Give Your Church an Extreme Makeover
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2005 14 Dec
If your church is torn apart by conflict that robs of it vitality and fruitfulness, the culprit is likely corporate sin. This kind of damage isn't easy to repair, but there's hope if you're willing to pursue an extreme church makeover.
Here's how you can give your church an extreme makeover:
Stand against evil. Remember that your position in Christ gives you all the spiritual authority you need to confront and defeat evil forces seeking to harm your church. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the courage and strength you need to continue to pursue truth in the face of evil's deception. Pray often to deal with spiritual warfare.
Center your ministries on Christ to achieve unity. Don't let bickering over doctrinal issues derail your ministries and keep your church from achieving all God wants it to achieve in His kingdom. Realize that there should be unity in the body of Christ because the Holy Spirit has made Christians one. Rather than making doctrine an end in itself, make it your highest goal to express love for God and your brothers and sisters in Christ. Strive to develop the fruit of the Spirit (such as love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness) as you relate to others. Ask God to help you always be humbly aware that you still have more to learn about Him. Remember that the Bible is meant to unite and liberate people, not divide them. Don't reduce Christianity to an intellectual exercise; remember that it's a relationship with a living God. Don't base your identity on your denominational affiliation; base it on your identity in Christ. Understand that your church's ministries must be rooted in Christ if they are going to bear fruit.
Balance power between different ministries well. Realize that if God is leading your church in a new direction, everyone in the church family must be incorporated into the process. Divide the congregation into small groups and invite each group to a meeting at which someone on staff invites them to talk openly about their perceptions of the church. Ask them to discuss questions such as: "What are the strengths of our church?", "What are the weaknesses?", "What are we doing right?", "What are we doing wrong?", "What kind of church would you like to see us become?" and "What needs are being overlooked?". Genuinely listen to and appreciate all perspectives. Encourage people to refuse to listen to gossip. As church members mature and prove themselves faithful in small ministry tasks, help them move up to more responsibility. Provide the training they need and hold them accountable to character requirements for serving in certain roles. Agree on common purposes for your church's ministry work - no matter what type of work it is - to help people work together in harmony.
Choose leadership styles wisely. Understand that the right style of leadership for a particular situation should be determined by who the followers are. Choose a style that best relates to followers' ability and maturity. Recognize that unqualified people need instruction and supervision. But as they mature, they should be more involved in making decisions. As they assume more responsibility, they need emotional support from leaders.
Develop servants' hearts. Make it your goal to help every church member grow to reach his or her fullest potential. Encourage church members to help each other in this process, as well. Regularly intercede in prayer for people in your church. Let them know clearly that you accept them. Seek to build trusting relationships with them.
Encourage genuine communion in your church. Intentionally pursue communion throughout your church - a living union and communication with Christ. In your worship services, remember that God (not the congregation) is the audience. Focus your services on the person of Christ, celebrating His finished work and instructing people how to live out their salvation. As you preach and teach the Gospel, emphasis that the basis for a proper sense of self-worth is people knowing who they are in Christ. Help people resolve their personal and spiritual conflicts so they can grow to freedom in Christ. Pray before, during, and after church meetings or ministry events. Help strengthen marriages among church members. Confront issues of past sin in the church's corporate life. Pray consistently and faithfully.
Look at your church's strengths and weaknesses. Schedule a retreat in which you list your church's greatest strengths and weaknesses as specifically as possible. Begin the event by praying for renewal and reading Revelation, chapters two and three. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern God's view of your church.
Deal with your church's memories. Realize that shared memories contain hidden power to affect your church's present and future. Ask God to remind you of the best memories of the life of your church, as well as traumatic events in its past. Discuss these memories, by decade, beginning with the earliest recalled past. Then pray about each memory, asking God to help your congregation embrace His forgiveness and forgive each other for specific offenses. Encourage people to seek reconciliation whenever possible.
Deal with your church's corporate sins. Identify and renounce your corporate sins - patterns in the church that are displeasing to God and contrary to His revealed will. For example, "We renounce division among us." Next, announce the positive biblical opposite of what you've renounced. For example, "We announce that in Christ we have the unity of the Spirit." Include such issues as rebellion, arrogance, complacency and passivity, apathy, a critical spirit, pride, an unwillingness to forgive, poor stewardship, gossip, power struggles, accepting immoral behaviors, and an unwillingness to evangelize. Have each person take personal responsibility for how he or she contributed to corporate sins by confessing that honestly.
Defeat Satan's attacks. Pray for protection against attacks by evil on your church for what church leaders and members are doing right. Realize that Satan will often attack people in your church at their points of greatest vulnerability. Anticipate such attacks and claim Christ's resources to deal with them. Read Ephesians 6:10-20 to remind yourself how to put on the armor of God to resist attacks.
Create a prayer action plan. Write a prayer action plan that people can return to frequently to continue praying for your church's healing. Include specific action steps you and others plan to take to help move the healing process along. Seek to form and establish healthy new patterns of faith and practice in your church.
Adapted from Extreme Church Makeover, copyright 2005 and 1994 by Neil T. Anderson and Charles Mylander. Published by Regal Books, from Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., 1-800-4-GOSPEL, www.regalbooks.com.
Neil T. Anderson is founder of Freedom in Christ Ministries and president of Discipleship Counseling Ministries. He has 35 years of pastoral and teaching experience and was formerly chairman of the Practical Theology Department at Talbot School of Theology. Neil has authored more than 50 best-selling books on Christ-centered living, including Victory Over the Darkness, The Bondage Breaker, Discipleship Counseling, The Daily Discipler and Beta, The Next Step in Discipleship. He and his wife, Joanne, currently reside in Tennessee.
Charles Mylander is executive director of Evangelical Friends Mission, the missionary-sending agency for Evangelical Friends in the United States. His books include The Christ-Centered Marriage, Setting Your Church Free and Blessed Are the Peacemakers, all coauthored with Neil Anderson.