What is the Greatest Barrier to Revival in Churches of Christ?

Interior of the original meeting house at Cane...

Cane Ridge Meeting House

Someone asked me via email recently what I thought greatest barrier to revival in Churches of Christ was. It didn’t take me very long to say: Agree

Chronic leadership dysfunction.

Do you agree or disagree? What would you say?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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18 thoughts on “What is the Greatest Barrier to Revival in Churches of Christ?

  1. Vision. It is hard when you believe you are defending something to do much moving forward. That comes down to leadership and it would seem clear that you don’t need to lead when you are trying to stay put.

    I also think that within Churches of Christ that get it the problem isn’t leadership but embarrassment or an attempt to correct prior misconceptions or to change peoples minds instead of getting on with vision and leadership since they understand the problem.

  2. Tim, I read your post and thought to myself…”that’s an easy answer” but the more I’ve thought about it the more I think that the answer is deeper. (I principally agree, however)

    Our understanding and implementation of our leadership styles is IMHO shockingly corrupted and most don’t even see it; our implementation of lay shepherds vs. “professional” paid clergy is so dysfunctional, and un-biblical it is killing our churches.

    Secondly, until we establish a more robust teaching/understanding of the cross of Christ and the Gospel the decline will continue. Our people are starving for more of Jesus and the only thing we’re giving them (which they regurgitate) are trifles.

    Other than these, I’m optimistic for those congregations making serious changes…even if it means disagreeing with the establishment.

      • Gladly Tim (BTW, I’m a California native too. Westside CoC in Bakersfield…but now live in Portugal)

        I’ve been looking into this for some time especially in regards to leadership in the local church as we are working to plant/establish churches in Portugal.

        In most churches of Christ the leadership model resembles the (general) baptist model of a pyramid shape except our pyramid is a little thicker on top. While we say we believe in a plurality of elders to form the leadership of the local church our elders usually farm out the bulk of the hands-on-teaching/preaching/guidance to paid “professionals” who function as actual shepherds in the eyes of the congregation. The big guys even take it further by hiring pulpit ministers, youth ministers, evangelists, ministers for education, children’s ministers, worship ministers, etc. These individuals, while seen as employees to the elders, are looked at (in many cases) as functional elders because they are the ones doing the spiritual feeding even IF they don’t meet the qualities of an elder. (20 year-old single, youth minister? give me a break.)

        The better model is IMHO more like a wheel where Jesus forms the core as lead shepherd (the bearing), the shepherds for preaching, worship, vision, families, evangelism, along with the deacons form the inner circle (the hub) and where fitting are paid to function in these roles. The rest of the body makes up the spokes that give the wheel form and body, and then non-christians remain on the fringe.

        Now, don’t take the analogy too far or read into it, its just for example.

        This also doesn’t take into consideration the lunacy that the modern youth ministry model has done to facilitate liberalism, churches-with-in-churches, and a total breakdown of Paul’s command to Timothy for older Christians to teach the younger Christians. Perhaps another time.

  3. Revival is always preceeded by repentance. Those who hit their knees first are the leaders, recognized or not. Some in the Church will crucify them, nevertheless, they are the ones to follow. Oftentimes they are the new Christians because they still feel and know the joy that has replaced their desperate search. I think the Holy Spirit will be fully available when repentance takes place. Can’t manufacture these things.

    Thanks for the stimulating posts!

    • Great comment, Robert. You’re right. Humility and repentance will come before renewal. As for who it comes from…I’d love to see it start with leaders. But, as you mention, sometimes it comes from the mouth of spiritual babes.

    • I would say that God does the heavy-lifting in revival movements, and often picks the least likely groups in which to work powerfully. I would say puts is in a likely place to experience revival.

      • Ike, agree that God does the heavy lifting. Thanks for checking in. I think you got auto-filled toward the end. Are you saying that because God often chooses the marginalized to start revivals, CofCs are primed for it because we are somehow marginalized?

  4. If by “leadership” you mean our unwillingness to accept the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives and churches, I’d agree.

    We in Churches of Christ have written Him out of our script — some, even to the point of saying that He was never given past the first generation of believers; that His only gifts were miraculous; that He was transferred (like a microbe?) only by the apostolic laying-on of hands; that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2 is only salvation after death … you know the doctrines.

    All of which, by the way, are in direct contradiction to scripture.

    We have been promised the power of God and presence of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, yet we largely do not / will not believe that, will not investigate it in scripture, will not invest a moment or two of time to accept what God offers. We might as well be praying:

    “Oh, thank you, God; that’s nice. The Holy Spirit. I’d like something else, please. Logic, perhaps. Influence over others. I’d like to be able to lean on my own understanding. Could You do that instead?”

    • Jeff, there’s no doubt we have some work to do — especially here in California with regards to reputation not befitting the gospel we preach. It’s just going to take us proving people wrong over time.

    • Keith…that’s HUGE. A more robust doctrine of the Spirit is vital to any sense of renewal. Ironically, for a movement that follows Acts as closely as we have (or so we think), the Holy Spirit plays very little role in our vision of life or ministry.

  5. I, and just about everyone I know sums up the problem in one word: LEADERSHIP! The system most of us have is leadership averse and designed against movement, innovation and growth. The model itself in high on control and low on accountability. I could go on, but that wouldn’t be wise.

  6. I’ve recently had some conversations about this exact topic with church of Christ members, with ex-church of Christ members, and with Christians of other denominations. Ultimately, the church of Christ has a reputation (deserved or not) of being a conservative, sectarian church whose teachings mostly means buying an insurance policy for the hereafter and not concerning ourselves with this world. (This is coming almost verbatim from the mouth of someone who grew up in the church and is now a leader in another denomination.) That reputation must change for some type of revival to take place – the reputation can change with great acts of love and service.

  7. lol … I have your picture on my avatar. Nice.

    Anyway, I read the question and instantly thought it was leadership, then I read your response.

    Another layer in this discussion might be the fact that congregations choose their leaders based on who they follow, and oftentimes that’s a person (or persons) of influence within the community outside of church staff.

  8. I could list any number: leadership, a loyalty to traditions, an unwillingness to rethink various texts of scripture, a refusal to look at the importance of the Old Testament, junk food preaching. Well that just my opinion.