Stagnation is the enemy of church growth. All churches face it at some point in their ministry—some several times. If left unchecked, stagnation can turn into a decline, and a decline is much harder to turn around. Many churches are stuck in stagnation. They gain some members, lose some members, and stay about the same every year. This can be turned around. What we choose to do during stagnant growth will determine the future of our churches. How can we get on the go again?
Revive Your Own Heart
“Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Psalm 85:6
A reverse to stagnation will begin with you, the pastor. The health of the church is dependent upon your ministry of prayer and the word, and that ministry is tied directly to your walk with God. If you are concerned that your church is no longer bringing new people to Christ like it once did, it’s time for some extra measures. If our church has become stagnant, chances are we have as well. We must allow God to change us in order for the church to change.
Have a three day fast. When Nehemiah heard that Jerusalem was on the brink of ruin, this was his reaction, “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4). Jesus indicated that certain obstacles can only be overcome through prayer and fasting. When it seems nothing else is working, fast and pray for God’s renewing in your life.
Have an early walk with God. The responsibilities of a pastor come quickly, early, and unrelentingly. Shepherding people comes with a schedule that can be unpredictable. Seeking God early allows you to focus on God without interruption. It’s a passionate time of prayer and Bible study in the quietness of the morning before the world demands your attention. The Bible’s example is an early morning time with God. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Psalm 63:1).
Fall on your face before God. This is an acknowledgement to God that He alone is able to bring about a meaningful, lasting work in your church. He wants to use you to do His work, but it is only for His glory. The solution to stagnation is always God working through us. While there are certain methods you can use to attract and keep new Christians, no methodology can replace the working of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 57:15 tells us that God dwells with those who have a humble spirit: “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
Renew Your Own Work
“Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” Nehemiah 2:18
Do you worry that your congregation just will not grow? They have had the same Sunday school classes, the same pew, the same routine for the past thirty years, and now they need to change? If overcoming that seems like a challenge, think of the people of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day. They were returned to their land after generations of captivity, and yet they had done nothing to restore the walls of Jerusalem. But God used Nehemiah to make a difference. The same people who were stagnant for generations now strengthened their hands to work. They just needed a spark to ignite their passion.
Understand that we are the spark plug, and God is the fuel. God has all the power and energy necessary for your church to become an active body of believers pulling people from the flames of Hell. But He has chosen to wait for a leader to ignite the passions of the people for God. So many times in Scripture, God raised up a single leader that became the catalyst for an entire movement. He is just waiting for one man to lead by faith. “Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it” (Jeremiah 5:1).
Our effort makes all the difference. It is flawed to think that our actions have no effect, positive or negative, on the work of God. Throughout the Bible, the actions of faith or a lack of faith have expanded the work of God or limited His work. The people will follow our lead. If they see us acting in faith, it encourages faith in their own lives. As the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” We are an example to the people in our churches.
You may worry that you don’t have the physical strength to overcome stagnation. You had passion and zeal when you first became the pastor, but that may have been years ago. Yes, physical strength wanes, but spiritual passion reignites. Second Corinthians 4:16 says it this way, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” Spiritual passion is not a product of physical energy. It only comes through and is sustained by your relationship with Christ. That is what people need to see in order to kick-start the work of God again.
This is part one of this article. Please click here to read part two.