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Did you know you can still purchase a bomb shelter and have it installed in your backyard? Bomb or fallout shelters rose to popularity in the US in the late 1950s and ’60s. These shelters were constructed to supposedly protect in times of foreign bombing invasion. Actually, President John F. Kennedy encouraged Americans to consider building bomb shelters following the building of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile crisis. Shelter sales nearly quadrupled from 60,000 to over 200,000. While we never had the need to use fallout shelters, many were later deemed unreliable and insufficient.

Before succumbing to death and closing its doors a church will find themselves in phase four of decline. In Reaching the Summit I call phase four Grasping for Survival. When a church reaches phase four, more is done to keep the church doors open for the members than community action with the gospel.

In this phase, church leaders and members realize a staggering change is necessary. Therefore, they begin grasping for the next best thing, a silver bullet or a quick fix. Reality is, there are no silver bullet, quick fixes for declining churches. It takes work, commitment, and a change of heart in the people of the church. The most important change is of the heart, the way we pray.

Is it possible many churches reach phase four because they are unwilling to work differently, pray differently, and change? Yes. I have heard people speak those very words. Some are tired, worn out from doing ineffective ministry for years, and now unable to see or think in other terms.

Erwin McManus says of the church, “Once surviving has become our supreme goal, we have lost our way.” The goal of the church cannot be to survive. Some churches have a mantra of not to survive but to thrive. Yet, would you agree with me that God’s calling on the church is not to survive or to thrive, but to serve all mankind?

Jesus said Himself, “The Son of man has not come to be served but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45) Likewise, we are called to serve. This is our purpose for living.

Today, we are living in a world of uncertainties. Not allowed to worship in group settings, not allowed to “do” ministry as we have for decades. This is not the end for God’s churches. I am hearing and reading great testimonies of God’s work, people surrendering their hearts and lives to Christ during this lockdown. We have right now, today, a great opportunity to be and share the gospel.

Yet I fear many churches are and will become spiritual bomb shelters. Crawling into the shelter of perceived safety, when called to always be the hands and feet of Christ. We have this privilege because God’s servants who have gone before us did not crawl into shelters. They were the hands and feet of Christ in tough times. Some have died that you and I would have the opportunity to hear the gospel and respond.

As the body of Christ, we are to serve humanity. The only way to do this is to personally engage. Today, we are being challenged to think differently about how to engage the culture. How is your church engaging the community with the gospel in these troubling times? How are you personally?

George Yates is the Church Health Strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, assisting churches and individuals in pursuing God’s purpose for life. Learn more at ALSBOM.org/revitalization.

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