Archive

Archive for the ‘Revival’ Category

Spiritual Leadership: Urgent need for the resurrection of the small church

January 20, 2012 Leave a comment

The following is a short post on the urgent need for the resurrection of the small church in America.  The premise is that the greatest potential opportunity to grow committed surrendered followers of Christ and unleash the full potential of Christ’s church comes from intimate, intentional, proactive, and loving shepherding of the flock (1 Peter 5:2). This is Spiritual leadership at the heart of the gospel.

With over 70% of churches in the United States represented with memberships of less than 300, you have to ask what role the small church is playing in advancing the kingdom of God.   The reality is some are dynamic while many are a sleep.  According to the Southern Baptist Convention the majority of churches seem to be flat or in decline.  Yet, the small church, I believe has the greatest potential to be the catalyst for revival and advancing the cause of Christ in America.  The movement has begun as you see church planting and new church starts on the increase as a core strategy of many ministries, e.g. Acts 29 Ministries, the NAMB, larger local churches.

Why I believe the small church is the future of the church is because the greatest opportunity to advance the kingdom is for the local church to live at the intersection of the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).  To do this requires an intentional effort by the local church to focus on the spiritual development of God’s people helping them grow in holiness and an ever deepening relationship with Christ.  This intentionality requires a shepherds heart and continuous influence.  Peter exhorts church leaders to shepherd the flock.

 1 Peter 5:2
2Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;

What flock?  The flock that is among them!  This means that the primary focus of the pastor is to shepherd the flock God has given and from faithful commitment to this end God will advance His kingdom through the development of committed surrendered followers of Christ.   A healthy church is not necessarily based on its size or the number of new members, but the faithful shepherding of God’s people.  How then do you measure a healthy church?  Some elements include:

  • Marriages restored
  • Broken lives restored
  • Increase in faithful surrendered disciples –growing in holiness
  • Increase in the number of core members serving, going, telling
  • Increase in biblical literacy
  • Passion for prayer
  • Reverent worship
  • Intimate and frequent fellowship of the body

Collectively these areas bring into perspective a view of the apostolic church which grew exponentially through discipleship, prayer, fellowship, ministry, evangelism, and worship (Acts 2:38-47).  These are the basic fundamentals of the Christian walk.  Oh how we need to return to these core fundamentals today.  Not just in activity and by  name but out of the overflow of our love for Christ obediently following His commands (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:14) and by faithfully employing core Christian disciplines to deepen our relationship with God, becoming more conformed to Christ so we are most usable for the kingdom (Eph. 4:13;Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor.  3:18).

To accomplish the above requires intentional, proactive, relentless, and loving shepherding of the flock God has given His shepherd.  It can be argued that the small church has a great potential to model the apostolic church led by spiritual leaders (shepherds) intent on the spiritual development of his people, growing them in holiness and Christlikeness where revival can be ignited and spread.

Today, given technology, communications, and many available ministry tools the small church can play much larger than it may be represented in numbers of members.  The avenues God may choose to lead a small church may come in many different flavors, many we readily know and employ today (internet, alliances, satellites, etc.).  However, most importantly we know that God’s ways are not our ways (Is 55:8-9).  So, if we really desire to join God in His work it is not our ways that we seek it is His revealing of His ways we desire.  How exciting to know that He has so much more for us than we can conceive and that as we remain faithful we can enjoy the potential privilege of having God reveal God sized activities we can join Him in where He can receive all the glory.  After all with God all things are possible (Luke 1:37).  Our job is to trust Him, be faithful in what He has given, and not put any limits on what He might desire to accomplish through us.  Consequently we much keep in perspective that small churches have no less potential to impact the kingdom of God than the large mega church!

