"Churches of Christ: Heritage and Destiny"
THE REVITALIZATION OF CHURCHES OF CHRIST
by Dr. Douglas Foster
1. Revitalization will never be produced by human effort, that is, by coming up with programs and schemes to artificially stimulate support for an agenda.
2. It can come only after Christians are humbled. Historically, Christians have been brought to such a state in large numbers when religious and moral conflict in society and in the church produces disruptions--breakdown of clear understandings of what the church is really all about. Christians must be brought to deep personal conviction that they, the church, and their Christian organizations are not what God would have them be. They must admit before God and each other that they cannot "fix" things by simply working harder and being better.
3. Prayer is the most vital element in God's bringing revitalization. This is true for individuals, churches, or movements.
If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
So I say to you, ask and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. Luke 11:5-13
And will God not grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? Luke 18:1-8
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18
a. In your personal prayers pray fervently that God will bring renewal to your congregation and to the larger church.
b. Join a small prayer group with friends and associates who share the same desire for revitalization.
c. Have special times when the entire entire congregation comes together exclusively to pray, for itself, and for the larger church.
d. If at all possible, plan times for several congregations to come together and pray for the church.
e. Read literature, listen to tapes, attend lectures about prayer that are developed and taught by mature and godly Christians.
f. Get involved in a communication network with people from other congregations across the state, nation and world to be informed of the broader desire for revitalization.
(1) Read Christian Chronicle, Christianity Today, and other such publications.
(2) Get in touch with other Christians through the Internet.
g. Don't give up. Be imitators of those who by faith and patience inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12).
4. Historically "prophetic" individuals have arisen who were used by God to shake the church from its complacency.
a. Such leaders are not rebels or revolutionaries. Instead they always lead Christians back to their biblical roots.
b. They have turned people toward Christ--the all in all that brings true renewal(Colossians 3:11). They have urged the church to be Christocentric.
c. These individuals do not create a personality cult around themselves, and they exhibit the highest level of personal holiness.
d. Look for these voices and heed them. They will be attacked by those with vested interests in stopping renewal--with keeping the status quo.
e. Always "test the spirits to see if they are from God." But remember, the test is not whether they say what we want to hear or have always heard. The test is, do they speak as the oracles of God!
5. Wherever revitalization has taken place in the church throughout history, the leaders and followers have always been deeply concerned about the following things. These are not steps leading to renewal; rather, they are evidences that renewal is taking place.
a. They are deeply concerned about the state of their own congregation and movement.
b. They are making efforts to spread the Christian message, through their lives and words.
c. They are profoundly concerned about Christian unity.
d. They put prayer at the center of their lives.
e. They know the need for and the value of solitude and silence.
f. They stand for single-mindedness, that is, for holiness--the life absolutely given to God.
6. There is no doubt that we are in a period of revitalization and renewal, though at times it appears to be a crisis because we cannot control it. It has often been the case that God prepares the church for times of persecution and trial by bringing revitalization and renewal. What are the implications of this possibility for the future of the church?
Some resources for further reading:
 Leonard Allen, The Cruciform Church. ACU Press, 1991.
 David Bryant, "The Most Hopeful Sign of Our Times: A Growing Prayer Movement Points America Toward Spiritual Renewal," National & International Religion Report, Special Report, 1992.
 Douglas A. Foster, Will the Cycle Be Unbroken? ACU Press, 1994.
 William G. McLoughlin, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), pp. 53-55.
 "Spiritual Awakenings in North America," Christian History Magazine, Issue 23, 1989.
 Olive Wyon, Living Springs, Westminster Press.
Models of the Life Cycles of Churches
(1) Incipient Organization
(2) Formal Organization
(3) Maximum Efficiency
(4) Institutional Phase
(6) Collapse or
(6) Critical Period
(7) Minimal Existence or
What is common in all these models?
We must concern ourselves with renewal and revitalization if we, with God's help, are to avoid the disintegration and collapse Satan is trying to pull us into. These cycles are not inevitable. The whole message of the Gospel is that God can change the things that we cannot. The key is surrender to God's sovereignty and leadership. Our wills and egos will have to be broken. May the evidence of God's Spirit living in us be increasingly seen (Galatians 5:22-26)