Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Jun
23

It is no secret that many congregations in America are dying. According to Barna, the number of practicing practicing Christians in America declined from 45% of the population in 2000 to 25% of the populating in 2020. During the pandemic, one out of three practicing Christians stopped attending worship altogether, including online services. COVID-19 has accelerated what was already a major problem for Christianity in America. Many churches are dying, and a few are thriving. It is past time for Christians to wake up and recognize this new reality. Congregations will either choose to thrive or die. It is no secret what distinguishes a thriving church from a dying church. Here are some of the main distinctions.

Thriving churches

Practice hospitality

Invite people to worship, small groups, etc.

Evangelize and disciple

Invest in the next generation

Are welcoming and friendly

Use social media to reach people

Mentor future leaders

Serve their community

Are generous with their time and money

Show up and volunteer

Care for their facilities

Have members who are joyful and hopeful

Are outward focused

Have healthy leadership

Live out their faith (Practice spiritual disciplines)

Love their church

Dying churches

Do not talk to others about their faith

Have facilities that are outdated, dirty, and/or not well maintained

Lack of volunteers

Ignore their youth

Complain more than encourage

Value personal preferences over souls

Attend worship infrequently

Lack vision and do not prepare for the future

Are indifferent about their church

Are not involved in outreach

Have an outdated webpage

Are inward focused

Have little or no social media presence

Lack joy and hope

Have a disconnect between what members profess and how they live

Have dysfunctional leadership

Lack a plan for welcoming visitors

Reside in a community or town that is unaware of the church’s presence

May
13

“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'” (Matt. 19:13-14)

Attendance is down in churches all across America. Midweek services have especially been affected by the post-pandemic slump, but there are some bright spots. On Wednesday, we had a significant amount of children who were excited to be at worship. Most of the kids were from our congregation, but not all of them. Two of them were visitors.

Several weeks ago, a sixth-grader showed up because he wanted to help with our food ministry. He found that other kids were helping and so rather than serve and leave, he asked his mother if he could stay for Bible class. Since then, he has shown up every Wednesday. Last night, his four-and-a-half-year-old brother came with him. He loved it! I sat in front of them as we sang. They shared a hymnal and followed along. They smiled and were joyful the entire evening. After they got home, their mom texted to say what a great time they had at church.

The kids did not notice how many people were or were not there. They did not notice whether people were wearing masks or not. They were not worried about other things they had to do. They were glad to be there. They were eager to worship God. They enjoyed getting to be with friends and making new ones. Their presence was a blessing to all of us.

As adults, our lives get messy. We’re busy. We’re exhausted. We may become frustrated or upset. We may get our feelings hurt. We may feel ashamed. We might become preoccupied with other things, other loves, other obligations. If only we could be like little children. If only we could recognize the joy of every opportunity we get to worship God. If only we could be fully present to those around us and treasure the blessing of Christian friendship. If only we could once again delight in those things which are lasting.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'” (Matt. 18:1-3)

May
11

Who is Jesus?

This is the most important question a person can answer. How we answer this question will determine the kind of life we live. It will determine who we become and the eternal outcome of our lives.

Is Jesus someone I can ignore?  Is he someone I only think about once or twice a week? Is he someone who rarely enters my thoughts? Is he someone I only think about when it is convenient? Is he someone I brush aside when his will is different from my will? Is he someone I never consider when making major life decisions?

Is Jesus someone I think I can fool?  Do I act one way at church and another way with my friends? Do I do good deeds just to look good in front of others? Do I pray at worship but not at home? Do I keep the laws but hate people in my heart? Do I claim to put Jesus first, but then choose other things over Jesus?

Is Jesus someone who looks just like me?  Do I believe Jesus thinks just like me? Am I never challenged by Jesus? Does Jesus never cause me to change anything in my life? Am I never surprised by anything Jesus says? Do I think following Jesus is super easy?

Is Jesus everything?  Does he consume my thoughts? Is he the object of my desires? Do I want to spend eternity with him? Are my actions shaped by him? Do I live for him? Is he lord over aspect of my life? Do I choose Christ over my comfort, my desires, and my wants? Do I strive daily to have the mind of Christ? Do I talk to others about him? Do I sacrifice for him? Is he my Savior, my Redeemer, and my Lord?

Who is Jesus?

When Jesus becomes our everything, when he becomes the object of our hearts desire, our lives are transformed. We look more and more like Jesus. We naturally don’t commit adultery because we have no lust in our hearts. We naturally don’t murder because we have dealt with the hatred in our hearts. Our lives are consumed by Christ and we are changed from the inside out. We strive for justice and peace. We seek to be meek and poor in spirit. We do not worry. We pray for our enemies. We keep our word and we give to those who are in need. We see and understand everything through the lens of Jesus. He is the fulfillment of our lives. He is our identity. Does this mean we live perfect lives? No, but our lives are forever changed because Jesus is our everything.

