There’s good news and bad news when it comes to church renewal. First, the good news. It’s going to be simpler to address than you thought. Next, the bad news. You won’t find the answers, or even the source of the decline, in any of the most obvious places.
The dictionary defines renewal as the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken. It’s easy to look for what seems broken—like giving, worship attendance, level of participation, building repair or layout, or disciple-making systems—and then seek a series of fixes. All of the above issues will in fact respond to a process of renewal. Yet none of them are the source of decline.
The source of decline is hiding in plain sight. Want to know the secret to church renewal? And the three underlying principles?
Here is the secret to renewal: renewal begins within. I don’t mean within the congregation. No, the answer is even closer to home than that. Church renewal begins within you.
I was reminded of this hidden-in-plain-sight secret at a recent Creating a Culture of Renewal retreat. Participants designed a worship service that incorporated Romans 12:1-2. They reminded the church leaders of some basics of Christian faith including this: Your mind can’t be aligned with the consciousness of God if you are too conformed to the patterns of this world.
Patterns of the World
While there are lots of patterns in this world, one of them is to pretend like nothing is wrong. The other is to pretend that everything is wrong. The first leads you to a constant state of denial. The other to a constant state of lament, outrage, or resignation. Either way, you can’t discern God’s will for you when your mind is caught up in the patterns of the world.
Another pattern of the world is to be dominated by fear. The potential fears that leaders are subject to are endless, including the following. Fear of what others think of you. Fear of getting it wrong. Fear of conflict. Fear of telling the truth. Fear of saying no. Fear of saying yes. Fear of not getting things done. Fear of loss of influence, or loss of authority. Fear of looking bad, or of not looking good.
Breaking Free of These Patterns
Breaking free of these patterns of the world is not easy. Jesus did it by getting away from the crowds, and even his friends, to be alone with God in prayer and communion. The same is true for leaders today. It’s important to spend time away from the constant drama of the world, to reconnect with your own body, mind, and soul. It’s also important to connect with people who feed you instead of drain you.
In some ways this answer to renewal seems simplistic, misguided even. How can your relationship with God bring renewal to the church? How can your prayer life or physical fitness impact congregational giving or worship attendance or someone else’s leadership? The answer is to be found in the three principles of renewal.
Three Principles of Renewal
Underlying the hidden-in-plain-sight secret to renewal—that renewal begins within—are three guiding principles of renewal.
- Your people can only go as far as you can lead them.
- You can only go as far as you are willing to let God lead you.
- Your fears, worries and concerns, i.e. the patterns of this world, are holding you back.
If it’s true that your people can only go as far as you can lead them then they will never be renewed if you’re not. This is not a judgement. It’s an invitation. To see where you are physically worn out, emotionally run-down, or spiritually broken. And to attend to the needs of your own body, mind and soul so that you can lead others more effectively.
How to Create a Culture of Renewal
Want to learn more about how you can create a culture of renewal? I invite you to attend a free seminar. You’ll learn the 3 stubborn barriers to achieving renewal, 3 life-giving miracles that renewal brings, and how to take the next step. Email [email protected] to register.
In the meantime, if you’re a leader, remember that it’s important to be kind to yourself, to be courageous, and to spend more time with God.