I’m going to share with you some of the most helpful information about revitalizing a church that I’ve ever learned:
When God revitalizes a church, he takes them through 5 types of renewal. These NEVER happen out of order.
That’s a pretty bold statement but I’ve found it to be true. The five types of renewal are:
1. Personal Renewal
2. Relational Renewal
3. Missional Renewal
4. Structural Renewal
5. Cultural Renewal.
In this article I want to address the fifth and final renewal: Cultural Renewal.
What is your ultimate reason for wanting your church to grow? Is it just to have a bigger church because bigger is better? Is it because you want the doors to stay open? Is it to maintain a legacy of Anglicanism in your community? Hopefully, your ultimate reason for wanting your church to grow is to fulfill The Great Commission and see God’s Kingdom come, and his will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
God’s Kingdom come is the great news of The Good News. It is that The Kingdom of God has come through Jesus Christ and that we can experience some of heaven on earth until Jesus returns. Jesus’ first public message after his baptism and temptation was this, “The time has come…The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:14b-15 (NIV) Believe what good news? That the Kingdom of God has come near! Establishing his kingdom is exactly what Jesus did while here bodily on earth. And that is what he is continuing to do today, but now it is through the Holy Spirit in us, his body – the church!
The goal of every local church should not be to build up our own little “Kingdoms” but to push back the kingdom of darkness on earth with God’s rule and reign through Christ. We are to do that not only by seeing individual lives transformed in our churches, but as local churches, transforming the culture around us.
In our ReVive! Seminar, we ask the question, “If your church ceased to exist today, would anyone in your city/town (other than you) even notice?” Often the answer is no because the local church is not impacting the surrounding community with the Good News in any meaningful way.
We believe that the local church is the hope of the world. If every local church figured out and fulfilled the unique part God wanted them to accomplish in transforming the culture around it, the culture would be renewed! Every local church can’t do everything, but every local church can do something. It’s the same idea as the Body of Christ image the Apostle Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 12. But in this case, it is not just for the individual believer to know their part of the Body, but for every local church collectively to know its part. As it says in 1 Corinthians 12:17-20, “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” If every local church on every local corner of every town or city in the world, would discover and do God’s specific part for them to fulfill in the global Body of Christ, then the whole world would be transformed.
Now remember, this cultural renewal of transforming the community around our churches is the result of addressing and experiencing the other renewals first. We see the progression in the first church in the Book of Acts. After experiencing the personal renewal of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the relational renewal we read about in Acts 2:42-27, the missional renewal of thousands of people being saved, the structural renewal of Acts 6:1-7, we then read about the whole city of Jerusalem being impacted by the Good News in Acts 5:26-28a: “The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them.Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. ‘We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!’ he said. ‘Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him…’” (NLT)
Praise the Lord! May your whole city and may the whole world be filled with teaching about Jesus! And may your local church fulfill its God-given specific part to that end!
So, what part is God calling your local church to accomplish in breaking forth God’s Kingdom into your local community? And, how can your congregation bring cultural renewal to your city/town?
Here are some suggestions to bring about cultural renewal in your local community:
1. Believe the local church is the hope of the world. Your church, regardless of how big or small, is part of God’s plan to transform your town or city. Believe it and don’t settle for anything less than having a Kingdom of God impact in your culture.
2. Prayerfully Identify your churches’ specific part to renew your city/town. Be a student of your community. You live there. You know the people. You see the issues. What are the greatest needs? What are the needs no one is really addressing? Be specific to your particular part of town. What are the physical, spiritual, emotional, financial, relational needs not being met directly around your church? Based on the makeup of you church, how can you as a group best address those needs with God’s help?
Our church was on the west side of the city. It was a depressed area, but not as bad as the north side. People joked that the best part of the west side was that at least it wasn’t the north side. We realized, though, that most of the government and non-profit help for people was on the north side and the west side was being neglected. For example, there was nothing really for addiction recovery in our area so we decided to focus on that need.
3. Do Something. Once you’ve identified an area to bring Christ’s influence, be the best church at meeting that need that your city has ever seen. Become the church that if you didn’t do what you do, the city would miss you. If your church ceased to exist the town would notice and be sad, wondering, who is going to do that for us now? Start small and let it develop. Just do something.
At our church we started a Christ-centered recovery ministry (the only one on the west side at the time). In time, we became known as the go-to church for people struggling with all sorts of addictions. If we closed, the west side would feel it.
4. Take Risks and expect to fail along the way. Not every good idea to meet the specific need God shows you will work. However, my experience is that every experiment that fails is an education. And what you learn through “failures” are actually the building blocks to finally landing on the right culturally renewing ministry God has for you. God wants to use your church to break forth his Kingdom into your community and he has a plan for you to do it. Keep prayerfully moving forward until you find it. And then keep moving forward doing it better and better!
5. Partner with others. Sometimes rather than starting something new, God will show you a ministry to partner with that is already doing what He is calling you to. Instead of reinventing the wheel, so to speak, you can come alongside and add support, growing better together.
6. Trust God. Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. – Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)
The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization & Coaching for the American Anglican Council.