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The gritty work of church revitalization

Unsplash/Chris Yang

Ministry isn’t glamorous. And the moment that ministry does become glamorous, you become an anti-minister. Church revitalization is gritty work, but God is glorified in the impossible challenge of leading a church back to health.

The church’s biggest problem is not a lack of giving, a lack of people, or a lack of leadership. The church’s biggest problem is the lack of assurance in pursuing God’s glory. Slow giving trends are a symptom of a greater problem. The decline in average worship attendance is a symptom of a greater problem. Poor leadership is a symptom of a greater problem. The solution to the Church’s problem is a tireless pursuit of God’s glory.

Glory implies weight, something substantial or lasting. To glory in something is to show it is central and most important. Nothing should equal the weight of God in your life. Every great leader dies. Ethics deteriorate. Economies putter out. The best buildings crumble. The highest-rated schools phase in and out. The biggest churches come and go. Only the glory of God carries with it the weight of blessed assurance.

We don’t just recruit people to come to church on the weekend. We compel people to become active participants in the most incredible mission this world has ever known — the proclamation of the glory of God to the ends of the earth. Why do we exist? The only way it matters is if our life’s mission is bringing glory to God.

The prophet Isaiah records clear words from God about his glory: “I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them” (Isaiah 43:7, NLT). You were made for this. Made to be saved. Redeemed to be sent. Sent for the glory of God. Dig into the grit of ministry and find God’s glory. Rely on the Holy Spirit over personal charm. Depend on prayer over strategy. Give up self-reliance and become powerless for the name of Christ. You may never be recognized for your work. You may go decades before someone thanks you for your ministry.

We need more unglamorous pastors like Ambrose Gilbert Sapp, my wife’s grandfather. He toiled in obscurity among the rolling fields of Kentucky farms, shepherding in poverty without any glory or recognition. He preached the gospel until he died, and the next pastor took his place. Give us more faithful servants like Ambrose Sapp. There’s no way to know with certainty, but I believe thousands are in God’s Kingdom because of his faithfulness, including my wife.

If God can save any person, then He can save any church. Yours included. The work is gritty but worth it.

This article is adapted from an excerpt in The Church Revitalization Checklist: A Hopeful and Practical Guide for Leading Your Congregation to a Brighter Tomorrowpublished by Tyndale. 

Originally published at Church Answers. 

Sam Rainer is president of Church Answers and pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Florida. 

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