The Three Stages of the Church

Posted on October 16, 2021

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Three Stages of the Church

Recently I have been listening to some audio books on revivalist and revivals and a really profound statement was made at the end of one of these books about revival in general.  The narrator described how most revivals last about three years long and they are like smelling salts to a person that has passed out.  The smelling salt brings the person back from the unconscious state so they can function as they as they are supposed. When some time has passed and they begin to lose consciousness again, revival must come again.

With that being said, revival is one of the stages of the church with the second being a maintenance period, and lastly decline.

Maintenance

Maintenance sounds so mondain yet is probably the most important stage that the church in general and local churches should be in.  By maintenance I mean keeping the flow of a biblical life individually as well as a body believers. If we look at the church as our car, we know that if we do not keep up with regular scheduled maintenance of our vehicles that we will apt to be broken down on the side of the road somewhere.  Not checking fluid levels and condition of things like belts, hoses, brakes, and tires put us at risk of a breakdown. Likewise in the local church if church attendance, worship, bible study, prayer, serving, and giving are neglected the church becomes at risk to fall in the stage of decline. 

Maintenance can become mondain and routine which makes it so important and where many give up and do not continue to persevere. Many so called revivalist fail in this area because they wish to live on the smelling salt of revival and forget the daily living for Christ and others. These so called revivalist actually judge the rest of the church for only being in maintenance and in truth these people are like in the parable of the Sower and the seed and are like the seed that landed on stony ground and have no root and no fruit as well.

Maintenance must include placing a firm foundation in our children, not relying on the local church but insuring faith in our kids at home as well as in the local church. Too often kids are entertained at church and not instructed and we as adults and leaders have believed the lie that will come around as they grow and mature while they are being indoctrinated by the world on a daily basis in most cases.

Giving is a key to making the local church strong.  Giving is always a challenge do to failures of some but that does not negate its importance.  Lack of staffing in many churches manifests itself in lack of programs and care for those that need counseling and guidance, and they end up taking the church into the stage of decline. Too often emphasis is placed on volunteers in which paid staff should be caring for but funds are not available.  When we think of a free medical clinic and who goes there, it is only those who have no choice.  If we have paid medical care that is what most trust and go to if they can.  Yet in the church are children and many other facets of ministry is in the hands of volunteers that are often not trained.  I am not against volunteers, it’s a great thing but volunteering is where we burn people out and just try to fill up a space with a body. We say we have faith for so many things, how about having faith for the laboring be worthy of their hire and doing our part in tithing and giving offerings.

There is so much about local church maintenance, but I must move on.

Revival

As the narrator described revival as the church being given smelling salts because they have fallen asleep, I would take it even further in saying it is more like a person that their heart is about to stop and are given nitroglycerin to bring them back.  In either case, smelling salts or nitroglycerin, that is not normal but a desperate act to get a body back into normal behavior.  Likewise in God’s mercy and grace He supernaturally moves on a group of people with His presence and power and makes the church more alive than it has been in years.  For years God has anointed people and used them to revive the church and possibly take the church into a direction that it has missed or lost.  Martin Luther is an example of reviving saved by grace alone.  George Whitefield, John Wesley, and many others spoke to thousands and saw God move on people like never before.  In one little church in LA, God moved on a group that literally birthed every Pentecostal denomination in existence today.  The stories and evidences are many and real but the mistake is to think the power and presence of God in overwhelming force gives us an excuse to not be diligent in the maintenance of the church and passionate care for God’s people.  People seem to almost get “High” on revival and are useless if they are not seeing, hearing, and feeling what they did at the height of revival, whether it be God’s presence, miracles, and or healings.  God’s standard of livings, loving one another, giving, serving, prayer, and much more are not dependent on revival but part of life.

Decline

Decline is always lurking about and shows up in more than just decline of prayer, Bible study, or church attendance.  Church attendance could actually go up and appear as revival but actually be decline as church moves toward entertainment and softens up the message of the gospel. Psalms one and other passages relates the believer to be like a tree and as in Psalms one, the tree is growing by a river of water yielding its fruit.  The message of decline is like that of a tree, a tree is always growing if there is no growth, the tree is decline or dying.  For the local church its not about the church growing in numbers that is so important, its about the all the individuals themselves growing that is more important.  So often church growth is based on individuals moving about church to church and not so much as their lives growing in Christ.  Since maintenance can be so mondain, the potential of decline is always hovering about.  It is very hard sometimes to not be weary in doing well. Its easy to go to church when people are getting refreshed, saved, and you are experiencing the presence of God like never before, but to do the same thing over and over often takes its toil on some.

Conclusion

The simple conclusion is keep seeking for a dynamic outpouring from God that we call revival, but don’t give up on the essentials of daily living for God and being a vital member of a local body of Christ.

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