Getting Your Church to get it
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." Thess. 5:11
In the process of any change in any church, you will meet with friction (at best) or hostility (at worse). All people have their own needs, desires, and experiences. And, all people need real love. In this final part, we will look at what can help smooth the process of change.
Take this warning as motivation: If you and your church are fueled only by emotional drama or sensationalism or have no effective instruction, your collective faith will be weak and your love will be upon a thin bed of ice on a hot day. There is nothing to hold, mold, or shape you. There is nothing to transform you and build up faith, character, or spiritual and emotional maturity. Therefore, you must repent and reset your church back to God's path. God wants character and Fruit, first and foremost; He will use you wherever you are.
The first step is spiritual formation.
You need to focus on building faith by spending more devotional time with Christ. Start with a few minutes a day and build. Pray throughout the day. Monitor your interactions with others by being aware of your attitude and fruit. Then, challenge your leaders to follow suit. Finally, make this a church-wide campaign with instruction and faith-building. You will need to do a sermon series on Faith and Fruit. When you are ready and in His perfect time, other opportunities will unfold before you. This is what Jacob had to learn to break his pride, bring him to patience, and put his trust in God, which took 14+ years.
Consider that we have our denomination, our creeds, and, perhaps, great theology. Perhaps, though, we lack in application; we might even be full-on apostate. If you are willing to repent, God is willing to bless and use you. Yes, we may believe, we may recite so in our creeds; are we overflowing with the Spirit?
What do many churches do, though, when the vitality is gone? They repackage their identity and message; they may even hide God's Word because it is "offensive". Take note of this: The very notion that our product (Biblical Christianity) needs an overhaul is ludicrous. We do not have to make the Gospel more relevant to modern ears; we just need to be more loving and explain it better. There is nothing more relevant than how to be cleansed from sin, how to find life beyond the grave, and how to make it work now in unity.
Changing your church name is not the answer. Changing how you are is. We must be careful that as we seek to promote the church, we promote the true church and not a watered-down, cheap imitation. We must display love and unity, not infighting or hate. Many today are removing what they feel are "offensive" doctrines in order to make the Gospel more attractive. Others insist on being unloving, thinking this will attract people. These are not the answers. This will lead people into idolatry or into cultism! We have to know and proclaim that God's Word is true Truth; and, the main aspect of that Truth is real love!
The second step is realizing that you are lost and not on God's path.
If there is little Fruit of the Spirit from the leaders and or congregation, you are lost. This series is all about is getting your church to be more loving. So, think about this: Do the people in your church know that God's love is amazing? This is your primary friction reducer. When we consider how we are and who He is, we see that we do not deserve His love, yet we receive it anyway. We do not earn it, merit it whatsoever, or achieve it in any way; yet, it is there for our taking because of what Christ has done on our behalf.
The problem arises when a church has lost its way from the Way. That is, the church as fallen into the ruts of the urgent, bending to the wills of who is in charge, or chasing the latest idea. What is often missed is what is most important. We may rationalize: "We are a loving church, because my family is here or my friends are here"; "This is my church, and we have a sense of ownership"; "This is all I know". Realigning the collective mindset to be fruitful can be difficult. There are so many distractions from so many people and sources. These distractions converge to take the helm and steer your church in the course of their choosing. What must be done? Stop, drop, pray, and submit in repentance.
Subsequently, do the people in your church--pastors, leadership, volunteers, staff--all know that you are loved by Christ? You may say, "Yes, of course". If so, do you all show that love? Does it come out from your gratitude and joy? Is there a presence of the flowing of the Holy Spirit? If so, you will showcase real faith, hope and love; and, they will work together as the central and crucial gifts of God builds up your church body. The result is vibrant, new life that we have in Christ, who is the source of these virtues. Faith, hope and love is called a trilogy of virtue, as this helps creates our joy because we see, internalize, and live out our faith in Christ. This is also a favorite expression of Paul (Rom. 5:2-5; 1 Cor. 13:1-13; Gal. 5:5-6; Eph. 1:4; 2:8; Col. 1; 1 Thess. 1:3, 7-8; 5:8; Heb. 10:22-24; 11:6; 1 Peter 1:3-5, 22).
