This article – Six Recent Lessons I Learned From Turnaround Churches – slipped across my twitter feed this afternoon, and I found it incredibly interesting. Thom Rainer’s been studying churches for years, and one of his recent projects has been studying churches that turned around – that went from dying and declining to growing and prospering in their communities. The article lists six things, but the very last one stood out to me the most:
The leaders began to focus less on negative people and circumstances and more on God’s possibilities. The leaders became, in God’s power, people of faith instead of people of fear. This spirit of faith became pervasive in the churches. Many of the churches saw a negative and unbelieving church culture become a positive and faith-believing culture.
That’s so powerful to me. As churches, we’re called to have faith. To be positive about what God has in store. Instead of focusing on negative, pessimistic realities, we’re supposed to be looking at our situation in God’s eyes – seeing things the way he sees them.
He looked at Abram, an old man far past his prime, much too old to have more children – and He saw Abraham, the father of nations.
He looked at Jacob, the schemer and trickster who’d cheated and lied to his own dying father – and He saw Israel, the prince with God.
He looked at Simon, a shifty, wavering, impulsive, even violent man – and He saw Peter, a rock.
He looked at an awkward shepherd boy, and saw a man who’d slay giants, who’d be the greatest earthly king His people would know. He looked at a stuttering, nervous fugitive, and saw the man who’d lead His people to freedom from Egypt. He looked at a murdering terrorist, a man who was hunting down His people at every opportunity, and He saw a leader who’d plant churches and spread the gospel across the known world – and write most of the New Testament while he was at it.
God sees possibilities. He looked at me – a scared, timid nerd who was so afraid of public speaking that I barely passed high school speech because I couldn’t bear to be in front of people (I got a D+ by the way!) – and He said, “Hey, you’re gonna be a youth minister. You’re gonna be a pastor.”
It didn’t seem likely to me at the time, either – but He was right. When you look at your situation right now, change might not seem likely to you. But we’re called to see things differently. To see as God does. And if we’re going to listen to Him, sometimes that means ignoring a lot of other voices.