Dear Woodview friends and family,
Many churches in the United States are in trouble. In fact, it is reported that about 5,000 church close each year (this is a conservative figure -- others say somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000). Now there are a myriad of reasons why, and we don't have the time or space here to dig into it -- but the truth is that for many churches, if things don't change they will end up on that pile also.
That is why church revitalization is so important. That is why I am so proud of the leaders of Woodview who have recognized this need and have and are taking the difficult steps forward. And that is why we need to be working and praying for revival.
In Ezekiel 37, we read about the Valley of Dry Bones. Israel was spiritually dead...oh, there was a faithful remnant as there always is, but Israel was spiritually dead. And no one thought there was any hope for them. Until God gave Ezekiel a vision and God called Ezekiel to speak to those dry bones and call them back to life. Those bones started to stir, then they came back together, then they were covered again with flesh! Now that vision teaches us three things -- God takes pleasure in bringing dead things back to life (it reveals His power and glory), it can only happen by the power of God and the moving of His Spirit, but it happens through human agents (in this case Ezekiel) and their willingness to be used of God.
The attitudes and actions of church members are critical to church revitalization. Jonathan Howe and Mark Clifton have studied and written about church revitalization. They talk about several attitudes and actions that are necessary:
1. I will move from "I am" to "I will" -- the focus needs to be on the future and working together toward a better future.
2. I will worship with others -- this is a commitment to attend regularly and be engaged in worship.
3. I will grow together with others -- for the church to experience revitalization, its going to require us pulling each other in, not keeping others at arms length.
4. I will serve -- find a place to contribute your time, gifts, and talents.
5. I will go -- nothing revitalizes a church like seeing new faces and people making commitments to follow Jesus; so it requires a commitment to go and reach out to people outside the church.
6. I will give generously -- church revitalization costs more than just continuing things the way they are because it requires an investment in the future.
7. I will not be a church dropout -- churches that need revitalization feel discouraged, be committed to not adding to that discouragement but to being part of the force that will bring enthusiasm and optimism.
8. I will make a positive difference -- this means simply determining to contribute to a better future.
Now, many of you are already doing these things...and I thank you! I imagine some who read this have simply been waiting for some clear ideas on things they can do to help. So let's pray together, let's work together, let's be committed to a better future and trust God's Spirit to breath life into the bones!
See you Sunday -- we start a new series called "King Jesus." I can't wait!
Jon B. Stradtner