Where do you begin as you seek to renew a church? There are so many issues from music to finances to leadership. Where do you begin? I would submit to you that the greatest need is a truly regenerate church membership.
In Scripture there are sheep, wolves, and goats. If you are part of your typical church here in the South you will find that it is about 10-20% sheep, 10-20% wolves, and the rest are goats. Sheep are the truly regenerate people who want to follow Jesus. Wolves are the lost people who want their own way. Goats are lost people who go whichever way the wind is blowing at the moment.
Remember that Satan tries to destroy the church by infiltrating it. He is going to send wolves in sheep’s clothing to destroy each church. The reason churches are declining is simply because they are filled with wolves and goats. This has catastrophic effects on the whole church.
First, any new born converts are immediately devoured. They are torn apart so badly that many of them either become silent or fall away from the church. Myriads of people say that they were hurt by the church. This simply is not true; they were torn apart by the wolves who infiltrated the church.
Next, over time this results in starving and malnourished sheep. Wolves love blood and gore. Goats will eat anything. Sheep, however, will only grow, and thrive on a steady diet in a peaceful environment. Many people believe that discipleship is the problem within the church. They are only partially correct. True believers are unable to be discipled because the church is filled with goats and wolves. If you offer a steady diet of Scripture, the wolves will become starved for blood and start problems; the goats will become bored and start complaining. This normally is enough to drive off the pastor further compounding the problem and leaving the sheep malnourished. Most discipleship issues within a church are regeneration issues.
Congregational churches that do not have a truly regenerate membership face an even larger issue. The church is run and controlled by unconverted people. There is no way to have true believers following the Lord as a congregation when the majority of the people are unconverted. Most congregational churches are literally run by Satan or, at the very least, by those who are held by his power.
These things combine to form a host of other issues. Finding mature believers to serve in leadership becomes increasingly difficult. Wolves nominate unqualified people and push them through. Leadership within churches becomes corrupt. Even if the leadership is not corrupt, the leadership will tend to be immature because of the lack of the steady diet that sheep require. This compounds to bring about heresy and a host of immorality within the confines of the church.
This results in a church that has a horrible reputation in the community. The church is literally filled with hypocrites (goats) and unrepentant sinners of the worst sort (wolves.) This destroys the church’s ability to reach the community because decent moral people would never attend such a corrupt place that is always fighting.
The nail in the coffin is the judgment of God on such places. God withholds His blessings resulting in further decline within the church. If a church is going to be restored it must begin with regenerate church membership! This principle affects everything else within the church: how one preaches, our approach to discipleship, how business is conducted, how members are received, the music, qualifications for leadership, church discipline, etc.
The vast majority of Jesus’ and the Apostles’ teachings focused on the nature of true conversion. In fact, very little is said on a host of important issues. The reason for this is simple: if the church is filled with truly regenerate people most other issues take care of themselves.