Living things are born, grow, decline and die. Non-living things go through similar processes but even new cars, new appliances and new houses eventually will need repair and/or replacement. Almost everything in the world except air, water and sunlight are subject to deterioration and need renewal.
Churches have their own life-cycle. We have in mind here not the buildings but the people. Over the course of time things “wear down” in a church. People get older and pass on. Children grow up, change and some move away. New programs are begun but in a few years they become old programs that “get tired” and need updating or at least a stirring-up/reorganization from time to time. Also, problem issues arise, feelings get hurt and if left unresolved or ignored then people leave. Folks get new jobs or new houses and find the drive to their church is suddenly too far for them to feel very effective. People retire and relocate to be nearer to their children. For many reasons there is a constant pressure for renewal in churches.
Paul says that individuals make up the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12). Individual cells within the bones, heart, and muscles of our bodies are being continually replaced so that necessary functions may continue. So also in churches the body must change. Over time a whole series of persons will serve as teachers, preachers, deacons, elders, song leaders and members. As long as new members are being added to a local church, it will continue.
At various times young people who grew up in a congregation step up to serve the church when a need arises. There is a constant need for more and more of the local functions in the church to be done by different, usually younger, people. Young families, young children and young people are essential to the current health of any local church. They may not be able to contribute as much immediately in every way to the church, but make no mistake, they provide the energy, the strength and the potential for the future of any congregation.
Land managers say a forest fire acts to renew a forest. Very soon after a devastating fire, new growth appears out of the burned soil. Quickly there is new greenery everywhere. The great tall trees of the past are not instantly replaced but new trees grow quickly and reach upward with surprising speed. Remember, those 100 foot trees themselves once started as tiny seedlings that grew to become great. Don’t be overly fearful of the normal changes in life.
Jesus told the church at Sardis, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die” (3:2). As we mature it is normal to have a certain longing for the past. Don’t be Lot’s wife, dead from looking back. The only way to thrive, for people, churches or businesses, is by looking forward. Be ready always to help the church become better.
- Tim Orbison