May
03

Right now is a critical time for churches. Christianity in America was facing challenges before COVID. According to Sam Rainer, “nine out of ten churches in the United States are either declining, or they are growing at a pace that is slower than the community where they are located.” This was from a book published in 2014. We are now in 2021, and we just went through a pandemic that negatively impacted nearly all churches.

What has happened in the last year?

Church attendance has declined significantly.


Some ministries and outreach efforts have been unable to operate.


People have left churches.


Some people have been unable to give because of financial hardship.


Some people have stopped giving because they are upset with church leadership.


Churches have received more requests for assistance and are helping as many people as they can.


Ministers are leaving and transitioning to secular work.


Churches have been unable to find enough volunteers and the ones who are volunteering are overworked.


Leaders are stressed, and some are stepping down.

That is a lot to take in. Just looking at that list can be overwhelming. However, we serve a big God who can do anything. It is not all up to us. We have to trust God and address one problem at a time.

What are we to do?

Here are four suggestions depending on where your church is at now.

Reevaluate and Refocus – Now is a great time to look at what you had been doing before COVID and what you want to do going forward. Some programs and ministries may need to end. Resources may need to be used in a different way or another area. What is the vision for the church going forward? What have you learned over the last year? Look at what has been working and what has not been working and come up with a plan to move forward. Reach out to a church consultant if you need to. They can help. Once you have a plan, get to work. Idle churches will not survive.

Sabbath for Ministers – Your minister is burned out. He has been overworked. He has fielded multiple complaints each week for more than a year. He has watched members leave. He has seen attendance plummet. He has participated in some of the most contentious meetings since he has been a minister. He has likely received little encouragement. He needs a break. He needs more than a week. He needs a sabbatical so he can tend to his own spiritual needs and the needs of his family. This will bless him and the church. It may keep him from leaving ministry. He will come back refreshed and ready to lead. Jonathan Smith, a friend of mine, recently outlined all the reasons why now is the time for ministers to take a sabbatical. Check out his article COVID and Sabbaticals

Train People to Become Bi-Vocational Ministers – There is a minister shortage, and it is not going to be filled by new people entering full-time ministry. There will also be more and more churches unable to afford a full-time minister. We need to prepare for this by encouraging and training people to become bi-vocational ministers. Identify and challenge talented people who are already qualified to do this now. Prepare your teens and young people for ministry. We need doctors, teachers, plumbers, nurses, and mechanics who are also ministers. We should have already been preparing our young people to do this, but now we have to. If we don’t, we will see more and more churches shutting their doors.

Healthy and Growing Churches Need to Help – If your church is one of the rare ones that is both healthy and growing, then it needs to look for ways it can help struggling churches. Is there a church that needs help nearby? If so, reach out to them. Ask how you can help. Do they need a worship leader? Do they need a minister? Do they need help with VBS or outreach? Your church may have lots of resources, and they may have very little. Share what you have. Develop a relationship with another church. Get to know them and invest in them. You are not there to take over. You are not there to tell them what to do. You are there to help. Do this for a set period of time, and then find another church to help. Be a church that helps others.

Apr
29

Last year nearly every church went online. Because churches were unable to gather in person, they used Facebook, Zoom, YouTube, and other digital platforms to stream worship. Now that many churches are meeting in person again, some are asking, “Should we keep streaming our worship online?”

The short answer is yes!

Let me explain why I believe this. We are called to reach the lost for Christ. The mission of the church is to proclaim the good news to as many people as we can. The internet is a tool we can use to share the gospel with the world. People watch. Neighbors, coworkers, and family watch. People from far away watch. I have seen it. Keep sharing the good news and engage the people who are watching.

Why is this an issue? Because there are people who used to worship in person who are now worshiping online. This is happening in many churches. People got used to worshiping online during the pandemic, and now they are slow to return. This is a real problem, but it is not an online worship problem. It is a discipleship problem. These Christians need to be encouraged. They need to be taught the value and importance of gathering with a local body. This problem is not corrected by taking away online worship and depriving others of hearing the gospel. It is corrected through discipling these Christians to have a deeper and fuller understanding of what it means to be a member of the body of Christ.

What should churches do?

Use every opportunity to share the good news with others. Don’t take away opportunities. Look for them and take advantage of every one.

Use online worship as a way to connect people to your church. Let them get to know you, and invite them to be a part of your congregation. If they do not live nearby, help them find a church near them.

Disciple members who are not attending in person. Do what you can to strengthen and encourage them. Come alongside them and help them become a more mature Christian.

