What does a discouraged pastor hang on to when he can’t pull the church out its death spiral?
You’ve tried everything.
The death spiral continues. Crashing and burn is inescapable if the church maintains the course.
You’re worn out.
You blame yourself even though you did it “by the book.”
It’s not too late
There’s still time to turn it around.
Even if you’ve already checked out in your head. There’s still time even if you’ve already started searching church job sites and polishing your resume.
It depends on how you answer a couple of questions.
- Do you want to help believers understand this crazy world?
- Do you want to give them something to hold when life spins wildly?
- Would you love them to be passionate about Jesus, concerned for the lost, sacrificial in giving, and motivated to serve?
- Are you willing to lay aside failures and false starts to do what works even if it isn’t rock star glamorous?
Then you’ve landed on the right page.
This is your opportunity to make a fresh start right where you’re at and become an effective change agent. Being a turnaround pastor isn’t easy, but it’s not complicated. It requires that you learn the work style, the stress responses, and the relationship skills of those God typically uses to bring life and growth to dying churches.
This is the fifth in our series about mission and vision. It closes the “grand inclusio” that encompasses and integrates the entire biblical narrative. The first four articles presented the following:
- A firm grasp on mission and clear communication of vision is a hallmark “best practice” of effective turnaround pastors.1
- A firm grasp on mission includes understanding what the creation narratives tell us of God’s original intent:
- God creates a perfect world in which his Word is obeyed.
- God appoints mankind to rule the world in his behalf.
- God instructs us to fill the kingdom with new life.
- God and mankind dwell in face-to-face fellowship.
The first three articles go into a fair amount of detail. I did this for the benefit of those don’t know about the kingdom motifs in the creation narratives. This article will be less detailed for two reasons.
- The last chapters of Revelation are more familiar.
- Seeing the kingdom motifs in Genesis will make it easier to spot them in Revelation.
By reading this article you’ll see how God fulfills his kingdom plan – initiated in the creation narratives of Genesis – in the recreation narratives of Revelation. In the articles to follow we’ll sketch the broad outline of God’s mission as it moves from Genesis to Revelation.
God’s Kingdom plan consummated
The five verses that begin Revelation 22 show that God’s redemption will return the new creation to the Garden of Eden state and to the Creator’s intention for humanity. 2
God creates a perfect, new world
Revelation 21:1-2 describes the creation of a new heaven and a new earth to replace the heaven and earth that passed away.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
Compare that to the original creation of the celestial heavens and the earth, described in Genesis 1:6-10.
And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
God restores mankind’s authority
In the creation narrative God gave humankind the authority to rule over the creation in his behalf. (Genesis 1:26, see discussion)
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
God restores mankind’s authority to rule in the Millennial and the Eternal kingdom. Revelation 22:4-5 makes an explicit promise about the rule of the saints in the Eternal kingdom.
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
In Revelation 21:4 we read that the faithful will reign with Christ in the Millennial period.
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
There is some debate about the identity of these resurrected ones. In light of Revelation 2:25, 3:21, I’m comfortable concluding that faithful believers who have served Christ well in this life will reign with him in the next.
Humanity’s kingdom authority to rule the creation in his behalf will be consummated by the God-Man, Jesus Christ, who will rule forever.
Teeming human life fills the kingdom
God had commanded the man and the woman to multiply, to fill the earth with human life (Genesis 1:28).
In the consummation of all things, teeming human life will stream from all over the earth to fill Jerusalem with their glory. This never-ending parade of devotion and worship and honor unto God will be a 24/7 cycle so that the gates to the City are never shut. Revelation 21:22-26 describes this throng.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day””and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.
God and mankind once again enjoy direct fellowship
After Adam’s sin, direct contact between God and humankind was broken off. Even Moses was not permitted to see God face-to-face (Exodus 30:20,23). But Jesus promised (Matthew 5:8), that the pure in heart would see God Direct, face-to-face contact resumes in the consummation.
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:3-4)
Let’s have a visual peak at all the information assembled in the last several posts in this series:
|God creates a perfect world||1:6-10||22:1-2|
|God deputizes mankind to rule||1:26||22:5|
|The kingdom teems with life||1:28||21:22-26|
|God and man in direct fellowship||3:8||22:3-4|
It’s not too late, Pastor.
Sure, you may be discouraged. You wonder whether your church will survive. Perhaps you doubt you’re the one who can pull it out of this death spiral. Or maybe things aren’t bad enough to hit the Eject button, but you don’t like the trajectory you’re on, either.
You can turn this thing around if you do as I suggested in the first article in this series. Go back to the beginning and start on the right track. Get a firm grip on the mission and vision.
It works for others. They’re no smarter than you. No more gifted than you. No more sanctified than you.
They just approach ministry different than you.
Their approach isn’t grounded in what works at the moment, what’s expedient and what others have done. Their approach is grounded in a firm grasp on God’s mission in the world and how their church joins in that mission.
If it works for them, it can work for you.
So go back to the first article in this series (if you haven’t already) and start making this information yours.
How does God get from point A (Genesis 1-3) to point B (Revelation 20-22), and where does your church fit in?