A missional life begins in the spiritual depth of a Christian soul. Like the rings in a pond, it springs from the gratitude of a disciple, and it seeks the flourishing of community in radiating rings. The growing Christlikeness of the soul first seeks the shalom of those closest, family and the fellowship of other believers. As maturity develops, the desire to bless extends outward to the well-being of the community at large and then the world. Sadly, though, the missional life of a church is often one of the first things to contract when decline sets in and hearts turn inward toward survival. Programs replace prayer, the world shapes worship, and growth in the inner life falls out of favor. Restoring the missional soul of the church is the first significant challenge that any revitalization pastor must address, and it begins with the spiritual life of God’s people.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1
The intention of all formational ministries is a growing Christ-likeness in the life of a disciple. The growing likeness of the Savior in the life of a Christian does two things; it gives us assurance that we belong to him and in him [1 John 2:6], and it shapes our outer life, the way we interact with our world [Romans 12:2]. Building, or rebuilding, that foundation of assurance creates a springboard for hope, and turns the declining church’s vision toward a new future. Tempering the urge to “do something” and instead focusing on “being something” pays much bigger dividends. If there’s been a lack of prayer or a shaken confidence within the church, lead the saints into a new practice of prayer. Commit your prayer leadership to a less petitionary communion with God, aim for spiritual strengthening and shaping. Lead with scripture, guide those who will join you to see what Christ’s heart and mission is for the Church, for your church. Pray for the well-being and salvation of the community and increase the sensitivity of those praying to the leading of the Spirit in their lives. Commit to the long road as the Lord works in His time to form the souls of His people.
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14
It will seem counterintuitive to do the work of spiritual development while the external signs of health in the church continue to point in the wrong direction. Depending on the state of spiritual maturity within the church, the Lord may take a considerable amount of time to reshape the hearts of the devoted remnant. During this time take heart, you as the revitalizer have time to teach again and again on the mission of God for His church. This teaching, from the pulpit and one-on-one, can take the saints back to scripture to come to know once again how important the inner life is to the empowering of the outer life. Put before whoever will listen the truth that they cannot not go unless the Spirit leads them [John 16:13], that they cannot make disciples unless they themselves are shaped by the truths of the faith [Philippians 2:1-3], and that all the world begins on the streets of the surrounding community.
The North American Baptist Conference has four principles that guide ministry throughout their churches. These principles [called End Goals by the NAB] are interconnected and intended to be understood as a whole. Ministry flows through each of the principles to form a holistic, missional philosophy of the Church in the world. The thoughts above are an interaction with End Goal 1: NAB Churches will be trained for missional and formational ministries. In an article written by Executive Director Harry Kelm, the following paragraph appears:
Missionally and formationally multiplying is why the NAB plants churches, which has always been a commitment of the NAB. We plant churches with the intention of reaching people with the Love (of) God in Jesus. Missionally and formationally ministering is embedded in all our End Goals and in who God is calling us to be.Onward – Spring 2023
In addition to church planting, these principles should also guide revitalization efforts. As with the church plant, the legacy church has a place in being and proclaiming the gospel to their community. Use the principles to evaluate the alignment of your church’s ministry and leadership with the vision embedded in the Goals. Teach them and shape your efforts to reach your community and the world with the love of Christ and the hope of shalom.