Hope is a term often used in a context of doubt.
When we say, “I hope my team wins,” there is a hint of disbelief. When we say, “I hope my church grows,” you know it’s not guaranteed. When I peer into the freezer and say, “I hope there is ice cream,” the grim knowledge of my kids’ appetites adds an element of doubt.
Biblical hope, on the other hand, conveys confidence and security. When the Bible uses the word hope, there is no inclination to doubt.
As we begin a new year, let’s invest in biblical hope. Just because national trends point to a decline in the North American church does not mean your church must decline. Leaders cannot resign themselves to negative influences and outcomes. Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy and has no place in the church.
Embrace optimism and abandon pessimism.
Pessimism is a weight. Optimism is an investment. Not all optimists are leaders, but every leader must be an optimist. As a leader in your church, you have a responsibility to convey a hopeful message to your congregation. Leaders take people to a better place. And 2022 can be the start of a hope-filled journey.
Get out in front and show the way with evangelism.
If an entire church is stuck, then someone must be the first to get unstuck. Why not you? There are plenty of stories in the Bible and in church history where God used one person to begin a movement. Lead by example, especially in sharing your faith. The Great Commission is largely absent among believers and in churches. It can be present again with you!
Raise the bar of expectations within the church.
Our first impressions director prints a lanyard with someone’s name on it before asking them to serve. She then hands the lanyard to the person and says with confidence, “I believe you would be an excellent addition to this ministry. Will you help us?”
Too many ministry leaders assume people do not want to serve and make the ask as if serving is a burden. You can refresh your church just by refreshing the way you ask people to serve! Start with the assumption people will live up to high standards. Challenge them to do more, not with guilt but with encouragement.
Focus on outreach at least once a quarter.
The healthiest churches inwardly are the ones most focused outwardly. Make sure your church is moving outward at least once a quarter. Host a neighborhood party. Create a prayer walk initiative. Serve a local school or non-profit. If people stay inside the physical walls of the church and inside the physical walls of their homes, then they create spiritual walls between them and their neighbors.
Emphasize high levels of hospitality with guests and with neighbors.
Hospitality is one of the most underrated spiritual gifts in the church. It’s not enough to be friendly from a distance. Hospitality is more than handshakes and smiles. True hospitality invests in the life of someone. Have a family over for dinner. Limit what you say about yourself. Genuinely dig into their hopes and demonstrate that you care about them.
I’m optimistic about next year. You should be as well. A renewed church can happen. Hope does not need to come with a measure of doubt. The hope God gives is reality.
Sam Rainer serves as president of Church Answers and is a cofounder of Rainer Publishing. He is also lead pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida. He writes, teaches, speaks, and consults on a variety of church health issues. Sam cohosts the popular podcasts Rainer on Leadership and EST.church. Sam holds a BS in finance and marketing from the University of South Carolina, an MA in missiology from Southern Seminary, and a PhD in leadership studies from Dallas Baptist University.