Leading A Thriving Church in 2021 – Being A Remnant

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For those who are called to church leadership in todays culture it’s really important that we have a grasp of the times we live in. Otherwise we may be tempted to apply methods and strategies from a previous time in history incorrectly.

The Brutal Facts

Looking at the big picture, for those of us leading in the West, we are leading churches in a time where church attendance is in rapid decline. Christianity is gradually being extricated from our power structures and our main stream media continues to show a weak and irrelevant stereotype of what it means to be a Christian in 2021. Christianity continues to thrive in other parts of the world, growing faster than ever, but for us in the west it feels like the tide has gone out.

So given that context there are some helpful ways we can think about our role as ministry and church leaders. This is not about being hopeless or lacking in faith but simply taking a good look at the facts. To confront the brutal facts as Jim Collins popularised in his classic book “Good to Great” (Amazon link*).

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” Jim Stockdale

So having looked at the facts I think there is one metaphor that helps us think about our role as church in these days.

A Remnant Church

The metaphor is that of being a Remnant.

A remnant is simply the word that means those who remain. In theology and culture it can have all sorts of meanings, but here I simply mean recognising that we, the remaining church are those who are left. A small group within a larger culture.

Whilst this might seem like an obvious thing to state it helps us shift and change our mindset. Christianity in the West was once dominant. Going to church was once cultural. All these things have gone, or are slipping away. I’d suggest that to try and cling to these past expressions is to be inflexible and risk greater loss to come. I’m not saying the church should withdraw from culture, far from it. I’m just saying recognising where we are is vital.

Why Does This Help Church Leaders?

So I want to explain just 4 ways this one word can help us lead church in this season:

1. A Remnant Church Is Focused

When Christianity has had dominance throughout history it has tended to lose some of it’s passion and focus. At times of persecution or where Christianity has been on the edge it has focussed it’s followers. When it’s not culturally expected it requires a lot more intention and commitment to follow Jesus. This brings with it a focus on the mission. Why does the church exist? Why does my particular church exist?

Recognising we are now smaller but part of a larger culture means getting focussed on what really matters. Being church.

2. A Remnant Church Makes Disciples

Cultural Christianity is dying out in the west. That is the idea that you are Christian purely by your attendance on Sundays. Perhaps you only attend church because everyone else does, its simply the done thing! This is not what the bible intends when it speaks of following Jesus.

With that pushed to the side the focus comes onto genuine discipleship. It is more important than ever that we all learn what it is to really follow Jesus and represent him with our words and our actions. Light shines brightly in the midst of darkness.

That is to say radical discipleship becomes even more visible in our culture.

So remnant churches are focussed on growing disciples. These people need to know how to live in a culture that is different, that doesn’t share their values. This won’t happen on accident. So as leaders we are learning what it is to prepare people for a very different world outside our gatherings and small groups. A clash of cultures.

3. A Remnant Church Serves

At the height of Christendom, that is geo-political allegiance with Christianity, what Christians said was listened to. Christian values were held tightly in all the major offices in our nations and the key to expanding those values was in holding on to power.

Now as I’m sure you are aware, some of the worst moments historically, for Christianity have been when it has held all the power. Think crusades, colonialism etc.

I personally think it is a really good thing that Christianity is being divorced from some of the power structures in the West. That is not to say that I don’t grieve the loss sometimes. However when I look to Jesus I see a very different approach. The approach of service.

Without the trappings of power the church is free to do what it has always done so well. To serve the broken, the poor, those on the margins of society.

A remnant church is one that takes the low place and serves our communities wherever possible

4. A Remnant Church Needs God

Without the reliance on power structures, without the reliance on cultural understanding, without the influence on a national scale, it becomes even clearer our need for God.

Now obviously we all need God no matter the season we lead in. However certain things can insulate us from this need to trust God. When we discover we are leading a remnant. A faithful people who remain in the midst of a shifting culture, it encourages us to lean on God.

There are no experts in this season, just those who are willing to follow the voice of God and try things. For many, navigating this season, we have been forced onto our knees, to ask for help. For insight and for power.

A remnant church looks to God for his wisdom and his power in our lives. Like the church in Acts, surrounded by a diverse culture, yet dynamically dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit.

A remnant church makes it’s need for God known.

Being A Remnant

Rather than depress me, this analogy has helped me gain perspective. A perspective that has helped me to lean in to God, and ask key questions about what the church is called to be. Maybe if you are in church leadership it helps you to?

I really sense that for the church in the west this is the time to embrace the call to be a remnant church. A people passionate, focussed and faithful to God. Prepared to take steps of boldness, serving our communities like never before and developing resilient disciples that shine in our culture.

That is a vision that excites me for the church in the west.

What about you?

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