The Apostle John was stunned to the place of mortal dread when he saw the dazzling vision of Christ standing in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; he collapsed, unconscious, at His feet. Jesus reached down and touched the fainted servant, roused him to consciousness, and made a declaration of truth that resonates to every one of His churches struggling with decline: “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” He was in the midst of His churches, keeping close watch on His pastors (the “messengers” of the churches), evaluating the motives, programs and doctrines of the congregations. He shared His vision for each church with the pastor, and prescribed the process for life beyond the letters when He said, “Let him who has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” The single most important factor in leading a congregation out of a period of decline and toward a place of life and health is to spend enough quiet, listening time with the Lord of life to hear His plan and His message for the church. Popular methodologies promoted in books and articles are useful ideas, but the best wisdom for solving problems in a church comes from God, Who is the Wonderful Counselor, the Amazing Advisor.
One of the statements often quoted among kingdom leaders is, “It’s easier to give birth than to raise the dead.” They mean well; church planting eliminates the need to roll away the stone of traditionalism that has locked life out of many congregations. My response to this statement, based on experience, is, “That’s true, unless the resurrected Christ is involved. For Him, resurrection is simple.”
Perhaps that is why His words to John were spoken in the context of local churches; He knew the tendency of congregations to drift toward self-service and self- preservation, which leads eventually to death, so He inserted the unlimited and unstoppable power of His resurrection into the reasoning of His leaders. He reminds them that no church has to face decline and death if they will link their decisions and actions to His life-generating Spirit.
As you consider solutions to your congregation’s need for transformation, the first decision to make is to invest copious amounts of time in His presence and wait for His matchless wisdom to be revealed to you.