"For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." 1 Corinthians 2:2
Do you need a five step program to renew your church? Are you putting your hope in the newest strategy or best practice of the church you want to be like?
A lot of church renewal work focuses on changing programs and strategy, and those matter. Church revitalization programs tend to have clear steps and strategies based on the Bible or on marketing principles to grow a church. But how does Jesus renew his church?
When Paul goes to churches to get them healthy, he re-preaches the gospel to them. For Paul, everything that ails a Christian ails a collection Christians in a congregation. Either people don’t understand the gospel, misunderstand, or don’t know how the gospel shapes they way they think and live. They don’t understand some doctrines from the Bible or the Apostles, so he corrects them. They misunderstand who the gospel is for so be brings them back to center. Or, they don’t know how the gospel applies to them so he does application to marriage, government, parenting, singleness, work, the panoply of life issues facing Christians.
Small vs. Large Church Renewal
Some people think that “renewal” is about dying churches. But every Christian and every church needs to be renewed in the gospel. It looks different in small vs. large churches, of course. The complexities are different. In large churches the complexities are staffing and programmatic. There are a lot of moving parts that have to be considered.
In small churches which act like large families the relational complexities are amped up. There are tight relational networks that have to be navigated to make even the smallest changes.
At the spiritual level, large and small churches need the same thing: the gospel. They all need to ask themselves, is what we’re doing affecting evangelism or just serving ourselves? What would Jesus say about what we’re doing? Is the way to do discipleship, worship, and evangelism in line with what Jesus wants from us? The complexities might be different, but the basic questions start in the same place.
A Movement of Church Renewal
What would it look like for a movement of church renewal to spread? First and foremost, people in our churches would be more personally impacted by the message of the gospel. They way they think about themselves, God, other people, and the world would be shaped by the gospel in profound ways.
Being shaped by the gospel will lead to gospel conversations with non-believing friends and neighbors naturally. If the gospel is “working for” you, you can’t keep it to yourself. If you can keep it to yourself, the gospel isn’t affecting you. A movement of church renewal would look like Christians having gospel conversations with their non-believing friends that flow naturally out of God’s love for them in the gospel.