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A Restart Story

Written by: Carl Shank


A church I worked with was on the verge of death. Most people had left. No young folks remained and children were scarce. I remember an eventful congregational meeting at which about a dozen people attended. This was the very last meeting of that congregation. Some people were angry with an outsider like me for even suggesting a closing. Some people were frustrated. Most were saddened and did not know what to do.


An older gentleman spoke up. He angrily pointed out that the church could continue. All we needed, he noted, was a good old-fashioned revival meeting—like the ones they had in the “good old days.” Interestingly, the downward spiral of nostalgia, questioning, polarization, and dropout were compacted into that one meeting. The church voted to shut its doors in favor of a new church plant at a location nearby. The good news is that the new plant has been healthy and growing for several years now. A few of the former church’s members have become an integral part of this young, healthy work for God. One older couple, asked if they regretted their decision to close down their former church, simply smiled and said that they thank the Lord every day for the new, young, vibrant church they now attend.


An old Gospel hymn teaches us:

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way

To be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.”


Obedience to God is theologically and practically the outworking of true faith. Paul talks about the “obedience of the faith” in Romans 1:5 as the mission God has given him. Obedience to God means that we need to do something to make health occur in our church! Some churches may need new goals and strategies for accomplishing God’s mission for them (called “functional structures” in church health). Some churches may need to take plain steps of obedience to the command of Jesus to “go and make disciples of all nations” and actively disciple their communities for Christ. One church lay leader I highly respect has noted that an “evangelism committee” is an oxymoron! New Testament evangelism means leaving your church “box” and mingling with those for whom Christ died who live next door, down the street, and in the Sunday-packed malls of our communities.

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