Last night I was watching the Tarheels "comeback" on the Volunteers in the closing seconds while beginning a journey through Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson's book, Comeback Churches. I thought it was unique that they began with chapter 0 instead of chapter 1.
Chapter 0 was about "foundations". I found the chapter very helpful. It fits well alongside other resources available to pastors and churches such as "healthy church" initiatives like in my home state of NC and the most recent book Transformational Church (which is an excellent book as well). Chapter 0 was simply laid out in a format for anyone to understand.
The chapter is broken down into three primary categories: churches should be biblical, churches should be missional, and churches should be spiritual. Under each category, the authors briefly describe what that means in a meaningful and helpful way that is not overwhelming nor is it done in a way that "ties" their descriptions to any one particular context of church. They can be used over all contexts. Incidently, that is what I am finding most helpful about the "models" employed through our state conventions "healthy church" initiative and Transformational Church as well. The coach-approach in asking questions in the chapter is helpful as well. It helps the reader think through the concepts and statements without being told the answers for the reader in his/her context.
In many of the churches in the United States, it's time for a "comeback". Regardless of the reason, many have fallen behind in impacting their communities. Depending upon the stats that you read, the majority (anywhere from 75-85%) of churches are plateaued and declining--in membership and more importantly in the impact they are having on their communities. It is clear from the beginning of this book that becoming a "comeback church" is a journey, it's a process of beginning with one step, making a turn toward significance, gaining momentum, making progress in significant areas of church life (vision, structure, strategy, or values--thanks NC Baptist), often making some difficult decisions along the way, maybe re-inventing ourselves for a new day according to how the community has changed around us, honestly evaluating where we are, having a "cathartic" moment (just learned what that word meant a few months ago), and believing that God is in the "comeback" business with his people as we respond to His call to be the church he is calling us to be repentance, faith, trust and obedience to His Word, particularly the Great Commission (cf. Revelation 2-3). All of this must be grounded in God's Word and a "prayerful dependence" (from Transformational Church) upon the Holy Spirit of God knowing that apart from His work in our lives, personally and corporately, we will not survive nor thrive. We must come to a point where we are broken in our spirits over the condition of our churches refusing to play the games we have played for so long.
Yeah, my Heels made a comeback last night. Some things fell into their favor near the end of regulation and their were some mistakes made by the other team. It happened so fast, it was pretty hard to believe. Life is a vapor. My time on earth is short. The opportunity to shepherd God's people toward becoming the church He desires for them to be, not according to "my" vision, but according to scripture is now. Sure, God isn't in a hurry, but he has called me to fulfill the responsibilities that he has given me by his grace and through his Spirit while it's still called today to shepherd his people along the journey to become what one writer calls a "church of irresistible influence" in our community for the sake of the kingdom of God and fame of the name of Jesus. We don't have time to play games--this isn't a temporary bowl game, there's no Gatorade coming down on our heads. There's so much more at stake.
Are you ready for a comeback?