Could Adversity Serve Aa A Catalyst For Church Revitalization?
God’s people are no strangers to adversity. You don’t have to read very far into the stories of the Bible to find people created in the image of God facing trials of tremendous proportions as they sought to dwell in a world plagued by sin. Abraham, Moses, David, Israel, the disciples and the early Church all faced challenges, but by the grace of God they triumphed and continued the mission of bringing glory to God in the midst of adversity. And with a careful reading of the the Biblical narrative, one will soon realize that the mission of God actually advanced through God’s Church as a result of adversity.
One such example is found in Acts 7-9 where we read of Stephen’s bold witness before authorities that results in his martyrdom and the scattering of the early church during a widespread persecution. The church didn’t shrink back, but it expanded to begin fulfilling what Christ proclaimed in Acts 1:8, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Adversity was a catalyst to the expansion of the Church as they carried the hope of the gospel to new towns and regions. Could adversity have the same or even greater impact today?
I pray it does.
Adversity can be a catalyst to help flatten the curve of barriers often encountered in churches needing revitalization
So, how could adversity actually be a catalyst to church revitalization? I think there are at least 3 ways that every at-risk church should consider adversity as a catalyst to God’s mission.
1) Adversity forces leadership to answer questions they would not have considered without adversity.
- What is the purpose of the church?
- How can the church continue its mission now?
- What is essential for making disciples and bringing glory to God in our community?
- How can we equip members for more ministry with less resources?
- What should our church be doing after the adversity is over?
Adversity demands intentional leadership not just to preserve the flock, but to move the flock toward continuing the mission of God in your community. Adversity is not a time to wait, but a time to work so that the church will thrive in all seasons.
2) Adversity forces members to ask questions they never don’t ask in times of prosperity.
- In whom or what have I been trusting in during seasons of prosperity?
- What idols have I been worshipping that now are being exposed by adversity?
- What untruths have I been believing that contradict God’s Word?
- How should I love my life now and after this adversity passes?
- What are my priorities and what things do I really value?
Like a washing machine spin cycle, adversity wrings out all the excess in our lives and exposes our heart and motives in ways that can lead to greater sanctification and fruitful living. How can pastors encourage their members to reflect and respond in ways that actually build up the church?
3) Adversity forces the church to ask questions to evaluate their processes and priorities.
- What should be our vision and how can we accomplish it now that adversity has come?
- What ministries are essential and which could be eliminated?
- How should we best utilize our resources?
- What is the best way to make decisions and who should make them?
- Are there more effective ways of doing ministry than what our traditional practices have been in the past?
Much like downsizing a corporation or restructuring a business under new management, adversity has a way of creating opportunities for new focus and realignment essential to the future success of a congregation. It’s more than making decisions to survive (though you may be forced to make those decisions as well), it is an opportunity to simplify, reallocate and implement new ideas for multiplying disciples and advancing the Kingdom of God in your context.
Adversity can be a catalyst to help flatten the curve of barriers often encountered in churches needing revitalization. Hearts of members are softened to God’s redemptive work, leaders are challenged to make important decisions and pastors are trusted to shepherd a flock vulnerable to the dangers that adversity often brings. Trying times have historically strengthened God’s Church as His people repented of their ways and returned to lives of faithful obedience for the glory of God and not themselves.
Pastors, adversity can be a catalyst for church revitalization, but it won’t happen without your leadership. Lean in, lead well and shepherd the flock entrusted to you toward fruitful ministries in your community.
Members, adversity is a time for faitfhul obedience rather than shrinking back or waiting until the storm passes. Your neighors need eternal hope. Your community needs your intercession. God has entrusted to you a glorious gospel that must be proclaimed.
May our faithful God use adversity to serve as a catalyst for revitalization of His Church until every life in every community hears and responds to the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. May we be found faithfully working the fields, advancing God’s mission in the midst of adversity for the glory of God.
In the words of my friend, Jay Hardwick, let’s “advance anyway” and trust God for the results.
If our team can assist your church to become stronger in the midst of adversity, we’d invite you to start a conversation with our Church Strategies team. Visit hopeforchurches.org to find a simple survey and a link to contact our team. Until then, know that our team is praying for God to strengthen His Church for His glory even it if adversity is a means to do so. To God be the glory both now and forevermore!