In December I posted on Five Areas I've Focused on for Revitalization. The first of those areas is gospel recovery and centrality. This may look different in different context, but the gospel needs to be recovered. In most dying churches the gospel has either been assumed, neglected, or forgotten. That's the hard truth. That doesn't mean everyone in the church is lost. Nor does it mean everyone doesn't believe in the basics of the gospel. No doubt, there are some churches where this is the case, but in my experience it was more assumed than anything else. So we needed to recover the beauty of the Biblical gospel.
From day one of my ministry here I stressed that we were going to be united in the gospel first. I focused on preaching the gospel message as often as I could. I talked about the importance of this with every individual in our church as I could. After preaching through James I jumped into Luke so that we could spend ample time studying the person and work of Jesus. My first break from Luke's gospel was an extended series on the gospel and implications from the gospel.
That last sentence is important. I preached the series on the gospel and the implications of the gospel. Trevin Wax's book, Counterfeit Gospels, was very helpful in thinking through the differences between the gospel story, the gospel message, and the gospel community. I wanted our church to know the gospel message. I wanted our unity to be found in work of Jesus on the cross and the resurrection that followed. This gospel, once believed, creates a gospel community (the church).
The truth is, however, I simply have stated, over and over and over and over, the importance of knowing, believing, and uniting around the good news of what Jesus has done for sinners like us. Over time, and through much prayer, the Lord began doing two important things. First, He sent us new members. This was helpful as they came in under my leadership and vision. They came in believing we were going to be centered on the gospel. Second, He began applying the recovery of the gospel to many of our members who had been there for several years. By His grace and the power of His Spirit in our lives, we began to see a recovery of the gospel. And this automatically led to us begin to make it central.
Now, lest anyone misunderstand, we have a long way to go. And not everyone jumped on board with the vision and leadership our church now has. We had several people leave within my first 18 months or so here. It was tough. I don't like to see anyone leave. However, those who stayed with us now have a desire to hear the gospel regularly, apply it in their lives, and I believe we are getting better at wanting to see everyone within our community hear this good news.
I would stress this as the most important aspect of any church revitalization (any church really!). Recover the good news. Do not assume everyone knows it, believers, or applies it regularly in their lives. It must be recovered, and it must be central in the church.