The Physics of Church Renewal

Written by Bill Whitt
July 18, 2023

Understanding and harnessing the laws of the universe is powerful! Similar laws are at work in the process of church renewal.

Understanding and harnessing the laws of the universe is powerful! Look no further than the highly anticipated movie Oppenheimer, which is centered around the incredible power hidden inside tiny atoms.

  • Similar laws are at work in the process of church renewal. If we learn to understand them properly, we can take advantage of their tremendous power too!
 Five Laws of Church Renewal
 Law 1: Gravity
  • Sir Isaac Newton discovered that objects with greater mass exert greater gravity — a pull toward their center.
  • Similarly, larger churches tend to have more gravity, and that gravitational force always pulls ministry toward the inside. The larger a church grows, the more you will encounter an invisible but ever-present tug toward keeping insiders happy. You will have to intentionally fight gravity to maintain a focus on outsiders.
 Law 2: Inertia
  • Newton also articulated the law of inertia, which is Latin for “sluggish.” He observed that objects are sluggish and resistant to change. Specifically, objects in motion will maintain that motion, while objects at rest will remain at rest.
  • Congregations experience inertia too. Churches that have stopped moving, changing, evolving, and experimenting can be very hard to get moving again. Without the exertion of a great deal of outside force, they will tend to remain sluggish. However, if you can get a church in motion, it will be much easier to maintain that motion!
Law 3: Entropy
  • Entropy is a measure of the randomness of energy and mass in a system. Science has found that the entropy in the universe is increasing. Put simple, disorder is the default.
  • Within churches, disorder is the default too. It would be wonderful if a strategic five-year plan would materialize out of thin air on its own. It would be great if the tension between council members would disappear overnight. However, this is wishful thinking. Without our intervention, the system will continue to become more and more disordered.
Law 4: Conservation of Energy, Part 1
  • Science has shown that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be transferred or transformed (for example, from heat into light).
  • Churches have a limited amount of energy, and leaders have to make wise decisions about how you use that energy. The same energy that can be used to bring the light of the Gospel to the lost can also be wasted in the form of heat through internal arguments.
Law 5: Conservation of Energy, Part 2
  • Each church can locate itself within a typical lifecycle (launch, growth, prime ministry, decline, and completion). Some church leaders may discern that their congregation is nearing the end of its journey in this lifecycle, and this can be distressing.
  • However, the law of the conservation of energy applies here too! The Center for Church Renewal regularly helps churches to complete their journey well and to redeploy their resources to benefit the Kingdom of God in new ways through the Renewal Legacy Project. Finishing well leaves fertile soil for the new things God is doing, including often the genesis of a brand-new congregation!

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