This is a season in which we place much emphasis on hope, and rightly so. Jesus is the hope of the world! This is also a theme that must permeate every aspect of our ministry. It must be sensed by our church family in the way we lead, the manner we preach, and demonstrated in how we serve. Hope is an inspiring message that is rooted in the nature and character of God in fulfilling all of his promises to the Church. Hope is being honest in how things are, but expectant in how things can be. In the Christmas story, Mary pondered the possibilities of all the angel was proclaiming and her role in fulfilling it. The angel declared to Mary, “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37). This simple phrase is the basis of hope.
Hope is a message our churches need to hear again and again. With God, all things are possible! A pastor must be overflowing with hope. It is a deep conviction and a passionate plea. He calls everyone who is held captive by sin to the hope of deliverance through repentance and faith. He calls every believer to live with hope, set their affections on Jesus, and he reminds them that Christ in you is the hope of glory. The Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing what is to come. Yes, in this world we will have trouble, but Jesus has overcome the world. We have an enduring hope!
This world is not as it ought to be, but there is good news, Jesus heals the brokenhearted and causes dead hearts to be alive in Christ! My life is not as it ought to be, but God who is rich in mercy and steadfast love is renewing me and sanctifying me for His purposes. Our church is not what it ought to be, but God isn’t done with us yet. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” (Philippians 1:6). Hope is an expectation of God’s power in the fulfilment of his promises. Hope restores and sustains our spiritual fervor. It breeds dependency on the mighty hand of God to save souls and make all things new. We must lead with hope!
Hope is also the key to revitalization. Churches who are in steady decline are discouraged. What once was, is no more and it is easy to feel defeated, but with God all things are possible. I recently encouraged a church in our revitalization process to consider the glory days of their church. There was a time that God was moving in their midst. They can look back and see Sunday School halls bristling with excitement about disciple making. The auditorium echoed the resounding praises of a grateful people. The baptism waters were being stirred with those who were placing their faith in Christ. Yes, now church is not as it ought to be, but what can God do? God can do immeasurably more than we could every ask or imagine. He did it then, he can do it now! The first step in revitalization is restoring hope. A church must be honest about how things are and consider how things can be.
There are many steps of faith ahead for this church and others who are considering the revitalization process, but recognizing that things need to change is not defeat. It is a step to a new future in which God is being glorified in the life of the church and the mission of the church is restored. Does your church need revitalization? I have found these podcasts so helpful in diagnosing the heart issues churches face and in discovering spirit-filled solutions: Revitalize and Replant Archives – North American Mission Board (namb.net) It all starts with hope.
Darren Hales is the Church Strengthening Team Leader for MTSBC and can be contacted at [email protected].