Why Church Revitalization Efforts Fail

It is easy to talk about church revitalization. It is a little harder to acknowledge that your church needs it. It is even harder to see revitalization become a reality. While there can be many contributing factors, there are several common reasons why church revitalization efforts fail.

1- Too little, too late

Some churches wait too long to make needed changes. It’s not that they are not making some of the right changes, it’s that the changes they are making are long overdue and not significant enough.

If your church has already lost the majority of its younger families, revitalization is going to be especially challenging. If your church needs revitalization and you are not interested in making significant changes, don’t expect results. Doing too little, too late makes revitalization especially challenging.

2- Lay leadership is not on board

If the lay leadership is not on board revitalization will not happen. Why? The church membership typically listens to the lay leadership. Your lay leaders have influence and pull within the congregation. If they are not for actively pursuing revitalization, it will not happen.

 3- Church membership is resistant

There are times when the lay leadership is on board and willing to pursue revitalization, but the membership is still resistant. Revitalization is a church effort. While it does begin at the top, the members can derail the effort.

4- Trust in their own efforts

Decisions have to be made in order for a church to experience revitalization. However, one of the dangers is to trust our abilities to make adjustments more than we trust God to work. Revitalization is not just a practical issue, it is a spiritual issue as well.

5- An unwillingness to make difficult decisions

It is not uncommon for a church to realize they need revitalization, but then refuse to make the difficult decisions that can make revitalization a possibility. It’s as if the church wants the results of change without having to make the changes. If our churches are unwilling to make difficult decisions we will not experience revitalization.

6- You are more concerned with keeping people than reaching people

This is tough. Pastors never want people to leave their churches. However, for revitalization to take place, you have to be more concerned with reaching people than you are with keeping people. Revitalization will never happen if the fear of losing people stands in the way of difficult decisions being made.

Maybe your church realizes its need for revitalization. If so, be on guard for these things that can derail your efforts.

An Acts 1:8 Understanding of Missions

Acts 1:8 is a verse that can be extremely helpful in shaping one’s understanding of Missions — primarily because it tells us where the mission field is.

This verse states:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. (NASB)

There are clearly four areas mentioned in this verse, and each area represents an aspect of missions to which the church should be committed.

Jerusalem

This was the hub of the early church. This was the home base. This was the starting place. This was where they were located. This was where their home church would have had the greatest impact. This is where they lived and did business on a daily basis.

For churches today our Jerusalem is the area around our local churches. Depending on the specific location, it could be a group of neighborhoods, a small town, or a suburb of a larger city.

Judea

This was the region. The people in Jerusalem would probably have traveled within Judea on a regular basis. Perhaps they had family who did not live in Jerusalem, but if they lived in this region they would still see them fairly often. A trip inside Judea was not uncommon for those living in Jerusalem.

Today, the same principles apply. Our Judea is the region around our churches; but beyond the reaches of daily operation. Perhaps it is the next city or town up the interstate. Maybe it is a rural area outside of your city. It is possible that some cities today are so large that the other side of that city would fall into this category.

Samaria

This is not just about another geographical location…even though it is that. Geographically this would require a deliberate trip. It would be our country so to speak. But it is much more than that. Almost every time Samaria is mentioned in the Bible it is in the context of cultural differences. It is not just about location, it is also about reaching people who have significant cultural differences than you.

For us it means that we intentionally reach out to other cultures within the USA. There are significant pockets of Hispanics living in the US that need to be reached. There are areas with a high concentration of Jews, or Muslims, or Hindus. Reaching our Samaria is about sending missionaries to other portions of our country, as well as targeting those within our country who have different cultural backgrounds.

Remotest Parts of the Earth

We understand this. This is the part of mission we are most familiar with. It is an emphasis on other parts of the world. NASB translates this as the “remotest parts of the earth.” We are to take the message of Christ to those areas who not yet heard of who Jesus is and what he has done.

Our understanding and application of missions must include an equal focus on all four areas mentioned. To neglect some of these areas is to neglect our responsibility concerning missions.

Grace for Every Race- Acts 10

Sometimes we take it for granted that we have access to the gospel. We forget that there was a time when the Jews thought that Jesus was just for them. In fact, in Acts 10 we learn that some Jews were astounded that God would save Gentiles. Throughout Acts 10 we learn that the grace of God really is a grace for every race.

A Little Background

The Jewish people were a very proud people. They hated the Samaritans because they were not pure Jews. The called them ‘half-breed dogs.’ They could not fathom God wanting to save the Samaritans.

But the one thing they hated more than the Samaritans were the Gentiles.

Jews would have nothing to do with Gentiles. They would not stay in their homes as a guest. They would rather sleep on the streets than a Gentile’s house. Dirt from a Gentile country was considered defiled. If a Jew had been walking though a Gentile area he would shake the dust off his feet before entering Jewish territory. Jews would not eat food prepared by Gentile hands.

Before the gospel could be preached to all nations there was a cultural barrier that had to be broken down.

The Cultural Barrier

In verse 28 Peter clearly points to the cultural barrier that existed.

You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner.  But God has shown me that I must not call any person common or unclean.

He again highlights this barrier in verse 34-35.

Then Peter began to speak: “Now I really understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him.

This is seen in the Jews’ response to Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit in verse 45.

The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

There was a clear cultural barrier that stood in the way of the gospel spreading to the Gentile people — a barrier that God tore down.

Grace for Every Race

The gospel message was not just for the Jews, but for all people. This truth is seen in a couple of verses in this passage starting in verse 35.

But in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him.

Again, it can be clearly seen in verse 43.

All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.

The message of Christ is not a secret to be protected, it is hope to be spread. As believers we must embrace the truth that the gospel of Jesus Christ — the grace of God — is available to all, and as such, it is to be communicated to all. This responsibility falls on those of us who have, in God’s grace,  received the message of the gospel.