Every Church Revitalization is a Cinderella Story

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March Madness is made of upsets, underdogs and Cinderella stories. Saint Peter’s, a small school from Jersey City, New Jersey became the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Elite Eight, a feat that’s never been done in NCAA history. The Peacocks won 10 straight games, and beat No. 2 Kentucky, No. 7 Murray State, and No. 3 Purdue.

Why do we love the emotional ride of jumping up and down, enthusiastically fist pumping the tv while rooting for the underdog so much? Sports Psychologist Jamey Houle, Ph.D says it’s because “it makes us believe that maybe, at some point, we can do something great.” We identify with the underdog because we want to believe we too can overcome odds that seem overwhelming.

The Way I See It

Every church revitalization is a Cinderella story.

To win the game in church revitalization is to overcome huge odds. Depending on who you read, 70-90% of churches in America are plateaued or declining. That’s over 300,000 churches in need of significant revitalization. Talk about insurmountable odds! So what is a pastor of one of those churches to do?

  • Depend on the Big 3 – Not the 3 point shot, rather, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. A revitalization pastor must trust in the sovereignty and power of God the Father. Nothing catches Him by surprise and nothing is impossible with Him. He must obey God the Son, who loves His bride and is willing to give up His life for her. But He also speaks truth clearly and boldly to His church (Revelation 2-3). And a revitalization pastor must rely on the presence and guidance of God the Holy Spirit when faced with critical or difficult flock members. Yielding to the Holy Spirit’s work insulates his effectiveness as shepherd of the church.
  • Create a new, winning culture – Most churches want the quick-fix, silver bullet, fastest way back to the glory days. What is required is a culture shift: a change in attitude, beliefs, and behaviors. And that is a slow, methodical and intentional road. Strong leadership is necessary to rebuild a strong church because vision must be recast, mission must be reestablished. And a patient pastor who walks alongside people who are slow to change, doesn’t bulldoze over those who need more time to adjust, commits to stay for more than two Arizona summers, builds a winning culture. And the comeback is even stronger.

Scripture is full of examples where God does the impossible. God takes the underdog and does incredible things to humble the giants. Saint Peter’s was this year’s March Madness underdog, and while they didn’t make it past the Elite Eight, I loved cheering for them. Are you part of a church “Cinderella” story? Let me know in the comments how I can pray and encourage you. 

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