A dehydrated human body cannot function at full capacity. It will not thrive. According to mayoclinic.org, “Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If you don’t replace lost fluids, you will get dehydrated.” It goes on to list some of the symptoms of dehydration as “extreme thirst, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion.” 
If the church is truly the body of Christ as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, then it’s reasonable to conclude that a local church body that isn’t thriving and is characterized by fatigue, dizziness, and confusion could also be dehydrated. How so? Not by a lack of physical water but of spiritual water, the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
John 7:37-39 says, “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up until that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (NIV)
Now Jesus is glorified, and the church received the Spirit at Pentecost. We have full access, both as individual believers and as local church bodies, to a never-ending supply of the Holy Spirit flowing “from within.” You and your congregation can remain continually “hydrated” which is necessary for a local church to thrive. However, just like in our human bodies, if we choose not to keep drinking spiritual water, spiritual dehydration will result.
We often think of the individual Christian life as a race (Hebrews 12:1). If while running a physical marathon runners only drink water before the race and do not keep drinking along the way, they will wear out and will likely not finish. They need to replenish their fluids along the way. The same is true in our spiritual race and the water of the Holy Spirit.
This need is also present in our local church body. We can think of our collective church work as being on mission. The song, Onward Christian Soldiers, comes to mind because a military unit would, no doubt, have trouble completing its mission without staying hydrated. It would need to replenish its energy to fight onward. Similarly, a local church that was filled with the Spirit years ago but hasn’t made the effort to keep drinking living water along the way will be depleted and could eventually be defeated.
One of the main principles in our Anglican Revitalization Ministries is that there is no church revitalization without renewal. A local church can have all the best strategies and plans to become healthy and grow, but if there is not first renewal, it will only result in busy work that leaves the congregation “fatigued, dizzy, and confused,” scratching their heads wondering why their efforts are not producing the desired result. According to Dictionary.com, one definition of the word renew is “to restore and replenish.” I like that definition because, when we talk about renewal for the sake of church revitalization, we are talking about restoring our love and passion for Jesus and being replenished with the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the mission and ministry of the Church.
If your church is running the race set before it and trying its best to fight the good fight but is not thriving, could it be that it is simply thirsty for more of the Holy Spirit? It could be that thirst and dehydration have already set in. Again from mayoclinic.org on physical dehydration, “Many people, particularly older adults, don’t feel thirsty until they’re already dehydrated.” An established congregation, pushing hard year after year, dealing with normal challenges and now Covid, could easily become spiritually dehydrated and not even know it!
If you want to see the church you lead thrive, consider focusing on renewal for a season. Take the time and make the effort to be replenished with the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that if you are thirsty to come to him and drink. Both individually and corporately as a church body, all you need to do is ask. In Luke 11:11-13, Jesus said, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
To restore passion for Jesus and replenish empowerment in the Holy Spirit, we are pleased to announce a new AAC resource called “Renew.” Renew is a weekend conference held in a local church that provides the congregation and its leaders a fresh outpouring of living water to drink from as they march onward. We are currently working on other renewal resources for congregations to utilize as well. Stay tuned for more information coming soon!
If you’d like more information on the Renew Conference, or would like to schedule one in your church, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a call.