What I'm Reading: 007 -- Reclaiming Glory

What I’m Reading by Matt Schuler
007: Reclaiming Glory by Mark Clifton

“I can think of no better activity in which to be involved than the work of replanting a dying church so that God can miraculously bring it back to life. When he does, he receives all the glory, and we have a front-row seat to see it all.” That’s what Reclaiming Glory is all about.

I was introduced to Mark Clifton on the awesome podcast Revitalize and Replant. The podcast engages many of the questions declining and dying churches face when trying to turn things around. In a similar way, Clifton tackles many of the same kinds of questions in his book.

“Nothing about a dying church gives glory to God,” he writes in a sobering assessment of the local expressions of the Church from their earliest incarnations to the modern day. “A dying church robs God of glory.” While we may feel like church closures are becoming more common, the truth is that churches have been opening and closing, planted and dying since the beginning.

Jesus promises us that His Church will never die, but God makes no such promise to our local church if we don’t do what He has called us to do. “We don’t have a right to go on, year after year, never seeing disciples made in our churches. We are not entitled to our churches if they aren’t bearing fruit by making disciples. Why does the owner of the vineyard command the keeper to cut down the tree? It’s not out of spite or as punishment for its lack of fruit. It’s because the very presence of the fruitless tree is keeping other fruit from developing. And the vineyard owner won’t stand for that.”

Getting to the heart of the discipleship problem, Clifton writes, “A church that is not producing fruit does not accurately reflect God’s glory. It doesn’t make much of God to the community or the nations. Even worse, many of us have stopped expecting fruit from these churches. That is tragic.”

Some of the issues we face when replanting and revitalizing are the metrics we use to define success. Numbers will not always tell story of a struggling church and so Clifton urges our congregations to stop measuring our effectiveness as a congregation by the largest 10 percent of churches. Instead, he recommends using the one metric that can’t be measured entirely from within our church walls, “Jesus gives us this metric in the Great Commission. Our job is to make disciples who make disciples.”

Even with all of the problems facing our churches, Clifton confidently asserts, “it’s a good time to replant dying churches.” It reminds me of the encouragement my seminary president Dale Meyer constantly shares with others that it’s a great time to get into the ministry. We look around and we see churches which are struggling and dying but God knows the fields are ripe for harvest. He is sending us into world, where we live, work and play, with His Word to reclaim His glory.