Apr
22
Apr
20

As churches begin to regather and refocus, now is a great time to ask some essential questions.

What is our purpose?

If the purpose of the church is inward, then the church will continue to lose members and die. For instance, the purpose of the church should not be to see how long you can keep the doors open. Healthy churches have an outward focus. The purpose of the church should be to serve others and proclaim the good news. Christians are called to continue the ministry and mission of Jesus.

What is my role in helping the church achieve its purpose?

The church is the people. Healthy and thriving churches are ones where church members are actively involved in the ministry and mission of the church. Churches will not survive if they rely solely on a small group of people to do all the work. People will experience burnout. Leaders will resign. Ministers will leave. Church is more than what one does for one hour on Sunday. It is working side by side with other Christians to accomplish the will of God in your community.

What do we want to accomplish as a church?

Once the church knows its purpose and understands the mission to which it has been called, it is time to get specific. Every congregation needs to have goals. If not, they will likely accomplish nothing. Imagine what your church can do. Identify how you are going to serve your neighbors. Name the areas where you want to work. Discuss the spiritual growth you want to see take place. Communicate this vision to the body of Christ.

How do we accomplish our goals?

Now that you have goals, how are you going to achieve them? Begin with prayer. God should be involved throughout every step of this process. It is his mission, not yours. Create a plan, and identify how these goals can be achieved. Involve as many people as you can. The church is on mission, not just the minister or a select few. Go and do. Continually remind yourselves that you are a church with a purpose. You are the hands and feet of Jesus.

Apr
15

Below you will find a new prayer guide. The focus of this prayer guide is the local congregation. As churches are beginning to ease COVID guidelines and strive for revitalization, this is a guide that might be helpful during this time. It is something an entire church can commit to doing together, or it can be used by individuals who want to spend time praying for their congregation.

I have also recently updated the two other prayer guides I have put together. The changes I made were minor. I enlarged the font size and provided some extra space for writing notes. I have also included a benediction at the end of each guide. You can download the updated versions below.

Apr
08

God hears and answers prayers. He does not always give us what we ask for or answer prayers as we expect him to, but he does answer them. When answering prayer, God most often works through natural means. He works through human beings. He puts people in our lives to be an answer to prayer. If we need help, then he may send us someone to help. If a loved one is sick, then he may connect us with a doctor who can provide the care needed. This is very natural and looks normal, but the hand of God is at work.

Sometimes, God does something that is not natural. We call these acts miraculous because they transcend the laws of nature. We cannot explain them by natural means. It is obvious that God has answered our request in a special way. These instances are rare. They are atypical. This is why we call them miraculous.

When we pray to God for protection, we should expect a natural response. God regularly uses other human beings to carry out his will. Many people have prayed to God for protection from COVID-19, and we now have three vaccines available to us in the United States. God has used the natural abilities of scientists and doctors to save lives. He has answered our prayers. It might not have been what we wanted, but it is an answer. Praise God! Praise God for scientists and doctors. Praise God for the many many lives that have been saved over the years because of vaccines.

We must also acknowledge that over half a million lives have been lost due to COVID-19 in the United States. There are no easy answers to some events in life. We mourn the loss of life. We weep with those who weep. We patiently await the day when our questions will be answered, but even then we may not receive the answers we expect to receive. Our scope is limited. God knows all and sees all. Until then, we honor those who have gone on before us by faithfully living out our days on this earth. We do not take any day for granted. We thank God for the gift of life.

Apr
06

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13)

Discontentment is rarely the result of not having something we need. It is often the desire of wanting something we don’t have to have. The problem is not about our inability to acquire, but about our desire for more. We must learn to be content. We must come to understand that Christ is the answer to many of the desires within us. We don’t need more possessions. We don’t need more pleasure. We don’t need more money. Having more will not ultimately fulfill our desires. We will still want more. We need Jesus. We need to walk in his ways. We need the mind of Christ that causes us to abandon our selfishness and to think of others.

Contentment is about more than what we possess. It is also about our relationships with others. It applies to our feelings about our circumstances and environment. When we constantly feel angry or upset, then we are discontent. If we can find no goodness in others or our circumstances, then we are likely discontent. If we cannot find peace or joy, then we lack contentment. Again, the problem is not outside. It is inside. It is not that others or our circumstances are the causes of our discontentment. The problem is we need a deeper relationship with Christ. Contentment is found in knowing Christ.

If you feel discontent, don’t look outward. Don’t try buying more things. Don’t sever relationships. Don’t quit your job. Don’t abandon your church. Look to Christ. Follow Jesus. Embrace the mind of Christ. Pray. Serve others. Forgive. Encourage the people around you. Tell the truth. Be generous. Bless and do not curse. Do good. Contentment is found when we know Christ and follow him. Don’t look anywhere else.