The hot Haitian sun beat down on our metal tap tap as we bounced along the dirt road of a small town just outside Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. My hands wrapped around the metal bars, I squinted into the high noon sun as we came to a slow stop, our driver pointing towards a large piece of land stretching on for miles.
Through a translator he told us we were at a mass burial site of those who had lost their lives in the January 2010 earthquake that hit just outside of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince measuring a magnitude of 7.0, killing an estimated 300,000 people, displacing millions. A hush fell over our mission’s team as we silently surveyed the rolling hills that held precious remains.
Children were gathered in their Sunday best at the entrance, some playing and others sitting somberly in the soft earth as they traced their finger into the dirt.
“Are these children here to visit those they lost in the earthquake?” I ask the translator as he helps us out of the back of the truck.
“No,” he responds. “These children come every Sunday to wait for their parents to return.”
His words still echo in my heart and mind, the image of those children in their suits and dresses standing in the scorching heat holding to hope seared into my soul. They had not only witnessed but survived one of the worst natural disasters ever recorded in history. Despite the loss and trauma, they climbed through the rubble of their city each week to stand at the edge of destruction believing those who had been lost would be found and come back for them.
This, my dear brothers and sisters in the faith, is a haunting and perhaps even a prophetic picture of the American Church in the aftermath of unprecedented deconstruction.
As pastors and leaders, we are among those who haven’t run from the wreckage but have stayed connected to Jesus and His Church. We are standing among the ruins, wading through the dry bones of weary and wounded believers as a radical remnant who has not only witnessed but survived the shaking of religious systems and foundations, even our faith.
Over the last ten years the Church has gone through a seismic shift that has rocked the body of Christ to her very core and we are now left to sift through the rubble of church hurt, anger, offense, frustration, and fear. Barna reports, “More than 4,000 churches closed in America in 2020. Over that same time, over 20,000 pastors left the ministry and 50 percent of current pastors say they would leave the ministry if they had another way of making a living.” (https://www2.cbn.com/news/us/new-barna-survey-finds-38-us-pastors-have-considered-leaving-ministry). The statistics also include congregants and those who call themselves Christ followers stating, “Monthly, committed churchgoers are now about half as common as they were two decades ago,” (source: https://www.barna.com/research/changing-state-of-the-church/), “the share of practicing Christians has nearly dropped in half since 2000.”
As discouraging as these numbers may be, we must not grow weary in doing good. God has given us His Church, as imperfect as she may be, as a safehouse where we will meet spiritual orphans looking for life among the ruins. It is our honor and responsibility to meet them where they are and offer them Jesus, the Living Hope.
Just as the Lord assured Jeremiah that if he was obedient to speak His Word, he wouldn’t have to be afraid of anyone or anything, we can have that same confidence. When we walk in obedience to do and say exactly what God has given us to say and do, God will, “appoint us over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10 NIV)
We now find ourselves standing at an evangelical ground zero taking inventory of the loss and devastation of historic proportion. Yet everything God has asked us to tear down, He will ask us to rebuild. Everything He asks us to uproot will prepare the ground for a new harvest.
The enemy would like nothing more than for the people of God to walk away, quit and leave our positions but God isn’t finished with His Church or with us. He has hard and holy work for us to do as He hands us the blueprints to rebuild on a new foundation, an architectural plan that can be found in His Word. Jesus, the stone that the builders rejected, our Chief Cornerstone, is where we start, keeping our eyes fixed on him to ensure every line is straight and the structure is secure. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, “Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.”
Our framework will then consist of worship, fasting, intercession, and community as we go back to the basics of what brought the Holy Spirit into that upper room in Acts. We will see miracles, signs, and wonders as we contend for healing, reconciliation, restoration, and revival.
Holy Spirit, come.
Natalie Runion is an author, speaker, worship leader, songwriter and the founder of Raised to Stay, a ministry for those raised in the church who are finding their own healing, calling and voice in church leadership. Natalie is the author of a forthcoming book entitled Raised to Stay: Persevering in Ministry When You Have a Million Reasons to Walk Away (releasing July 4, 2023). www.NatalieRunion.com