Here is the rundown to resetting your church
- First, ready yourselves. Have all staff fast, pray, and search the Scriptures of what is the call. Pay attention to the detractors, too. Spend 30 to 40 days in individual prayer and Bible reading. Then, hold a staff meeting each week to check with your group. Do the same with the Elders and the rest of the church leadership. Get away for a retreat, too. Use this article series as your workbook and sermon source. Set a new vision and mission statement for your church. See our website for help with that.
- Second, preach it! Do a sermon series on the Fruit of the Spirit and building up real faith or on 1 Corinthians 13. See our sister ministry, www.intothyword.org for resources.
- Third, hold a town hall meeting with your church. This is where you tell it as it is, in love and truth. Speak about where we have faulted and where God is calling us. Have leadership publicly repent of any misleading distractions and anything that is not God's will for your church, especially with proper teaching, love and care. Have others share their feelings on the past atmosphere of the church without naming people who offended them. Invite back members who have drifted back, meeting with them first and inviting them to the meeting. Listen and respond in kindness. Explain that we want to have a church that is healthy and honors our Lord with a better flow of real love and care. Ask for the congregation's forgiveness. Then, communicate the new vision.
- Fourth, offer other times for public discourse and your reflections. You need your church to take ownership of God's call. Then, pray and pray. This may take weeks or months, perhaps a year or two..
If the meetings get out of hand because people are offended, simply stop. Reschedule another meeting in a couple of weeks' time. Take those people out to lunch, one or two at a time, and really listen. Explain what you are called to do from the Word. If people refuse to comply, then exercise church discipline and ask them to resign from any leadership position for the time being so that they may spend time in their spiritual growth. If there is a refusal, do not be afraid to ask them to step aside from the church entirely until they are ready to work within the parameters of the Bible and the Fruit of the Spirit. You must get rid of the weeds for the fruit to grow! Of course, the church may get rid of you, because that is easier. If so, praise God and move on with His call (Matt. 10).
- Fifth, know there will be objections. The primary concerns are from a fear of hurt and the anxiety of change to an unknown course. What if we have been hurt or fear that people will hurt us? Understand that God wants us to have open and active hearts. Satan wants our hearts shut down by our fears. God wants us fully engaged in Him and to be poured out to others. Satan wants you to shut down and be discouraged with and disconnected from God, His Word, and His precepts. Satan wants you discounted and disconnected from your vital relationships. He wants you to focus on your past hurts and wounds; he wants you to rest in your pride, thus pleasing the prince of darkness.
- Sixth, make sure you are setting the example. To create a church of unity, leaders should be grateful to share our kindness and humility in Christ as we display His Glory. Let us learn and grow, so we can be better at knowing Him and showing Him as we depend on Christ and His Mighty Work in us--empowering us! In this way, we will grow and be a church that is unified and impacting (Eph. 4: 1-6).
What you explain to your church
We must go to the Word and use the passages in the first two articles. Explain, Do we want to be a healthy, vibrant church? If so, what are we doing about it? This is what I have been praying about, studying, going over with our leadership and will seek to challenge us all to.
We are a church built from Christ's love in order to love God and others; we are to do so in Truth! With a church of love, we will bring real hope to our homes and community. This is not wishful thinking. It is our full confidence and assurance in Christ that leads to greater trust, faith, and deeper love. Hope is a prime reason for us to be grateful, hopeful, and joyful. Hope anticipates and looks forward to the future. Hope alludes to God, His sovereignty, and the work He can do. This is also our security, as it is not in what about our past deeds, programs, or pastors. Rather, it is who we are in Christ. We have the great loving and creating God in us; therefore, we can be bold, take a stand, and reach out. Why would we prefer our own limited, feeble ways and thinking?
Yet, we have gotten ourselves lost. And I know we can turn it around. I know it will be work. And, I know we can do it! Even if your church is doing great and you just want some fine-tuning, we all can use the time to look at His map. Even the best churches need this. Even the churches planted and led by the Apostles themselves. That is why we have the Epistles. Many times, Paul sternly warns of what will destroy the church. We are to be against those who have caused divisions and confusion with other's faith and relationship to God. We are called holy, set apart for God's service and pleasure and to respond to what God has given with faith and application. Christ as our Redeemer is the One who makes us holy. He sets us apart for a reason and a purpose; He wants our lives to have meaning and value. This will be built by our response to be faithful. This is the result of our growth and gratitude for being in a special spiritual union with Christ as Savior and Lord (Eph. 1:3).
