When I was growing up in the Bible Belt, Sundays consisted of church, fried chicken, an afternoon nap, and then another dose of church in the evening. My childhood memories are full of handbells, youth choir, discipleship training, visitation, and potlucks. Fast-forward 20 years and Sundays look very different around town. No longer is the church the center of the family's social network. According to a recent Barna poll, only 2 in 10 Millennials (those age 30 and under) believe church attendance is important. Even the definition of regular church attendance has changed from those who attend several times a month to once every four to six weeks.
As a children's minister, I have felt the effects of the cultural shift. I have families who show up three times a year who expect a permanent tag for their child. I place them on the roll and then don't not see them again until the following major holiday. In light of this lack of commitment to the body of Christ, how should the church respond?
The modern church responds to the decline in church participation in a wide variety of ways. Many churches have adopted a less traditional framework for worship by incorporating modern architecture, setting, environment, and worship style. Sermon series hold captivating titles and center around highly applicable topics. Consequently, many churches are effectively reaching the generations for Christ. However, according to statistics, there is much work yet to be done.
Perhaps it is not style, atmosphere, or environment that needs to be changed within the church, but rather the message emphasized within its walls. Many churches are so concerned about the number of "members" they have on roll or the number of people they had in worship, they forget that we are part of the larger body of Christ. This article will examine six principles employed by the New Testament church and consider how we can use these principles to help resuscitate the members of the body of Christ.
Pray without Ceasing
Before any strategizing or planning, the most important thing we as believers can do is to commit the cause to the Lord. Acts 2:42 emphasizes the importance of prayer within the early church and the catalyzing effect prayer had in expanding the message of the gospel. Likewise, Jesus prioritized prayer within the scope of his ministry. He withdrew to pray before and/or after major life events, and prayer was a regular means by which he was strengthened and resolved in his mission (Luke 5:15-16, 6:12-13, 9:28-29, 22:42). Prayer was the means by which Jesus found complete fellowship with the Father. In the same manner, people of the church should devote themselves to prayer, communing and petitioning with the Heavenly Father regarding the needs of the body before any concrete solutions be evaluated or implemented to revive the body of Christ. It is by faith and prayer that the Lord responds to his people (1 John 5:14-15).