If I were to ask church revitalization pastors what attitudes are critical to their effectiveness, I’m sure I’d hear several options: hopefulness, stick-to-it-ness, faith, patience, wisdom, and so forth. All of these really do matter, but two other attitudes are just as critical—if not more so. Both are found in the book of 1 Corinthians.
You know that the Corinthian church had more than its share of problems. They were divided. They should have been growing but weren’t. They allowed open sin in their midst. They were suing each other. They were abusing their freedoms, arguing over the best spiritual gifts, misusing the Lord’s Supper, and disrupting worship. They were even debating the resurrection. If ever a church needed revitalization, the Corinthian church was that church.
Don’t miss, though, what Paul said about the church:
1. He thanked God for them (1 Cor 1:4-9). God had given them grace, gifted them, and established their testimony in Christ. The God who started this work in them would complete it. They were quite messy, but they were still God’s people—and Paul thanked God for them. Actually, he did it always. He did not cease in expressing gratitude for them.
2. He loved them (1 Cor 16:24). In fact, Paul closed this letter with one of his most intimate closures: “My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.” As one writer described this ending, “Despite everything, there is not the slightest doubt that Paul regarded the Corinthians with tender affection. So he finishes his letter by sending his love to all the members of the church.”¹ Paul genuinely loved this bunch of messy people.
Thus, Paul “bookends” this first letter to the Corinthians with “I thank God for you” and “I love you”—and in between he says, “Y’all are an absolute mess.” The problems in the church were numerous and serious, but gratitude and affection still characterized Paul’s heart. He addressed the issues even while affirming this chaotic church in the process.
Why do these attitudes of gratitude and love matter in church revitalization?
- This work is hard, but it’s easier when you thank God for the church and love them, too. You’ll stay committed when you’re leading family.
- Trying to change a church you don’t yet (or still) love is ineffective and uncaring. If you are both grateful and loving, however, you will be careful not to run over them even as you challenge them to change.
- You will see the church as sheep who need a shepherd rather than as obstacles to growth. You will patiently disciple them rather than quickly blame them.
- You will press on in the tough days of revitalization. Gratitude and love also produce perseverance and hope—two more attitudes that matter in revitalization.
- You will see leading these people as a privilege, even when they’re problematic. Actually, it’s fun to watch messy church people you love grow in their faith.
Gratitude and love. They take a pastor a long way in revitalizing a church.