Written by Kris Vos
December 4, 2023

Searching for Silver Bullets

With 80% of churches in the US either plateaued or in decline, it's easy to reach for the supposed silver bullet that will turn things around.
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The Lone Ranger shot silver bullets. Those bullets symbolized purity against the corruption of evil.

  • The “silver bullet” has taken on an expanded meaning in our culture. It now symbolizes the perfect answer to our greatest problems. To add yet another layer of meaning, the term silver bullet is most often preceded by the words, “There is no…”

The term “there is no silver bullet” is certainly fitting for the work of church renewal. There are a host of church experts and consultants out there who advertise “7 Steps to Grow Your Church,” “5 Tools for Church Revitalization,” and so on.

  • Combine this with the fact that 80% of churches in the US are either plateaued or in decline, and it is easy to reach for the supposed silver bullet that will turn things around.

A recent article in The Baptist Paper hit the heart of this issue. Let me attempt to summarize it here.

Three Thoughts About Silver Bullets
Silver Bullets are not the Answer
  • Church leaders often think that what works in the church down the street will work anywhere. Others assume the strategies that worked in their church twenty years ago will work in it today. The truth is that our church and our community are radically different than the church down the street, and today’s culture is very different than the culture of twenty years ago.
  • The Baptist Paper said it this way: “Struggling churches are smothered by their overly churched culture with an internal focus on making tomorrow a return of yesterday.”
Struggling Churches are Passive in Reaching People
  • We are welcoming to visitors when they come to us, but we are not actively building relationships with unchurched people in our cities. The mission of God in the world must consume us so completely that we are proactively loving every person God places in our path.
  • New programs and new classes can’t change this. They can help, but only changing the culture of a church can reshape its missional core.
Ready, Shoot, Aim!
  • Churches need to stop searching for the quick fix silver bullet. Instead, they need to get ready, shoot, and aim! Here’s what that means:
  • Ready: It begins by admitting we need to take a new path. What we have been doing has led to decline. It is time for a new perspective, a new approach, and a new culture.
  • Shoot: Get help. Find coaching, resources, or guidance from those who have been down the path of renewal. Submit to relearning what it means to be missional in a new context. (The Church Renewal Lab is designed to help churches do exactly this!)
  • Aim: Hear the voice of God as you try new things. Discern what fits for your context and how the Holy Spirit is leading your church.

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Final Thoughts:

The Silver Bullet We Need
  • Okay, so there is a silver bullet after all! The Gospel is the silver bullet for the evils of this world. God can and does choose to transform lives and communities by His power. This is our hope.
  • That truth moves us to pray for renewal and remember our complete dependence on God to bring it.

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