A consultant was struggling with what guidance to give to the pastor of a church that was for some years one of the fastest growing churches in America. It is now declining at a slow pace, but declining. The consultant asked me, "What would you do to turn that church around?"
I didn't just fall off of the turnip truck in the ministry, and I know that the answer is complex. But, my first response deals with some attitude and personality matters. You've heard the quip that our great problem is not hardening of the arteries but hardening of the attitudes. I don't know enough about the church to address the deeper matters.
"I would, for one thing, brighten up the church. I'm not talking about things you can do with paint, lighting, and decoration. I'm talking about the personality of the church." I really believe that brightening up the church is good advice for many churches. The message that gives the church reason for existing truly is good news, and it does something to our credibility when we look and act more like we're just bearing dreary news the best we can.
A thought-provoking moment in the movie, Amistad, was a statement made by one of the Africans being held in the prison while on trial for freedom. A group of Christians were gathered outside the prison in prayerful support of the Africans. The African leader watched them along with several others. He wondered who they were and said, "Look how miserable they look. What is wrong with them?" The attitude we project determines much about the message we attempt to communicate.