In the previous post I pointed out seven symptoms of one of the most dangerous spiritual diseases—apathy.
A diagnose without a cure, however, is unhelpful.
The direct counsel Christ Himself gave to the church at Laodicea was to humble themselves in repentance and recognize their need for Christ:
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.—Revelation 3:17–19
How can you as a pastor lead a church in applying this counsel to the areas where apathy is beginning to manifest itself?
The first step is to recognize the need. The second is to humbly cry out to God—for direction as you lead and for His conviction in those you lead.
From there, here are some practical applications to help combat the natural drift toward apathy that every Christian and church battles. Each of these relates to the symptoms mentioned in the previous post.
- Decline in attendance
- We noted before that a decline in attendance is a symptom of decline in hunger for God’s Word. Make sure then that you are preaching God’s Word. Study diligently. Prepare thoroughly. Divide rightly. And preach passionately.
- Perhaps you would want to preach a series on hungering for God’s Word and the blessings that applying Scripture brings to our lives.
- Lack of concern for souls
- Preach messages on the biblical mandate of soulwinning.
- Make sure you have scheduled opportunities for your church family to go soulwinning.
- Plan a soulwinning launch service in which you enlist new soulwinners and reenlist others for a season of soulwinning.
- Offer training on how to lead someone to Christ for those who have never been out soulwinning or who would like a refresher. (To Seek and To Save is the training manual our church uses for soulwinning training.)
- Lack of participation in congregational singing
- Choose songs that the congregation knows and that are easy to sing.
- Occasionally introduce newer songs to your church family as well. One blessing of newer songs is that their unfamiliarity can help to focus our attention on the words.
- Be enthusiastic in your participation in the singing. (I’ve been in churches when the congregational singing time seemed to be the cue for the pastor to fine tune his sermon notes or for the men on the platform to visit!)
- Consider pausing the song service to remind the congregation of the words they are singing, encouraging them to sing to the Lord. Sometimes lackluster singing is simply a symptom of distraction.
- Indifference to the needs of others
- Don’t be guilty yourself of not noticing needs around you.
- Encourage adult Bible class teachers to take the lead in noticing needs. At our church, we have larger adult Bible classes divided into “care groups” with care group leaders being sensitive to the needs in their group and organizing others to help during serious needs within the class.
- Create times of fellowship for building relationships. Sometimes we simply don’t know what others are going through because we’re not around them long enough to find out.
- No pastoral encouragement
- Do not complain about pastoral burdens. Remember when your parents told you how you didn’t appreciate their sacrifices enough? And remember how much that helped? Same effect when a pastor complains. (There is a difference between complaining and letting your church family know that you gladly carry the burden of their needs.)
- Encourage appropriate responsiveness to pastoral leadership. Some have taken pastoral leadership or church member loyalty to bizarre extremes. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a biblical precedent or spiritual need for following the faith of the pastor.
- Continue to serve the flock. Serve faithfully, lovingly, and humbly. Express your love and appreciation often. Be a true servant leader.
- Declining concern for missions
- Put the needs of other fields before your church family through a missions conference.
- Invite a missionary guest speaker, and ask him to share firsthand testimony of the fields white unto harvest.
- Schedule a missions trip for the youth group (or anyone who is available) during which you visit the work of a seasoned missionary and give the group experiences in seeing the needs of the field.
- Failure to invest in the next generation
- Give careful attention to the children’s ministries of your church on a regular basis. This is not an area of ministry you want to let run on auto pilot.
- Spruce up your children’s ministry facilities. A fresh coat of paint can not only brighten a room, but it also indicates care for this area of ministry.
- Hold a morning training clinic ending in an appreciation luncheon for the teachers and volunteers in the children’s and youth ministries. You can have a general session related to the need of investing in the next generation and split sessions related specifically to teens or children’s teachers and/or volunteers.
- Look for ways to enlist and encourage teens to serve in the church ministries.
Fighting apathy is not a one-time battle. This spiritual cancer requires constant vigilance and a constant renewing of fervency in our love for Christ.
No wonder Christ’s admonition to the Laodicean church included the words, “Be zealous therefore….” If you detect apathy in your life or in your church family, I encourage you to not be lethargic in dealing with it. Cry out to God for wisdom, and be diligent in addressing it.