Few would ever brazenly try to steal the church from Jesus, but out of self-preservation over years and decades of hard work and ministry, we can become blind to our hearts and set in our ways.
In the introduction to my book, The Life of the Vine in the Soul of the Church, I say, “At the expense of sounding too pious, I wrote this book for Jesus. For too long, I did not give Him his proper place in church building. I am sorry. He knew where I was in my understanding of things and was patient and intentional in performing His work in me. I’m sure He has more to teach me.”
I worked very hard at getting a crowd to church. We did many things to attract people. I felt a lot of pressure from my mentors to produce and compared myself with my colleagues a lot. As I said in my last deposit, I felt more like a competitor than a companion.
Why wouldn’t we? Often when going to pastors’ fellowships, the first and sometimes last question we asked was, “How many are you running in Sunday School, brother?” Whether your number was high or low (if you were honest), it seemed like the conversation was over.
Crowds also pay bills so that becomes a motivation to attract. I know financial pressures and having a “critical mass” are all factors in our concerns about church size. Many pastors are feeling pressure from the finance chairman who is watching the ever-decreasing numbers and wondering what should be done.
In his excellent book, Revitalize—Biblical Keys to Helping Your Church Come Alive Again, Pastor Andrew Davis strikes a clear note in where to begin in restoring a local church to its proper foundation. His first step to revitalization is “Embrace Christ’s Ownership of the Church.” You see, our goal never was to attract a crowd. Preach the gospel to every people group? Yes! Make disciples in every nation? Yes! Equip the saints to do the work of the ministry? Yes! Become a pillar and ground of the truth? Yes! But the size of the crowd is up to Jesus (Acts 2:47).
Our goal is not to attract a crowd but rather attach them to Christ. Here’s what Davis says.
“A passion for the exaltation of Christ as head over the church must enflame the heart of all church revitalizers. You must burn with a passion for the supremacy of Christ in your local church. Churches need revitalization precisely because they have become increasingly cold toward the glory of Christ and increasingly dominated by man’s glory, wisdom, efforts, agenda and power. If a church is to be revitalized, then the absolute ownership of the church by Christ must be central to everything you yearn for and do.”
His book is a great read for anyone interested in a healthy, revived church built on and around Christ. He offers many practical suggestions grounded in prayer and the scriptures to help local leaders in any congregation. Let me add that leadership is important in the move back to Christ.
The last two churches I pastored were in need of revitalization and there came a time in both churches where we formally recognized Jesus as the owner and gave each respective church back to Him.
I remember in our last church after I had given a message on Christ’s ownership and headship how we gathered at the altar, repented of our pride, and gave the church back to Jesus. It was a glorious, yet humble moment and a turning point for healing, growth, and lasting fruit.
Few would ever brazenly try to steal the church from Jesus, but out of self-preservation over years and decades of hard work and ministry, we can become blind to our hearts and set in our ways. Next thing you know Jesus is outside knocking (Rev. 3:20). Remember where you went wrong, repent, and return to the One who paid for the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
Joe Humrichous is the executive director of Paradigm One and Bible Prayer Fellowship. The message of the sufficiency of Christ for both the pastor and the local church was birthed during a time of brokenness in his early ministry. Now after 50 years in ministry, Joe is passionate to share this reality as it applies to corporate prayer and church leadership. He recently served as a pastor at First Baptist Church in Covington, Indiana. He and his wife Teresa have 5 children and 13 grandchildren.