photo-1430747562296-5556d17a15a5I have had an increasing number of conversations lately about the revitalization of plataued or dying churches. In most of these conversations, there is a lot of lamenting over the decline of particular churches, as well as denominations as a whole. The hand wringing is usually followed by a series of ideas or approaches to remedy the problem. Too often church revitalization is about what we need to do. Better pastoral leadership. More capable preaching. New organizational structures. Stronger evangelistic efforts. Creating “better” church members. And richer, more engaging times of worship.

I am afraid none of these “fixes” will solve the problem. Doing more of what we have done is the past is not the answer. In the midst of these conversations I am often reminded of the words of Alan Hirsch; “We are perfectly designed to achieve what we are currently achieving.” Sit with that statement for a moment. Are we happy with what the church in North America is currently “achieving?” Are we really satisfied with the difference the church is having on our communities and cities? If we are honest, I am convinced the answer will be no. What then needs to be different when discussing church revitalization?

Part of the solution, I believe, is that instead of starting with our inadequacies, or what we need to do, we should start with what God is doing. The reality is that God is powerfully present in our communities. He is actively loving, redeeming and restoring the world around us. Further, he is calling a people to share in that work.

Imagine the church — your church — as a people chosen, called and sent for God’s restorative purposes in your city (I Peter 2:9-10; John 20:21). Imagine your church existing for the sole purpose of participating in God’s mission. God’s church doesn’t have a mission in your city; instead God’s mission in your city has a church — your particular, local church. He is calling your church to bring the good news of the Gospel of the kingdom to a world where bad news is depressingly infectious.  

Genuine revitalization is about what God is doing. It is about discovering what God is doing in the people and places around us and then discerning how he wants us to join in his redemptive mission. We must recapture the missionary nature of the church and in doing so, we must activate ALL the people of God to engage in his mission. We have to be constantly reminded that the primary activity of God is not within the walls of the church. Instead, the primary activity of God is in the world around us, and the church is a sign and instrument created by God to be sent into the world to participate in what he is already doing in the particular places that we call home.