Shepherding of Christ’s church is vital to the cause of Christ and is the key ingredient for the spiritual leadership of God’s people.  The small church is extraordinarily vital to God’s mission to redeem a lost world given the call to “shepherd the flock which has been given”.  Yes, I believe that the resurrection of the small church is crucial and urgently needed for bringing revival in the hearts of God’s people, His church, and our nation.  It starts with committed and surrendered shepherds – spiritual leaders on fire for advancing the kingdom through the shepherding of the God given body of believer’s he has been entrusted with.

Pray for God to raise up spiritual leaders to join Him in breathing new life into the small church, shepherding the flock for advancing the gospel and the kingdom of God.

Much more to come on this vital topic.

Advertisements

Revival – are we willing to pay the price?

October 10, 2011 Leave a comment

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) says 14if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Few in the church today would argue that we are in desperate need of revival.  But are we willing to pay the price?  We talk about this constantly, but  how do we achieve this?  According to 2 Chronicles 7:14our only responsibility is the IF part, humbling ourselves, praying, seeking His face, and turning from sin, and the THEN part is all His – hearing, forgiving, cleansing, and healing.

Words of Explanation – Revival is defined in Revelation 2:4-5 and says:

Revelation 2:4 – 5 (NKJV) 4Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place—unless you repent. 

Jesus tells us we need to return to our first love which we have left!

Revival ….

  • Is God getting me where I need to be so He can do what He wants to do
  • Is God’s people getting right with him
  • Is when God moves in power in His people, to bring them back to life from hard hearts, indifference, backsliding, and spiritual harlotry, to renew their first marriage vows to Jesus only
  • Is a name we invented to explain what ought to be the normal Christian life
  • Is God’s answer to His people’s desperate plea that we are powerless to revive ourselves or others
  • Praying involves brokenness and humility, and the confession of my personal sins and the sins of the church and the country that have separated us from God
  • Is Biblical
  • Is birthed in prayer and holiness, and it will continue until the prayer and holiness which birthed it is neglected in favor of the arm of flesh of man

 Spiritual Awakening

  • When God so works in His people that we get contagious and the world notices the Reviving One in action in love and power in our lives, so that they want to rub lives with us to catch what we have
  • When God’s humbled, purified, Spirit-empowered church so lives the presence and priorities of God that the world takes notice
  • When God’s people get on fire, that unbelieving family and the world of lost people around us want to come see where the fire is
  • When revived believers repent of their sins in the holy presence of God, make right what is wrong in the power of God, give priority to the purposes of God in prayer, testify of a passion for God by their revived lives living out the reviving Life.

What is evangelism?

Evangelism is the overflow, the results, when the revived church goes into the world by the Spirit of power, who opens blind eyes so that those in darkness come to the light of Jesus Christ, when He is lifted up.  Revival results in evangelism.  Unchurched people get saved in a mighty movement of God.  In the atmosphere of prayer, purification, and praise, God moves to redeem the lost world so that entire geographic areas are swept into the kingdom.  If the harvest is His, then pray to the Lord of the Harvest as the Greatest Commission of all.

Revival is not

  • Goose bumps – not how high we jump, but how straight and honest we talk
  • Not calling down fire on those who don’t hear – Jesus rebuked that (Luke 9:55)
  • Not just asking but hearing from God.  You are only as revived as you are a good listener.
  • Not inexpensive; yes it is free, but it costs dearly – religion does not cost you anything, but revival costs you everything.  What have you got to lose?  Your sin, your pride, your reputation, your flesh, your powerlessness?

God wants to revive the church but He will do it one person at a time.  How does the fire of revival catch hold, you put a few hot coals together.  Jesus deals with us one person at a time.  We are to fix our eyes on Jesus.

  • Love of God
  • Hatred of sin
  • Your surrender to the Holy Spirit
  • Your desperation for the glory of God at all costs – God will not share His glory with those who come to use Him to make a religious reputation for themselves

Why we don’t have revival?    Ignorance

Hosea 4:6 (NKJV) says  6    My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.     Because you have rejected knowledge,     I also will reject you from being priest for Me;     Because you have forgotten the law of your God,     I also will forget your children.

