Why I Stopped Praying for Revitalization

I have been Pastor of my current congregation for four years. From the day I accepted this call, I have prayed for the revitalization of this Church. I recently stopped praying for revitalization.

I do think revitalization is a good thing and I don’t believe praying for revitalization is a bad prayer. I have, however, come to the conclusion that there are better prayers to be prayed on behalf of the Church.

I now pray for disciples to be made, grow, and multiply at this church. I freely admit this prayer is much harder to see answered and the process of discipleship is much messier than revitalization. I’m praying for disciples to be made, grow, and multiply here because I think that’s what God wants for His people in this place.

I have read the stories of turn around churches and I find them encouraging. I have read the books about church revitalization and I find them insightful. I have heard the conference speakers talk about the need for revitalization and I find them inspiring. I also find the process of making, growing, and multiplying disciples to be more aligned with God’s kingdom. I fear it is too easy to make revitalization about the earthly organization we call “the church” at the expense of lives transformed by the Gospel.

A definition of a disciple might be helpful. Christ’s first disciples followed Him and disciples of all time are called by the Gospel and enlightened with the Spirit’s gifts to follow Jesus. Following Jesus is about direction and choices in life. It’s also about connecting others to Jesus. My short, albeit tentative and somewhat incomplete, definition for being a disciple is having a life worth imitating.

The first disciples of Jesus lived with Him; they saw His life up close and personal. They also wanted to be like Jesus and were, at times sent out to do what He did (sending out the 12 in Matthew 10:5-20 and the 70/72 in Luke 10:1-12). Disciples of all time want to be like Jesus – to imitate Jesus.

As a disciple, I point to Jesus and, to the degree my life imitates Jesus, I have a life worth imitating. Obviously, I have lots of areas in my life where I do not conform to the pattern of Christ and where the world has squeezed me into its mold. There is not the space to detail where I need God’s forgiving grace and the revitalization of the Holy Spirit to truly repent of my many sins. I am a work in process. But I am convinced that I am a work in process where God is at work for me to will and do what pleases Him.

I think we can understand growing as a disciple as “personal revitalization.” It begins at baptism when we are made new creations and continues until we see Jesus face to face. My personal revitalization won’t be complete in my lifetime but, by God’s grace, it will be complete.

Church revitalization is, as I have said, a worthy objective. But, as long as a church has sinners in it, this is going to be an ongoing process the end of which we will not see in our lifetimes.

I fear that, when there is a focus on church revitalization, we are setting our sights on improving “Church, Inc.” – the corporate, organizational, and flawed aspects of what we call “church.” If we can get the structure right or the music right or the programs right, the church will be right. As important as governance, worship life, and programs are, they can’t and shouldn’t take the place of individuals getting right with God.

The marks of Church, Inc. being revitalized: greater generosity, more engagement in activities of the church, and caring for the community all begin at a personal, not a corporate level. Generosity is about how individuals understand their lives as grateful stewards. Engagement begins with me being daily engaged in God’s word and prayer. Caring for our community begins with me loving my neighbor.

I thank God for everyone who is praying for his or her church to be revitalized. You love your church and community and want to see it as a place where God’s word is proclaimed and His means of grace reach the hearts of people. I will be praying for disciples to be made, grown, and multiplied, starting with this disciple who was made in baptism and is growing by God’s grace.

Moment Extras

Questions for Discussion

1.  For what are you praying for your church?

2.  How would you describe a “disciple?” As a follower of Jesus, in what ways is your life worth imitating?

3.  Making disciples begins with a person’s own heart. Agree? Disagree? Why? What work first needs to be done in your heart as you consider your role in making and multiplying disciples?

4.  What are the Bible study and devotional/prayer tools you like to use in your life of discipleship?

Resources You Can Use

1. Joining Jesus – Show Me How: How to Disciple Everyday Missionaries by Greg Finke. This volume follows Greg’s first volume, Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to Be an Everyday Missionary. The second volume will help you focus on the clarity and simplicity of how Jesus disciples people in the gospels so that you can disciple your children, friends, neighbors or fellow church members to get up, follow Jesus and join him on his mission, too.

2. Missional Essentials by Brad Brisco and Land Ford is a “field guide” for engaging in God’s mission in your everyday life.

3.  Discipleship.org is a site which contains blogs, books, free e-books and more on the topic of making disciples. Useful for group study and church leaders. Discipleship.org is a national forum and ministry that advocates for Jesus’ style of disciple making.

 

Mission Moments is the e-newsletter sent by the Center for U.S. Missions to bring information and encouragement to all who desire to share God's great love in Jesus Christ with others. Permission is given to copy this article for distribution within your congregation or organization. Please credit the author and the Center for United States Missions. For more information contact the Center at (952)-221-0362, or visit our website: www.c4usm.org

Center for U.S. Missions – Contact Information

Email us at: | Rev. Dr. Peter Meier, Executive Director; peter.meier@cui.edu  | Rev. Eric Wenger, Director of Mission Coaching; ewenger@livingraized.com| Kathy Meier, Coordinator; kathy.meier@cui.edu  | Mil Behnken, Office Manager; mildred.behnken@cui.edu

 

 

 

 

 

Mission Moments is the e-newsletter sent by the Center for U.S. Missions to bring information and encouragement to all who desire to share God's great love in Jesus Christ with others. Permission is given to copy this article for distribution within your congregation or organization. Please credit the author and the Center for United States Missions. For more information contact the Center at (952)-221-0362, or visit our website: www.c4usm.org

Center for U.S. Missions – Contact Information

 

Email us at: | Rev. Dr. Peter Meier, Executive Director; peter.meier@cui.edu  | Rev. Eric Wenger, Director of Mission Coaching; ewenger@livingraized.com| Kathy Meier, Coordinator; kathy.meier@cui.edu  | Mil Behnken, Office Manager; mildred.behnken@cui.edu