The need for holiness is often overlooked in rural church revitalization. However, without a focus on holiness, the chances of successfully reviving a struggling rural church are slim. It is no wonder that so many churches are struggling; the fire in the Church has turned to smoldering ashes. Until the people of the Church receive and understand the vision and purpose that God has for that local congregation, nothing will happen of any significance.
Leadership can appoint committees to come up with programs. They can start new activities and put all kinds of money in it. They can make the production or project attractive and appealing, but until that church is following and obeying the vision God places for them, it will result in human effort. The best they can hope for is human results, which can only pale in comparison to God’s effort and God’s results. What is missing in this fury of activity is the holy fire of God. Without holiness, nothing will happen.
So how do we revive the fire of God in our struggling churches? It all starts with the people and their hearts. In order for someone to be able to serve others and make a difference, that person needs to know who he/she is serving. They need to have a deep sense of who God is and what He has called them to do with their lives. This can only happen through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ where the Holy Spirit begins to change their heart and mind.
I am reminded of Leviticus 6:13 that says, “The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.” This is the root of the problem that most churches that are in decline face. They do not tend the fire. Some of the many definitions of “tend” is to: apply oneself to the care of and to have or take charge of as a caretaker or overseer. Churches that are in need of revitalization find that the fire has died out because attention has not been paid to the building of and contributing to the fire. The leadership has let other things crowd out their time with God, and so the fire dwindles to a tiny flicker and eventually goes out.
The key to reviving a struggling church is holiness. When people in the church focus on growing closer to God through prayer, Bible study, and worship, the Holy Spirit will begin to work in their hearts and minds. As they begin to understand who God is and what He has called them to do, they will start living holy lives. And as they live holy lives, the fire of God will begin to burn brightly within them. When the fire of God burns brightly in people’s hearts, it will also ignite a passion for sharing the Gospel with others and reaching out to those in need.
Thus, church revitalization starts with individuals who are devoted to living holy lives and seeking God’s will for their lives.
As more and more people embrace this mindset, the holiness of the church will begin to spread throughout.
God is telling the Church that we must take care of and stoke the heavenly fire that the Holy Spirit provides and brings to us. But we can be neglectful and distracted and take our eyes off of the vision that God provides for us, and when this happens, we must seek to rekindle those holy fires in our church.
Rural churches must take the time to focus on holiness if they want to be revived.
Without a focus on holiness, all the programs in the world will not bring new life to a church.
It is only when we turn our attention back to God and ask for His guidance that we will see true change in our churches. Only then will we be able to see the fire of revival burning in our churches once again.
So, how and why is the fire so important and essential for the life of a church? In Leviticus, it is mentioned several times that the fire on the altar was to burn continuously. God wanted a perpetual fire burning there, and He must have had a very good reason for it to remain.
The fire was the very representation of God Himself.
Before the Law was ever given, God appeared to Moses “in flames of fire from within a bush on the back side of the desert. Moses realized that as he gazed upon the sight before him, that even though the bush was on fire it did not burn up or was it being consumed” (Exodus 3:2). God chose the appearance of a continuous fire when calling Moses to lead the people out of Egypt to a new land. Later, when God was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, God appeared as a pillar of fire at night (Exodus 13:21–22).
The fire was the demonstration of His power.
Another reason the ongoing fire was so important is that it was started directly by God: “Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown” (Leviticus 9:24). So, for this reason, the fire on the altar served as a constant reminder of God’s power. It was a manifestation from heaven. No other source of fire was acceptable to God.
The fire also represented God’s presence.
“God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). The Shekinah glory was visible in the fire at the altar of burnt offering. Shekinah glory is a form of a Hebrew word that literally means “he caused to dwell,” signifying that it was a divine visitation of the presence or dwelling of the Lord God on this earth in their place of standing. This ongoing presence of God reminded the Israelites that salvation is of the Lord. The atonement made at the burnt offering could only be made through Him.
The fire represented the purity of God.
In the New Testament, John the Baptist said that the Messiah would baptize with the Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16). Fire served as a sign of judgment and refining, but it also reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost in the form of “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3).
Not only does fire possess devastating power to destroy, but it has tremendous power to bring forth life. The fire of God does this same thing for us. It destroys what is not of God in our lives and allows us to see the world through Christ’s eyes. We are able to love others as we have been loved by Him and begin to see ourselves as He sees us. These things come from holiness and the work of God in our lives. Without holiness, our churches will become stagnant, dry, and irrelevant.
But by seeking the fire of God in our lives, we are able to impact those around us for Christ and bring about the revival that is needed in these hard times for rural churches.
The need for holiness in rural church revitalization is critical if we want our churches to thrive. There are several reasons why a focus on holiness is essential to rural church revitalization.
First, the world is becoming increasingly secular, and churches must be counter-cultural in order to attract people. A focus on holiness will help churches to stand out from the secular world and offer something better.
Second, a focus on holiness will help churches to create a sense of community. In rural areas, churches are often the only source of community for many people. A strong sense of community can be a draw for people who are looking for a church home.
Third, a focus on holiness will help churches to cultivate disciples. In order to effectively evangelize and make disciples, churches must be focused on holiness. A focus on holiness will help churches to create an environment where people can grow in their faith.
Fourth, a focus on holiness will help churches to be effective witnesses for Christ. In a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity, it is more important than ever for churches to be bold witnesses for Christ. A focus on holiness will help churches to be light in the darkness and salt in a decaying world.
Fifth, a focus on holiness will help churches to be more relevant. In order to be relevant, churches must be focused on the things that matter most. A focus on holiness will help churches to stay focused on the things that are eternal and important.
Portions adapted from GotQuestions.org - “Why was the fire in the altar to burn continuously (Leviticus 6:13)?”