Strategic church renewal involves implementing a planned series of action steps designed to prevent a church from falling into decline, or to reverse an existing decline before it reaches a critical point.
Strategic church renewal principles are general guidelines to be considered when developing the renewal plan.
1. Jesus Christ is Savior, Lord, and King.
The church that Jesus is building is alive and well. Jesus is building it (Matt 16:18) and God is providing the growth (1 Cor 3:7). If a local church is not growing, it is usually because something we are doing or not doing is impeding the growth. That can be fixed, so don’t be discouraged. Focus on growing the church that Jesus is building, and don’t confuse the church with the crowd. Disciple and build up the church, evangelize the crowd.
2. Understand and apply H.A.L.T.
Church renewal efforts can be impeded by Western cultural values that influence our understanding of Scripture and what it means to live the Christian life. Understanding and applying the four H.A.L.T. principles will greatly aid the renewal process.
H.A.L.T. is an acronym for humility, action, love, and truth.
- Humility is a prerequisite to learning, and is helpful in the pursuit of truth, civility, and unity.
- Action provides experiential knowledge and confidence, and promotes authenticity as values are lived and not merely expounded. Some Christians neglect action because they equate it with works righteousness, but action is a necessary component of faith.
- Love is the great commandment on which all the others are based. It is the measure of justice, and the basis for the Golden Rule. Love and justice are the worship that God desires. To be correct, all of our beliefs, values, attitudes, and decisions must align with the commandment to love God and neighbor.
- Truth is important for unity and is necessary for making good decisions. In general, truth is that of which we can be reasonably certain based on compelling evidence in support and lack of compelling evidence against. In Christianity, what we regard as truth should be limited to those doctrines and beliefs which have compelling biblical support and no biblically compelling alternate views or refutation. Disunity in the church is often the result of various factions setting forth opinion as fact. God has told us much but he had not told us everything. All of the various possible ways of connecting the dots and filling in the missing pieces should be regarded as opinions, not facts.
3. Strive for inward change that leads to outward change.
- Lasting change is best achieved by changing people’s attitudes, values, and beliefs at the deepest personal level. Inward change will lead to outward change.
4. Be a visible example of what is possible
- The most important change is the inward change we experience within our own lives. We must BE the change we want to see in others.
- Our individual lives and the local Christian community should be a visible expression of the kingdom of God in the world today.
5. Pursue renewal on multiple fronts
- We must focus on multiple areas simultaneously. Christian faith is intended to impact every area of life, and will suffer if any area is neglected (Matt 23:23; 23:13; Gal 6:10; Prov 3:27; Eph 4:28; 1 Thess 5:15). Personal renewal, church renewal, and national renewal should all be pursued concurrently.
- Personal renewal is key and should be our first priority. As individual members of the Body of Christ experience renewal, the body as a whole will begin to experience renewal. The renewed church will bring renewal to the wider community and culture, and the renewed culture will bring pressure for political change. Church leaders can play a vital role in the church renewal process by facilitating, supporting, and encouraging the personal renewal of church members through discipleship, small groups, teaching, and example.
- Since the majority of people in the United States profess to be Christians, our national culture and politics is a reflection of what most people think of as the church. Seen in this way, we are the problem, and the only real way to fix the problem is to clean our own house. Being honest about genuine faith and false assurance will reduce the churches’ numbers, but it will also create a visible difference between the church and the world, enhancing the church’s witness and enabling the church to truly be a light to the nations.
- While a bottom-up approach is ultimately what must happen, working top-down at the same time can assist the renewal process by removing obstacles and by slowing further decline.
6. Understand that faith and politics are both important
- Quality of faith always reveals itself in one’s actions. Without action there is no genuine faith.
- Christian faith gives us the ability and responsibility to be salt and light in every area of our lives, including politics.
- Faith and politics bring change in different ways.
- Faith advances God’s kingdom by producing inward change that results in voluntary outward change.
- Politics is a means of restraining evil by legislating outward change, using rewards and punishment to secure compliance.
- Christian citizens form an inseparable link connecting church and state. Separation of church and state is a myth that only affects reality to the extent that Christians voluntarily choose to limit their participation in the political process.
- Culture also forms a link between church and state, with influence moving in both directions. The church should make every effort to influence culture without being influenced by the culture.
- While the church’s primary means of influencing politics is by influencing the culture, Christians living in democracies and republics should also use their voice and their vote to bring change.
- Genuine faith can move mountains and is always more important than politics. However, faith and politics both have a place in the Christian life, and it is an error to neglect either.
7. Avoid large sudden changes
- Small course corrections can produce big changes over time. Try to plan for a series of small, gradual changes.
- Large sudden changes are harder to sell, implement, and maintain.