by Lynn Hardaway:
It takes active faith to gain God’s favor in a congregation (Hebrews 11:6). Declining churches can easily let their faith slip away from them by letting what they see with their eyes determine what they believe in their hearts. As the numbers decrease and the buildings slowly fall into disrepair and ruin through age or neglect, young people depart and friends either leave or pass away, the spiritual life of members often mirror the fallen state of the congregation.
The pastor/shepherd/revitalizer must make it his objective to reengage faith among the people and reconnect their hearts to the God Who reveals Himself and His abilities in the Scriptures. We must not assume that a mental assent to biblical truth assures actual and vital faith; it does not.
Biblical faith is always bold in believing God’s promises! That boldness does much more than make us “good people;” it moves mountains, crosses boundaries, revitalizes congregations, advances His kingdom, interrupts the culture, challenges the status quo, wakes up sleeping Christians, seeks out lost sinners, meets daily with the only One Who can raise the dead back to life.
If a congregation, by their actions, has grown content to merely minister to the redeemed, God seems to begin to withdraw the gift of faith from them (Ephesians 2:8). Comfortable Bible classes start to shrink in size as they grow in familiarity. Visionaries leave, seeking a place for their gifts. Classrooms are turned into storage closets, filled with decaying curriculum, faded artificial plants, items that are reminders of a past glory long gone. Ask the members if they believe God and they will answer in the affirmative. But, look for the fruit of a faith-filled people, and it is difficult to find. It does not have to be this way; it should not be this way; God’s plan for the local church is much better than this!
How, then, can a pastor lead God’s people to a place of real, revitalizing faith?