What the church really needs for revival is to be socially relevant. No, it all starts with a great music program. Wait, we need a mission statement that’s clever and quippy. How about a Bible study that offers applicable principles for everyday living? Don’t forget the giveaway mugs!
There’s no end to prescriptions for turning around churches. And there’s an element of truth to most of them (although I wouldn’t build a revival around coffee mugs!). But if the main actor in the proposal isn’t God, then you haven’t started in the right place.
I’m sometimes overwhelmed by the volume of advice that churches are given, (I’m sometimes the giver!), and usually underwhelmed by the amount of actual turn-around that happens as a result. Most of our advice for church renewal stems from both an unwarranted belief in the quick fix and a deep anxiety about institutional survival. But God knows we are called to something different.
Most of our advice for church renewal stems from both an unwarranted belief in the quick fix and a deep anxiety about institutional survival. But God knows we are called to something different.
Our emphasis, as Virginia United Methodists, on deepening our practice of spiritual disciplines, begun under Bishop Cho, and Bishop Lewis’ current invitation to engage in daily Bible reading points in another direction. God doesn’t need new techniques or slogans – God desires a people who have been claimed by Jesus Christ and whose identities are now inseparable form his.
God’s work is to transform us and the world. The good news is that we get to participate in what God is doing. If that’s true, there’s no room for our frenetic, anxious activity. That’s what fidget spinners are for.
The good news is that we get to participate in what God is doing. If that’s true, there’s no room for our frenetic, anxious activity. That’s what fidget spinners are for.
Instead, we get to embody hope. In a recent article in Faith and Leadership magazine, Allen T. Stanton says that’s something rural churches can offer to their communities – not because it’s a niche to be exploited, but because it’s who we are. Churches should stand out because their identity is not grounded in the narratives of decay that afflict so many of our rural communities.
“In a community of decline, hope becomes countercultural,” Stanton says. “While it would be wrong to foster a false sense of optimism or to promise that manufacturing and young adults will return, the church has a unique ability to stand in the hard realities and still preach hope.”
Why? Because we know a risen Savior who has conquered sin and death. Plus…somewhere around here I’ve got a mug that says that.