Are our churches dying? Are our congregations asleep? Are we not giving the trumpet a certain sound?
If the answers to these questions are Yes, I know of only one sure remedy: personal ministry. Nothing will revitalize the soul of a church more than getting the members involved in soul winning—nothing!
I once heard an old pastor say, "People usually live about as long as they feel they're needed." However broad, his generalization makes a crucial point: God designed men and women for productive activity, and He continually points out in Scripture that the highest occupation is to help others. This was Jesus' creed—and the Father endorsed His ministry with spiritual power for that purpose: "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38, NKJV, emphasis supplied).
As God sent Jesus, so He sends us (John 20:21) with the assurance that, as He empowered Christ, He will also empower us. In fact, Jesus promised we would be empowered to do even greater things than He! Again and again in Scripture, the promise for supernatural power is extended in direct connection with active ministry.
"And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.... 'And as you go, preach, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give' " (Matt. 10:1, 7, 8, NKJV, emphasis supplied).
"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost'" (Matt. 28:18, 19, NKJV, emphasis supplied).
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8, NKJV, emphasis supplied).
Those God appoints He anoints.
God calls doers
Have you ever noticed how God always seems to call people of activity? Moses was tending sheep, Elijah was farming, Peter was fishing. Gideon was busy threshing wheat by the wine press, and Ruth was gleaning barley. Saul was busy searching for his father's lost beasts. Nehemiah was working as a royal butler. Those God calls, He qualifies— and those He qualifies, He uses. God calls men and women when they are busy; Satan calls them when they are idle. David fell for Bathsheba during a time of leisure limbo at the palace when he should have been out with his soldiers on the field of battle.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Activity is contagious." Christian happiness consists of activity. It's a running stream, not a stagnant pool. But in this high-tech era, it's easy to confuse busyness with accomplishment.
Ministry instigates miracles
There is no question about it, God regards the ministry of saving others as the most noble enterprise.
"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise" (Prov. 11:30, NKJV). The Lord will pour His power on and work His wonders for those who are endeavoring to do this great work. Notice this simple but pro found pattern: The majority of God's miracles are connected with ministry. The first disciple to experience being beamed from one place to another was giving a Bible study and baptizing believers (Acts 8:39). Paul was preaching when he raised Eutychus, blinded the sorcerer, and delivered a girl from demons. God miraculously delivered Peter, Paul, Silas, and others of the apostles from prison when they had been preaching and teaching the truth. Most Old Testament miracles happened on the battlefield; e.g., Samson, David, Gideon, and Jonathan.... Likewise, if we are willing to don the armor of God and fight His battles, we, too, will receive His strength and experience the marvelous workings of His Spirit. It's when we are engaged in feeding the multitude with the bread of life that He will multiply the bread.
Some are so fearful they will do something wrong in witnessing that they end up doing nothing. But I have consistently observed that those who humbly commit their gifts to God and step out in faith will win tremendous victories.
Ministry is part of the saving process
Some have thought they would gladly work for God but felt they were not holy enough. Its true that dirt clinging to a shovel makes work more difficult, but the best way to clean a shovel is to dig with it. Might I also suggest that ministry is part of our sanctification process? After three and one-half years of following Jesus, the apostles were still not completely converted or sanctified. After all, Jesus had said to Peter: " 'But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren'" (Luke 22:32). In the 24 hours before the Cross, the apostles demonstrated abundant need for more spiritual growth. They argued, vied for the highest position, slept when they should have prayed, or forsook Christ in the garden!
Yet a few months before these disappointments, Jesus sent out the twelve, and later the seventy, to preach—with outstanding results. "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name'" (Luke 10:17). God will use us if we are willing to be used, whatever our weaknesses. If we waited until we were perfect before we tried to win souls—who would be saved?
The cure for ailing congregations
Congregations that exist exclusively as a navel-gazing society, hypnotized by their own reflection, inevitably atrophy and die—which is why one of the surest remedies for just about any ills a church may experience is evangelism.
Short on funds? When Peter needed money, Jesus sent him fishing. When we fish for men, now and then we'll find one with money in its mouth (Matt. 17:27). Are the members lacking in zeal and enthusiasm? Involve them in evangelism! A good evangelistic series will not only attract new souls but will awaken and revitalize the existing sheep. Is your church bogged down in a quagmire of doctrinal con fusion? A sound series of evangelistic lectures will work wonders to harvest new wheat into the garner and help the existing members recalibrate their compass of truth.
Mechanical equipment that sits idle quickly deteriorates and requires more maintenance. It is impossible to stay upright on a bicycle that's not moving, or turn a sailboat on a windless sea. Likewise, churches that neglect the Great Commission and lose their evangelistic momentum are consumed by internal problems. RV owners will at test that a mobile home seldom gets termites.
Dead churches? Listless, lifeless congregations? Apathetic members? There's only one answer: It isn't a new organ, a new organist, or even a new church building. The answer, I have seen over and over again, is simple: soul winning.
If you doubt it, it's only because you haven't tried it.