are seeking God’s wisdom, and they are calling on others to help their churches move forward. I know. We at Church Answers are receiving more requests for coaching and consultation than at any point in my ministry.
- Churches are working together toward fulfilling the Great Commission.There are so many areas where we can work together even if we come from different denominations or non-denominational churches. For three decades many of our churches and church leaders have criticized and fought each other. More than ever today, we realize we are on the same team.
- Church planting and church revitalization are not perceived to be either/or.We need both. We must have both. They are each critically important. I love the dual emphasis that is taking place.
- The multi-site and multi-venue movement is entering an era of growth and maturity. Because of this movement, existing congregations are finding new opportunities for Great Commission growth. Because of this movement, fewer churches will close their doors.
These are exciting days to be a church leader and church member. While we don’t deny the reality of struggling churches, we embrace the excitement about God’s work in so many congregations.
I really believe it: 2019 will be an incredible year for thousands of churches.
I can’t wait to see what God will do.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on Dec. 17. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and ten grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.