I recently attended a church service at a church that had once been described as “the jewel in the crown” of its denomination. A generation ago it had been a leader in evangelism, youth ministry, children’s ministry and in renewal. It had been a vibrant place to be, with people expecting that God could do anything in their midst.
The service was pleasant enough, and I have no doubt about the salvation or the commitment of the people leading it. But all through the service I kept thinking “The Holy Spirit has left the building.”
I have had this experience a few times over the years in various circumstances, and it always makes me feel sad. It also makes me more determined not to repeat the same mistakes in my own ministry.
Here are some of the factors that I think contribute to the fading of the glory of a church or a group of people. These are not always all present in any particular group, but some of them are invariably factors.
- Failure of a new generation to own the faith for themselves. Each individual needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to build on the inheritance handed down to them.
- A spirit of control amongst one or more of those in leadership, causing the group to be led by human wisdom rather than by Holy Spirit
- Reliance on the denomination’s teaching or leadership or on the traditions of the church.
- Seeing worship as a duty to be performed rather than an opportunity to approach God.
- Lack of prayer- corporately and individually
- A spirit of individualism in which people think they should be free to do what they want rather than submitting to genuine godly authority.
- Rebelliousness at one crucial time when it is clear (or should be clear) where the Holy Spirit is leading but the people refuse.
Is there hope for revival amongst such churches or people groups? Yes, of course, with God all things are possible. He can make dead bones live. But it takes a level of repentance and surrender that many find difficult. Often it takes a new generation to rise up and discover the power of the gospel.
In the meantime we pray.