We are content to live without it – the church has no vision for revival – 

Proverbs 29:18 says:   Where there isno revelation, the people cast off restraint;     But happy is he who keeps the law.

The bottomline is we are unwilling to pay the price to meet the conditions – of humbling, praying, seeking God’s face, and turning from sin.

 Henry Blackaby provides some insightful perspective for us:

“Do we not realize that scripturally it is impossible to have a call for revival without a call for repentance? This has always been God’s requirement for His people. The passionate, unceasing corporate prayer that is always present in revival is desperately lacking as well. In short, I see little evidence of sincere brokenness among God’s people for our present condition or the condition of our nation.

We call for revival without actually crying with tears and brokenness for revival. The “call for revival” seems almost like a spiritual fad, with no true passion and sincerity of heart. Many will say “amen” when they hear mention of the need for revival. But the “call” is fleeting and soon passes away. And then we quickly move on to other activity and return to our business as usual with no follow-through by the leaders of God’s people.

We must understand that a true call for revival is first and foremost a recognition that we’ve departed from God. It demands a radical response from God’s leaders and His people. Revival has always been, and remains to this day, God dealing with the sin of His own -– not the world.

Therefore, if we never recognize our need for repentance of sin, then our “call” for revival is in vain. Isaiah warned God’s people: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from God; and your sins have hidden His face from you; so that He will not hear”(Isaiah 59:1-2).”

Action steps:

May we seek God to grant us broken and contrite hearts, may our spiritual leaders “return to the Lord” and stay there;  may the people of God pray corporately with one heart and mind, and may God’s people be immediately obedient to all God reveals to them.  Amen and amen.

Supporting references:  Experiencing God and Fresh Encounter by Henry and Richard Blackaby

The Circular Driveway of the American Church – it’s not a good thing!

October 5, 2011 1 comment

The Circular Driveway of the American Church – It’s Not a Good Thing 

A call for Genuine Revival!

The comedian, Steven Wright, once told about a friend of his who put in a circular driveway…..he couldn’t get out!   The American church seems to be on this same circular driveway and it can’t get out.   This circular driveway is paved with Christians caught up in materialism, religion, confused worldviews, and rampant immorality.  Essentially the church more often than not looks like the world, behaves like the world, and desires to operate like the world (Barna Research provides current and historical surveys illustrating these points www.Barna.org) .  This may be a firm grasp of the obvious to many but as of this writing the situation continues to erode into deeper and deeper ruts in this seemingly endless circular driveway of sin and disobedience in American churches.  We can’t seem to get out!

A brief outline of a few scriptures would seem to help us see that it’s not about us, we are totally dependent on God, He is sovereign, and He has clearly given us our marching orders for not getting in a rut, the benefits of staying out and the consequences if we get in a rut, and how to get out if we do.   The apostle John makes it clear that we are not to love the world or the things of the world and that if we do the love of the Father is not in us (1 John 2:15).  Paul clearly points out that man’s wisdom is inferior to God’s wisdom and only spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:6-16). Isaiah declares that God’s ways are not our ways and that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).  The Word of God and the God of the Word is our source of success and blessing (Joshua 1:8; Deuteronomy 6:18, 9:18).   The bible clearly tells us that the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).   Love and obedience is to be rewarded (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) and disobedience is to be punished (Deuteronomy 28:15-68).   When we get in a rut He has given us a means to get out (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Christians and the church in large measure, similar to the children of Israel, have chosen to compromise and depart from God substituting worldliness for a fear of the Lord and living in disobedience to His Word.  We have become experts at substituting “stuff” for God, religious rituals for relationship, and natural for spiritual leadership.   Compounding this tragic condition, not surprisingly, our churches are wholly deficient in prayer, transformational bible study, personal discipleship, and true spiritual leadership.   It is no wonder that growth in a majority of American churches is flat or in decline and developing countries pray daily for the American Christian to be freed from this spiritual blindness and bondage.

