With all I say on the topics of mission, outreach and church planting, and as critical as I tend to be about existing churches, some might conclude that I don’t care for the established church. More so, that I am apathetic at best (or even antagonistic) toward the revitalization of dying churches. This would be an inaccurate understanding of my stance on the matter.
The various letters of Paul paint a beautiful picture of the church being the body of Christ. Individual churches are the local manifestation of that body. Scripture also calls the church the bride of Christ. Jesus sacrificed himself, shedding his blood, for the church. These tell us that Christ himself loves and is passionate about the church. To have the mind of Christ (or to strive to have such) means that we too must care about the church…both the newly born as well as the aged.
Church planting is all the rage now. That’s a good thing. We need to be plowing forward, establishing fresh beach-heads in the continual war for men’s souls. Starting new churches is a must. But, we also must not forget about our aging veterans either. Church planting is easier than revitalization. It’s often easier to build a new house from scratch than to renovate a dilapidated one. That does not, however, mean it’s not worth the effort. There are better analogies though. If the church is the bride of Christ, then simply allowing a church to die is similar to allowing a marriage to crumble through inaction. If it’s the body, then allowing a church to close without doing everything in one’s power to reform is akin to allowing a person to die because the operation would be complex and expensive with no guarantee of recovery.
Ultimately the work of reviving a dying church belongs to the Holy Spirit. We are called to go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching them all that Christ commanded. We are called to plant and water, but it is God who causes increase. This is true in mission work as well as church revival.
Be faithful to the word of God. Be available to be the Spirit’s tool. Be willing to roll up your sleeves and get dirty.