The church is in constant need of renewal. The past is never good enough; the present is fleeting; we want the future to be better–as bright and good as it can be. In my experience, many churches desire renewal but do not know how to find it. Church renewal occurs when multiple dynamics are brought into play simultaneously. This blog identifies and describes three essential components of church renewal. These are not a cure-all or a guarantee, but they are essential to the renewal process.
Church renewal seldom occurs unless the church is reasonably healthy. Many authors have written about church illness and church health. Here is a list of eight symptoms of church illness from Kent Allen: maintenance complex, failure syndrome, credibility gap, fellowshipitis, people blindness, overcrowding, leadership tensions, and old age. A church may function reasonably well despite the presence of some of these symptoms, but experience confirms that churches that look inward, cannot see outward, lack bridges of communication and credibility to their community, and have a history of failure seldom have the spiritual strength to move forward. Allen also lists eight signs of health: effective leadership, an agreed agenda, believing prayer, life-related Bible teaching, mobilized membership, community minded, ongoing evangelism, and new member assimilation and incorporation. Such lists suggest two needs: eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive.
While negatives must be addressed, many churches can take a major step toward renewal by focusing on the development of a healthy congregation. Committed leaders can actively work on processes for identifying a vision and mission that can unite the church, mobilize the members, and encourage the active involvement of new members. Coupled with prayer and fresh Bible teaching, these positives can help initiate renewal. Churches with a clear sense of identity and purpose are more likely to have the energy to reach others.
Churches struggle with renewal when they do not know who they are. Church identity is not an easy task. What we were in the past is not what we are today. Some think the church is the same as it was, but such cannot be. Churches that seek and find renewal usually find a renewed identity. There are lots of ways to give a church a fresh identity. Some of the more obvious ones are name, descriptions, vision, mission, personnel, and leadership. The church must know itself; the church must also escape any false identities that have arisen in the minds or perceptions of the community. The latter is usually more difficult that the former.
Churches that find genuine renewal have a clearly defined mission. That mission should be grounded in Scripture and God’s mission for the church. A church that knows who it is and what it is about is well on its way to renewal. Add a commitment to healthy church dynamics, and renewal is even more likely.
Churches that find genuine renewal have a sense of purpose that transcends self. God has exceedingly great goals for the church. He lends his exceedingly great power to the task. God’s glory dwells in the church that is genuinely his–indwelt by Christ, energized by a power beyond mere human efforts, fervently seeking to understand God’s purpose which has been demonstrated by God’s love and mercy.