Dead Church: How to bring it back to life
One of the most visible concerns of Dr. Francis Bola Akin-John; President, International Church Growth Ministry; is his desire to see local churches thrive in Africa.
This has been an ongoing concern of the ministry and a passion Akin-John has had to carry for many years.
So, it is not unusual for his ministry to make reviving local churches a thrust of some of its conferences. Indeed, for those who follow Church history, there is no better time to revive local churches than now.
Unfortunately, it seems the more the Church tries to go back to its original state, the more it seems to some people that it is doing something abnormal.
This only goes to show the extent of decadence that the Church has experienced in the last few decades.
But a recent Church Growth conference organised by Dr Akin-John’s ministry turned out to be the elixir the church needs to trace itself back to normal.
The conference explored 19 different topics in the direction of reviving a dead church.
The topics include The prodigal church, the comeback church, foundation for a comeback, the comeback minister; hindrance to comeback church; increasing your capacity for a comeback; and comeback spiritual battles.
Other topics explored are: “comeback to transgenerational Church, the comeback pastoral leader, 30 pastors the church needs for a comeback, who is controlling your church, faith factors for comeback church,
“Comeback church: Worship and preaching matters, principles of comeback churches, the comeback vision, a missionary church in every community, don’t box the holy spirit in your church and breaking contrary covenants.
In his pre-conference admonition, Dr Akin John emphasised the need for the Church to go back to its original place of glory. He noted that the last decade has exposed the nakedness of the church and also makes the call for revival imperative.
The conference then highlighted the deplorable state of the church while also giving clues to how dead churches can be brought back to life. The conference noted that the rot came about because of the trappings of worldly pleasure.
Akin John noted, “In every prodigal church, the ministry is all about attendance, building and cash. It is about grabbing as much property, position, influence, power, money for private and personal pockets.”
He observed further that the church has succeeded in making the central church to be the mother and ruler of the local church. This, he said, is contrary to the original plan of Jesus who founded the Church.
“In the scripture, (Matt. 18v20) Christ started just two churches. The local church and the universal church. The local church is the mother of the universal church” he stated.
It is this misplaced priority according to him “that has given rise to the wave of inconsistencies and distortions being experienced in many churches today. What we have is half baked pastors, no clear calling and vision.
Akin John Identified three-dimensional truth about the local church. They are that the local church must be biblical, must be missional and must be spiritual.
Explaining these terms, he said “by being Biblical, it must uphold scriptural teachings. By being missional, it must engage in outreaches, evangelism and good works. By being spiritual, it must exhibit Christ-like living, prayers and emphasise the place of the holy spirit.
To revive a dead local church, he said, “reviving a dead church is not work for boys, but for real men. The leader that will lift up a church from stagnation must be tough and tender, wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.
He said further that reviving a dead church is not a programme but a process. “A church goes down systematically. The turnaround and fruitfulness of the church should also be a gradual process,” he said.
Dead Church: How to revive it
He then identified some elements that can help to revive a dead church.
First, the leadership skill of the pastor according to him must be sharpened and developed through training, learning, growing and changing.
“If the pastor stops growing in his personal life; thereby improving in his personal skills, the church cannot rise higher than her present level. The growth of the pastors will determine the growth of the church he pastors.
He reasoned further that there is a need to understand the nature of stagnation the church is experiencing. This means studying the history of the church and finding out what led to the decline in growth in the first place.
The issue of unity must also be addressed. He believes if there is no unity among the pastorate of a church, it may well be difficult to bring such a church out of stagnation.
“Where there is self-justification, envy, jealousy, politics, critical spirit and apportioning of blame among pastors, it will be hard for God’s spirit to work in such environment,” he said.
He also believes if the prayer factor is taken with levity, the church will remain perpetually stagnant.
“Nothing will really happen without prayer support. We need to realise that the devil is happy when the church is cold, lukewarm and stagnant. He will therefore try to remove our focus from prayers.”
If the prayer element is addressed, the leadership of the church according to him should then take a step further to set a growth goal.
“When there is nothing to pursue, there will be nothing to possess. There must be clearly spelt out goals for spiritual, numerical, financial and material growth. Goals in these critical areas must be clearly spelt and pursued.”
Beyond the goal, Akin John reasons that the quality of the message coming from the pulpit will either kill or revive the church. For a dead church and any church for that matter, he reasons that there is a need to preach soul-inspiring sermons.
“These sermons will motivate and challenge the people to grow. It will also encourage them to support the growth process of the church.
There must also be a need to equip the church workers through training. “They must be challenged to support their pastors, give their time, talent and treasure to the Lord through the local Church,” he said.
He added also that the church must be excellence oriented. “Begin to pursue excellence in every area of the church. The building, public address system, interior, chairs and general outlook of the church must show excellence.”
Above all, the church, he said must embrace growth-friendly policies.
His words, “The church must be willing to embrace policies that will enhance its growth. We must be pragmatic enough to change man-made, old and archaic ways of doing things so that good growth can occur.”