For instance, the Good News of the Gospel must make an impact on us so we can make a response. It changes lives effecting a complete change from the inside out, because of Christ's Truth. This message of the Person and Work of our Lord Jesus Christ continues to go out to the entire world! The message is hastened when we love God and His people and desire the lost to be reached as we obey His commands and call. We can have assurance that God is kind to us and will continue to be so and use us when we are kind to others. You can also be Christ's faithful servant, and help further the Kingdom and glorify Christ! Because His great love is in you, His wonders can be displayed through your life and others in your church. These are the calls He has given! We are not alone in this. We have His Holy Spirit to enable and empower us!
Faith, Hope, Love, Gratitude, Truth and Fruit all work together synergistically. Do your people have these? Are they working well? The secret of being a contented, successful, happy Christian and church is our absolute trust and confidence in Christ! His Holy Spirit will flow to make Fruit in and through us all! God is the One who gives us what we need. The question is, Are we grateful for it? Do we have confidence and hope so we persevere in our commitment and production of faith? Are we living out what He pours into us, so it pours out through us?
So, what is the outpouring of our churches? The question Paul is seeking to get across in his Epistles to his churches and the church now is the question the Holy Spirit has for you: Ikey words are definitely a call of God for us to internalize, adhere to, and put them into action so they are externalized.
These gifts turn into virtues and character by our application of them. If these are not being produced, there is a critical problem that will cause a disconnect with God. This results in emotional bondage, discontent, and broken relationships. We are all called to bear fruit; if we do not, something is very wrong with us. Either we are not regenerated, or we are in disobedience. When we have joy in and gratitude for Christ, we will produce fruit, and these key words, and be joyful, will have joy for others too. If we do not have joy for others, we have unforgiveness in our hearts. These virtues will not be flowing (Gal. 5).
Do not allow this to scare you; rather, allow the correction and embrace the adventure. We, Christians, are called to help one another—even strangers--in our "personal business" to glorify God and because we do not know what help we may need ourselves. This is not being intrusive or nosey, but helpful when needed, in community and cooperation.
We are to serve God from the motivation of love, not merely obligation or routine.
When we are in a working community, we will be able to accept people. It does not matter what you teach or how you want to be or could be; if you are not accepting of others, you will drive people away. That means being aware of cliques, body language, and what you say. This may take some practice if you are not a naturally accepting person or church. Maybe you have people with bad social disorders in key positions. Yes, we are to love them, but do not use them in ministry--especially in greeting. Yes, I am astonished by how many churches I have visited that seem to have the most dysfunctional people do the greeting—people who are more interested in their phones, talking only with their friends, or griping. We have to realize that people are turned off. So, place people where they fit, not just what they want to do; notice them by their Spiritual Gifts.
To be a healthy, loving church, it all comes down to the willingness to walk with our Lord Jesus Christ. We must allow His work in and through us. When we are authentic in His Truth and love, it touches all those around us. Then, collectively, as a body of believers, we can overcome our factions, preferences, pride and intolerance. We can unite in His call and direction and be right with each other, our churches, communities, and the rest of the world. It all starts with our growth, our discipleship and the Fruit of the Spirit flowing in and through us. He gives us the Truth. We apply it, we showcase it, and we do this together. The Christian life is not just about me, the individual. It is about God working and not being an obstacle to Him! It is about us remembering how very much our Lord paid and that He paid once and for all.
The basic point of all of this is that when we point to Christ for His glory by loving each other in harmony, our churches will grow! They will grow closer to Christ (and, numerically, too). Fighting, cliquish, standoffish, and unfriendly? No one is attracted to that.
Love and Christ's characteristics are the distinguishing marks of who He is and what He has called us to do. They become the evidence of our faith, obedience, and transformation--the mark of a church and the duty and call of all Christians! Giving ourselves to one another takes us beyond ourselves and into the lives of others, as He gave Himself to us! Love is not blind. It sees and showcases the true, loving God who opens eyes to sin and brings restoration, grace, forgiveness, and community.
Oh, the things your church can do if only you acknowledge that God's love is real, and we all can be real, too!
Sermon and teaching resources at our sister ministry, www.intothyword.org.
© 2017 R.J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/