This past summer, our weekly chapel times at IBSA were devoted to a series titled “Summer in the Psalms.” This book of songs and poetry, of course, gives expression to a wide range of emotions, from the lows of our woes to the heights of our worship. In doing so, it reassures us that God meets us everywhere in our human experience.
One of our speakers this summer reflected on an observation from one of his seminary professors that has stuck with him for years. That professor noted that every psalm basically describes one of three human experiences: surviving, reviving, or thriving.
When he’s barely surviving, the psalmist openly expresses his desperation. When reviving, he speaks of pain, but also of hope and recovery. And when thriving, words can barely contain his joy and exuberance and his celebration of victory.
Of course, our lives are multi-faceted, and it’s possible to experience all three of these at once. We may be thriving at work while reviving in our personal health and barely surviving spiritually. Or we may be thriving in our relationships and simply surviving at our jobs. In fact, a great self-diagnostic exercise could be to sit with some trusted friends, identify the main arenas of your life, and then share openly with one another whether you are thriving, reviving, or surviving in each area, and why.
That same type of assessment can be valuable in the life of a church. Would you or the members of your church say, “My church is thriving,” or that it is in the process of reviving, or frankly, that it’s just surviving?
Wherever your church finds itself today, God’s desire is that each church be on a journey toward thriving. Your church is the body of Jesus Christ in your community! He wants it to be healthy and vibrant, regardless of surrounding circumstances.
That’s why “Thrive” is the theme of both the IBSA Pastors Conference and the IBSA Annual Meeting this year, hosted in Springfield November 2-4. It’s a theme anchored in Acts 16:5, which describes thriving churches with these simple words: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.”
In the exhibit hall at this year’s meeting, there will be a conversation area where you can discuss with an IBSA consultant the question, “What is our church’s next step toward thriving?” That question is central to our network’s new mission statement, which is to “Deliver network value that inspires each church to thrive in health, growth, and mission.” I hope you and others from your church can come and begin that conversation. Whether you can come or not, it’s a conversation we at IBSA would love to have with each church.
One thing I love about the book of Psalms is that it acknowledges and empathizes with all three of these life experiences. In the Psalms, God has given us his own inspired words to talk back to him even when we are reviving, or just surviving. In every case, the posture of the psalmist toward God is the same. He turns to God, expresses his emotions freely, then declares his dependence and trust in his Creator, his King, his Savior.
God wants us to come to him in faith and obedience at all times. But it’s clear that it delights him when we and our churches are not just surviving or reviving, but moving toward thriving. So wherever you find yourself or your church, ask yourself what the next step toward thriving might be. And then if we can, let us help you take that next step.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.