An Outline of some thoughts to ponder:

The circular driveway of American Christianity today is riddled with many ruts in the road:

  • The circular driveway of materialism
    • Christians are obsessed with materialism.  It is the curse of the 21st century.   We have clearly substituted the pursuit of “stuff” and all its attendant negative implications for the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40)
    • Ruts in the Road:  Debt and the pursuit of power,  prestige, possessions, and position
  • The circular driveway of immorality
    • It is difficult to separate the nature and rates of immorality in the secular world versus the Christian world;  pornography, adultery, homosexuality, and fornication – the lines just blur
    • Ruts in the Road: Self-centeredness in an “it’s all about me” generation, severely compromised personal values,  and a ever increasing tolerance in what is acceptable public moral behavior and life styles
  • The circular driveway of religious ritual
    • We have become a program and activity driven church in America where Christians believe that checking the box in their church attendance and program participation equates to spirituality
    • We have in large measure taken on religious ritual as our cross to bear verses helping Christians develop a growing personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ
    • Ruts in the Road: secular-humanism in the church, compromise in doctrine and flawed theology, programs and activities substituting for relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ
  • The circular driveway of confused worldviews
    • Christians are confused and unable to defend the major American societal issues which are counter to solid biblical principles, e.g. abortion, same sex marriage, homosexuality
    • Ruts in the Road:  (www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=4114) liberalism as a religion;  media, education and politics overwhelming the Christian values message
  • The circular driveway of worldly leadership
    • Our churches are often intent on adopting secular and corporate management structures and approaches to leading their congregations in lieu of focusing on key biblical principles and purposes of spiritual leadership.  Ministry requires many fundamentally different approaches in leadership compared to main street management and leadership.  Notable differences begin with vision, mission and strategy development  in the church.
    • Ruts in the Road:  emphasis on man’s vision and wisdom verses God’s revelation of His will and purposes; operating from secular management principles which may be counter to biblical principles; lack of prayer as the foundation undergirding every element of ministry

How can we get out of this circular driveway and on to God’s highway to holiness (Isaiah 35:8)?

All the ruts in this ever eroding circular driveway lead us to a recurring theme in the bible – God’s people tend to depart from Him (Henry Blackaby, Fresh Encounter).   We have chosen death and evil for life and good; and have lost our first love (Deuteronomy 30:11-16, 17-20; Revelation 2:4-5).    God knew that His people would tend to depart from Him.  This departure of our heart from God is significant and far reaching.  The two signs of departure include lack of obedience and substitutes for God.    God’s people and the church today are continuing in a destructive race 100 miles per hour on this circular driveway as if it were God’s pattern and pleasing to Him.   

Stop!  We need to return to our first love.  The fundamental to getting out of the circular driveway rut is to return to the Lordship of Christ.   Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).   He didn’t say this just once but three times in Chapter 14 of the gospel of John.   Our starting point to obedience is out of our love for the Savior.

There is a deep and desperate need for God’s people to return to Him.  He desires us to be on His highway to holiness (Isaiah 35:8), growing more like Christ each day (2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 4:13) rather than the circular driveway of worldliness digging deeper in sin and disobedience. 

The answer then rests in repentance and genuine revival, individually and collectively as a church.    2 Chronicles 7:14 should be the rallying cry of every pastor and Christian in America.

2 Chronicles 7:14 ( NKJV ) 
if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 

Our love of Christ and His Lordship in our lives is the source of all true and lasting evangelism, missions, ministry and discipleship.   May we individually and as a church willingly humble ourselves, pray and seek the Lord in a way that He will rain revival down on His church and we respond in obedience to the call to join Him in His work to redeem a lost world. 

 Pray for Christ’s church to repent, humble itself, seek God and pray for spiritual awakening.  Lord may you start with me!