By Wil Hoffmann
I once heard that if you didn’t have a hobby in your life, you would go crazy. During my time in Utah, I started to enjoy learning about outdoor survival. I would watch any survival show/documentary, read as many books as I could on the subject, and even started making my own survival bracelets.
I learned how to survive off the land. I got my family prepared for anything that could come our way. As I gained strength in knowledge of survival, I started to think about the church and how in all reality, the church is not surviving. On average 17 churches shut their doors for the last time every Sunday. At this rate 900, if not more, will die this year.
Looking at these numbers we know that our churches are in trouble. So in terms of survival, how can one use the basic knowledge of human survival and apply that to the church?
This study comes from the Department of the ARMY survival hand book (Field Manual 21-76). I have taken the concepts from the ARMY’S survival guide and their acronym S.U.R.V.I.V.A.L and have adapted them for church revitalization. This article will focus on the “S”.
S – Size up the situation: When it comes to the church and the times of struggle, there needs to be a time to size up the situation. There are 3 areas that you need to focus on; yourself, the physical area, and the enemy.
First you must Size up Yourself. You need to know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. Always remember your training and believe that it will work for you and your church.
This might sound like a strange place to start, but when it comes to church revitalization, you have to ready. Every pastor has some kind of training in the field. If you have been to Bible College, seminary, or even if a mentor has taught you, we have all had training. Remember your training.
Church revitalization is not an easy task. It is not an aspect of ministry that every pastor is gifted with the ability to do on his own.
Remember the words of Paul in Ephesians 4 :11-12; And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,.
In no way am I trying to dismiss your calling and gifts, but the honest truth of this is simply, church revitalization is not able to be done by all pastors. By taking the time to size yourself up, you should come to a clear understanding that you may not be the pastor to lead your church through revitalization.
Like myself, I always liked the idea of being a church planter and at one time worked to do just that. I went through the training and worked with people, but when I got into our location I soon realized that I was not a church planter. It was a hard truth to come to but was one I needed to realize. I was not doing God’s work but what I wanted to do and I was hurting my ministry.
If you don’t feel like you are the pastor for Church revitalization, in no way am I saying you should step down as pastor. There are ministries that are already established that focus on what you need as a pastor that are available and at your disposal if you choose to ask for help. For example, our seminaries have degree programs and are training other ministers to be ready to come beside you and help your church.
What we need to focus on is what is best for the kingdom. We can have a church that struggles until the doors shut for the last time or have a church that refocuses and grows both spiritually and in numbers.
Second you must size up the area of the church. When it comes to survival one of the first things you need to do is to understand where you are located. This is a matter of life or death. If you are in the North Pole it is not a good idea to be in a tank top and shorts. YOU WILL DIE. The same goes for the area that surrounds your church.
Too many times in the outdoors this is overlooked. People do not prepare for the right environment. Even a quick drive on a cold winter day could become deadly if you are not prepared.
I strongly believe that God has placed His churches where He wants them. In saying this, I believe that the location of your church is set up for God’s plan and glory. Therefore it is very important that the church survives to serve the community it’s in.
To make sure that the church survives in the area it is located, one must study the area. You must know the area. What businesses are located in it, what people groups live in your area, is your community growing or are people moving out? These are just some of the things we need to research.
Communities change over the years. When the community changes the church has to change also. This is not meaning that the message of Jesus Christ changes, in no way am I saying this, but some of the aspects of the church may change.
I once preached for a church in a very rural area of Mid Missouri. They would sing the hymns with a blue grass feel. This worked for them because the area and the people. Now try and use the same bluegrass music in a very urban area, and people may be dissuaded to go to your church.
Is your church making a difference? Are you reaching your community? If not, maybe it’s time to make some changes. Remember that your calling is to serve God and to spread the Gospel. Size up the situation and know God’s church and the community it’s in.
Third you must size up the enemy. Satan wants to shut down God’s church. He hates it. He would much rather God’s church be a night club, restaurant or even a bar. Anything other than the House of God. When a church is plateaued or declining they are in a vulnerable spot and the enemy will take advantage of this.
1 Peter 5:8 tells us to be watchful of our adversary the devil because he is always on the attack. It is up to you to know your enemy. Know how he may and will attack. Be ready for an attack.
The best way to defeat Satan is by banding the church members together and getting them on the same page. Put on your armor. Pray with and for one another. Be honest with your members and let them know that Satan is on the attack. Let them know if you are all together in the survival of the church, nothing can close the doors.
The enemy will try to split the church and pick at the sore spots. But stand firm and trust in the body of believers that make up the church. With banding together, you can beat the enemy and bring the glory to God through the fellowship of the church. Keep hope for the church and as we continue through S.U.R.V.I.V.A.L, we will learn that even in the darkest day of a church, nothing is compared to the Light and grace of Jesus our Lord.