Dear Revitalizing Church,
I am writing today both to encourage and edify you in the work that you have established in your local communities. To paraphrase the great greetings of the Paul in the New Testament, I send you grace and peace. The grace I send is that unmerited favor of God upon the local body of Christians that you are working with–a reminder that God has called you to a specific place and a specific time to do His good work, but He will always provide His grace for you (2 Corinthians 12:9). And this peace is the peace which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7)-so that in the highs and lows of this process of revitalizing you may rest in the sovereignty of God–He indeed is doing a great work through you.
Many of you are coming off of great weekends of worship, and some of you may have experienced an extreme low, yet you are called to and are doing a pleasing and very good thing. Stay of sound mind, and be encouraged that many, many believers are lifting your congregations up in prayer on a daily and weekly basis. Although we are not physically present with you, we are present with you in the spirit of rebuilding a community of Christ-followers which are continuously pointing to the Gospel. Take courage, and keep pressing forward-maintain the course-and do not give up. Even if it was the best weekend in a decade, God has more planned for you.
With these encouragements, I also write these exhortations, so that you may continue to do the work of the Lord. PRAY-often, without ceasing, and with boldness for the local church, for your pastor (or interim pastor), for the leaders of the church. Pray that they can maintain focus on the task at hand no matter how large or small. Pray for their protection (mentally, physically, spiritually) from the fiery darts of the enemy. Pray for a unity among the congregation so that the Gospel can go forth, and the local church returns to a place where it is recognized as a beacon of light in your community. Do not let deceitful talk or wandering tongues arise among you–only words of encouragement.
Next, do not look to the left or the right or to the rear. To the left, you will find another church that is stirring church growth based on a false Gospel, one that is built on emotions and not the truth of scripture. Sure they may be growing exponentially in membership, but their depth of relationship with Christ in surface-level at best. Do not look to the right because you will see a church that is built on the truth of scripture, the Gospel is true and their size in number is mighty. Do not look this way unless you are tempted to leave the flock you are part of and feel “called” to join another congregation. Remember, the church where God has placed is the church where God needs you-your time, your talent, and your treasures. AND, do not look to the rear. Do not look backwards and remininsce on the “good ol’ days.” This is a place that was once near and dear to you, and place where you possibly began your relationship with Jesus Christ-submitting to Him as Savior and King of your life. It is not a bad place, but it is a place where the enemy would have you stay in your mind. Yet, God has more planned for you in these days! He is leading your congregation to a new place in this revitalization process-a place that will look and feel different, except for one thing-The Gospel-the same Gospel you remember receiving when you look back. So, look forward and see how exciting it will be when a new believer receives salvation because of your faithfulness to The Gospel.
Finally, know that change is okay. The invention of the light bulb, the telephone, the airplane, the iPhone have all been great things–when used in a Godly way. The changes taking place are not bad, unless they are deflecting people away from the Gospel. Keep the Gospel at the center of songs, keep the Gospel at the center of the sermons, keep the Gospel at the center of outreach and ministry and you will begin to experience all of the good things that God has planned through this process called revitalization. Some things may look different (paint colors, chairs instead of pews, screens instead of hymnals, lights being dimmed), some things will sound different (drums, electric guitar, no organ, the volume is louder), some things will smell different (coffee in the front of the church, donuts in kids classes), some things will feel different (greeting people at the front door, the order of the service, a vibrant kids ministry). These differences are NOT BAD, in fact they may be needed and vital to the long term sustainability of the local church. Just because things are different, doesn’t mean they can’t be good. Imagine night time with no lights, imagine only writing letters instead of calling, imagine traveling 5 days from New York to California instead of 5 hours–be okay with change being okay.
As I leave you in this letter. Know that above all, what you are doing is good! The importance of making disciples and sharing the Gospel and baptizing can not be underestimated. Stay focused. Press on. Pray often. Keep unity. Accept changes that are God honoring. And know that those of you that are not with you physically each week–we desire to see the revitalization to be successful. We rejoice with you every single time we hear of the good work you are doing. We celebrate the glory of God every time we hear that your doors are open and that more people are joining you in hearing and sharing the Gospel!
Blessings to you all.