It is not altogether uncommon for a church member to feel as though the church has plateaued or has lost her way. Sometimes the feeling is justified. Sometimes it is based on false understandings or misguided expectations.
Still, church members who walk closely with Jesus want to see their churches thrive. There is a holy burden about them to take some action that might rekindle a fire and bring about a spiritual awakening. But what action is there to take?
Spiritual vitality is not a pursuit consigned to the vocational minister. Every church member is called to take those actions that would infuse the hope of the gospel into the daily life of the fellowship and advance the Great Commission in the community and around the world. Through the centuries God has used everyday Christians to ignite spiritual fire and to bring about biblical change. Pastors and other vocational leaders are gifts from God for the equipping of the saints to the work of ministry. But it is the saints who, having been equipped, are to deploy to this work and bring about substantive change for the sake of Great Commission advance.
When discontentment comes within your local church body, what can a church member do? What, exactly, are some practical action steps everyday church members can take to help turn the church around?
Here are seven action steps you can begin taking today to help turn your church around:
A praying church is a powerful church, and praying churches are made up of praying church members. Generally, when it comes to the intervention of the Holy Spirit in the life of a church, you will not see in public what you neglect to request of God in private. Many church members get nothing from their corporate spiritual community because they ask for nothing in their private spiritual rhythms. If you really believe that the Holy Spirit can turn your church around, get on your knees before God daily and ask Him to do just that.
When it comes to spiritual awakening, God uses those born-again believers in Jesus Christ who are pursuing personal holiness. They study Christ’s Scripture. They obey Christ’s commands. They conform to Christ’s character. If you want your church to be characterized by the peculiar grace of God, then be a church member whose life is a sincere, open display of that peculiar grace.
Evangelize the lost
Your church has this one core message—the message of salvation and the assurance of heaven through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ. Share that message with those who are not yet Christians. Your circle of influence is your responsibility. God put you in their lives to reach them with the gospel before it’s too late. Thriving churches are those whose members actively share the gospel with unbelievers and invite them to respond in faith. If you want your church to be that church, you need to be that church member.
Mature things reproduce. When spiritual maturity is in view, spiritual reproduction is happening. For millennia, spiritually mature church members have been systematically walking with new believers as they learn how to develop in Bible study, prayer, evangelism, and other devotional rhythms. If you want to see the next spiritual generation of church members become devoted to Christ and grow in the faith, find a small group to disciple. Ask your pastor if you need help identifying someone to disciple or for recommended tools for the discipleship process.
Encourage church leadership
While vocational ministry can be rewarding beyond measure, it can also be extremely discouraging. Every church leader I know faces constant discouragement. But it is God’s desire that they be able to do their jobs with joy and not with grief (Hebrews 13:17). When they can live out their calling with joy it is to the church member’s benefit. But often the church member himself or herself is the very source of discouragement. Be assured of this: encouraged church leaders lead better. Be the church member who intentionally encourages—or starts a movement of intentional encouragement for—your church leaders.
Grace is not a novel concept, but it is increasingly rare in Western churches. Grace gives. Grace sacrifices. Grace inspires. Grace is giving someone something they simply do not deserve. Words can be gifts. Smiles can be gifts. Simple acts of service can be a gift. Restraint can be a gift. Listening can be a gift. The benefit of the doubt can be a gift. In the gathering, be a gift-giver. Whether or not this changes your church, it will surely change you.
Be relentlessly optimistic
Anyone who has sat under my leadership, in any setting, has heard me use this phrase. There is no place for “cautious optimism” in the church. By God’s own design, everything moves forward toward the consummation of his redemptive plan. Every win and every failure. Every joy and every pain. Every crisis is an opportunity for God to prove Himself faithful to those who walk closely with him. And he will again and again. Be the church member, through seasons of crisis or change, who keeps an eye out for God’s gracious activity in it all, with full expectation that He will use it for His glory and your good. Be relentlessly optimistic.
In times of disillusionment with your church’s season, it is a false presumption that you can do nothing about it. Checking off these seven action steps may not produce your desired positive results in your church, but I promise that giving your regular attention to them will produce some positive results in you.
Every day you have the choice to be part of the problem or part of the solution. If you are dissatisfied with the direction of your church, resist the urge to think you’re already doing everything you can. Instead, start working through these seven action steps and watch how God will bring about renewed shape and purpose not just in your congregation, but in your own life as well.