The Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 161
A revitalized church is a powerful force.
Before a church is revitalized, its life dwindles, and death looms. These churches have a fading view of a once bright past, and it gives way to robotic monotony, apathy, and stress.
In Revelation 2:2-5, the Lord shows us the pathway to becoming a revitalized congregation in his message to the Church in Ephesus: “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.“
The church that has forsaken the mission and its pursuit of Christ may still today find harsh judgment. Yet this is not a predetermined fate! Your church can be revitalized and enter into a new season of effectiveness.
The revitalized church awakens to an empowered, purposeful, and hopeful vision of the future. Scripture provides a compelling picture of what the revitalized church looks like in Ezekiel 37. As we walk through this image, we pray that you will catch the vision for the future God desires for your church.
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The Revitalized Church is Not Forgotten
“The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” – Ezekiel 37:1-3
No! The answer that any human living, in reality, would give to the question, “Can these bones live?” would be “No!” Dead things don’t live. That’s why we call them dead. But Ezekiel’s answer to the Lord was full of wisdom. He recognizes God’s sovereignty, omniscience, and power. And in the presence of those attributes, Ezekiel knows that dead things can live. God is well beyond and outside of any reality that we could possibly constrain him with.
Ezekiel didn’t stumble upon the bones in the valley while out on his morning walk, though. God led him there. God knew exactly where the bones were. He knew them when they were living, and he knew them in death. He never forgot them. When the time was right, God called upon an instrument to initiate revival. Could God have spoken directly to the bones without Ezekiel? Of course! We often find God using human voices and circumstances to carry out his purposes, though. Are you listening and watching for what God is doing?
The Revitalized Church Listens and Obeys
“Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” – Ezekiel 37:4-6
The bones were commanded to hear! At your own peril will you ignore the command of the Lord.
God says “I will” and “you will.” Before the work begins God foretells the story and includes the spoilers. Why? Because obedience to the Lord’s commands is necessary for completion. So is God doing the work? Yes. And we’re obeying? Yes. “Do we have to obey,” you may ask. To which I would reply, “do you really want to find out?”
The Lord will speak to you in a variety of ways. Maybe today, the Lord’s word through Ezekiel will be what you need to hear.
The Revitalized Church Has a Renewed Structure
“So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.” – Ezekiel 37:7-8
God designed our bodies in a particular way to accomplish particular things, and with wonderful efficiency. Just the same, the Lord’s Church is described as a body also. As is the local church or assembly of believers.
A strategic revitalization process requires a solid structure to be successful. The bones of the process are the Great Commission, actionable core values, a discipleship pathway that will provide opportunities for your people to grow in spiritual maturity, and a great, God-sized vision to pursue. A revitalized church needs structure to survive and thrive.
The Revitalized Church Has a Living Purpose
“So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.” – Ezekiel 37:10
An army exists to fight, and the world needs your church to be ready to engage in the spiritual battle. Soldiers risk their lives, and leaders lead them into action. An army of the Lord that is not willing to fight has no use for the breath of life. The Revitalized Church has renewed breath so that it can take risks, fight, and engage the world with the Good News of Jesus.
Matthew 16:18 says the gates of hell will not prevail against Christ’s Church. That passage is often taken as a defensive position, for some reason. As if the gates are the army that the Church resists. Gates don’t play offense. So if the gates are playing defense, the church must be playing offense.
The Revitalized Church Has Hope
“Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.” – Ezekiel 37:11-13
God is good, and he has a bright future for your church! He is the giver of the breath of life, and it is He who will open your grave and raise you back up! The Revitalized Church recognizes the hope they have for the future. They understand that they are God’s prized people and that their church has a role to play in God’s story.
Take in the breath that God breaths into you. It’s there that hope will rise. The dry bones had no hope, but when God brings you up out of the grave, hope flows.
The Revitalized Church Experiences Revival
“And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” – Ezekiel 37:14
Revival is not a new life from nothing; it is a life restored. The Lord declares that He will do it! He will put His Spirit in you, and you shall live!
The only thing that can stop your church from becoming a Revitalized Church is you. The successes of the past mean nothing. Buildings, programs, and good intentions mean nothing. If the Lord is calling you to be a Revitalized Church, then today is the day to have your army raised back up! If the Word of the Lord through the prophet Ezekiel is calling to you, then let your bones rattle and the breath of life return from God.
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A.J. Mathieu is the President of the Malphurs Group. He is passionate about helping churches thrive and travels internationally to teach and train pastors to lead healthy disciple-making churches. A.J. lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas area, enjoys the outdoors, and loves spending time with his wife and two sons. Click here to email A.J.