Matthew Henry wrote, “When God intends great mercy for His people, the first thing He does is to set them praying.” History affirms this maxim, as the great revivals that God has sparked around the world have always been launched by prayer. There may have been grand movements of Christians joined in crying out to God that brought the revival, but it hasn’t always been so. In countless instances, the hearts of just a handful of people united to plead with God for new life in their community, their country or their church were the passion to which God responded. It is not the size of the group praying that matters as much as the depth of that group’s heart. They need this depth for the perseverance in petition that renewal often requires. God does not put a shot-clock on these prayers, and He may respond to them at once, or it’s more likely that revival comes after a season of souls persevering in long hours of communal prayer.
God uses our commitment to prayer to prepare us for receiving the life-giving power of the Spirit, and this preparation is two-fold. He first sets out to prepare our hearts to burn for revival. The Christian must be able to see the dry bones of the church or the distracted hearts of their community and then believe that spiritual life can come to them if God moves. This hope is the second area in which the heart is prepared because these prayers for new life can require extraordinary perseverance. Revival may appear like a single cloud on the horizon, no bigger that a fist, and prayer warriors must be patient in the time it takes to blossom into a drenching storm pouring down torrents of living water. Without preparation, our hearts would often fail to have the vision needed or the strength to carry on when answer is not immediately forthcoming.
“From the day of Pentecost, there has been not one great spiritual awakening, in any land, which has not begun in a union of prayer, if only [among] two or three. No such outward, upward movement has continued after such prayer meetings have declined.”
The prepared heart prays in complete honesty [JAS 5:16]. Christians recognize that the spiritual vitality of their church is not what it should be and the prayers that issue forth confess as much to God. Sin, cold fellowship, poor leadership – whatever the list of known deficits holds is boldly and openly laid before the Lord for his correction. Genuine repentance in revival prayer forges a heart soft and malleable for God to turn and shape, addressing these things so that new life does not germinate in rocky soil where it cannot flourish. When we pray for our community and for salvation to come, we are open with God about those areas in which we have not reached out or cared for. He may take the first step of turning our attention to knowing our neighbors and serving this community before He sends the Spirit with revival for the hearts of the lost. Honesty starts in the humbled heart, and a humbled heart is prepared by God and committed to Him above all other things.
What was I created for? What is the purpose of the Church? The answer to both questions is the same; we are made to worship. Check out our video that begins a new series on the practical theology of worship.
I passionately believe in the possibility of renewal in the church, particularly the legacy church where the devotion to the Missio Dei has grown cold in favor of comfort and familiarity. I believe that the best way, but not the only, for revival to come to the church is through a return to first principles, a devotion to prayer and worship.
As a matter of regular meditation, I consider the list of things I believe:
The eternal God of the Bible created, sustains, and has a purpose for the universe and my life within it
Jesus gave His life to atone for the sins of the world (Mark 10:45) and by vesting belief in Him, people are saved (1 Corinthians 1:21)
The Holy Spirit of Christ miraculously indwells redeemed people (1 Corinthians 6:19)
The Colorado Rockies will win the World Series (someday, no scripture reference)
Many churches need and can have revival
I passionately believe in the possibility of renewal in the church, particularly the legacy church where the devotion to the Missio Dei has grown cold in favor of comfort and familiarity. I believe that the best way, but not the only, for revival to come to the church is through a return to first principles, a devotion to prayer and worship. A renewed sense of the mission of disciple-making results from the first sparks of spiritual life that ignite, giving evidence to my belief. I believe these things are Scripture honoring and God glorifying.
There are doubtless many reasons that churches fall into decline, some beyond their control. As we talk about revival, it’s important to distinguish between spiritual and material poverty as a contributing factor. Geographic factors and demographic shifts can be the reasons that churches find themselves in material decline, making closure a choice that has to be made. We can identify numerous other external factors as reasons for the death of a church, and we need to be clear-eyed in assessing these realities. Conversely, spiritual decline has but a single source, the dimming of the passion of the members of a body for the gospel mission. Jesus spoke of this as forsaking “your first love” (Revelation 2:4).
While external factors may be beyond the control of a local church, the spiritual fire they exhibit is not. I believe that the Lord’s promise to be with His Church always (Matthew 28:20) assures us that any spiritual spark can be fanned into a roaring flame through His power. What does it require? I believe this inferno lies at the juncture of a return to heartfelt worship and the restoration of the Church as a house of prayer. Does this guarantee revival? Perhaps not, but it ensures that any ministry that emanates from a church is glorifying to God.
There is no place nor social context in which the gospel of Jesus Christ is not true. From East to West, from the highest height to the deepest depth, there is no place where the Gospel is not good news. When the Lord commissioned His church to take that good news to the nations, He knew this to be true and permitted no artificial boundaries:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
This is good news for us at home among our local church family and our neighbors, and it’s also good news for us in our missional efforts in the neighborhood andd abroad. The good news of the mercy and love of God as seen in the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son remains consistent for every human being. None is excluded, no one is separated from the promise, no sin is too great, no reprobation too deep that cannot be forgiven in the atonement of Christ.
“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:12–13
Truth demands action on our part. Our commission is not just to maintain the base camp, to keep the campfire stoked. We have trusted in the gospel and know the blessing of forgiveness and our restored relationship with God. Considering this, we must be carriers of the gospel so that others can experience the same relief and the same blessing. What was true of the gospel in the first century is true today, perhaps even more so, given the multitude of communication channels and the ability to put ourselves within the borders of all nations.
All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. Colossians 1:6
Plant a seed, trust in the power of the spirit to water and nurture it and pray for the gospel to grow.
What if the cultural bottom is just the first step up in revival for Christ’s Church? The answer forms the premise of Mark Sayers’ new book ‘Reappearing Church’. Using biblical and historical precedent, Sayers proposes that the small devoted ‘remnant’ (cf. Isaiah) not given over to the suffocating culture can be the spark of a renewal movement. I will always remember his memorable culturally current description of the next step: revival is renewal gone viral.
Sayers is one of the Church’s cultural prophets who brings a bridge of a sociological viewpoint to God’s people. The culture is a challenge to be sure, but when it is understood we find that God has already given His people assurance that it can be overcome by his presence. The Revival that is needed will not come through legislation or cultural surrender as so many are wont to do. It will come through a small remnant who trust in the transformative process of the presence of God.
Sayers is a rare gift to the church. His writing is not of the 12-step genre. Rather, he is a deep thinker who invites the reader to join him in a meditative examination of the air we breathe. The only how-to included in the volume is the introduction which suggests that we gather a small cell of like-minded revivalists around us to pray through the material. Beyond that, the chapters give small bites to savor on the way to personal transformation. ‘Reappearing Church’ is not a fast read. You will want to slow down and think and pray deeply about each of individual subjects. Read it as your invitation to join the Remnant.
“…God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
Our calling as Christians from death to life is a blessing of the gospel. We would know no hope and remain in rebellion with God without the gracious intervention of the Holy Spirit of Christ moving us to respond to the good news. So oppressed by the deleterious effects of sin in our lives are we that only the divine Gospel power has the ability to break us free (1 Cor 2:14). The Bible bears witness to the Lord’s own invitation to salvation, the message often falling on spiritually deaf ears.
“…Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5
The blessing of calling overcomes our inability to respond. The gospel message is proclaimed verbally, inviting the listener to repent of their sin and be saved. This sin, however, blinds and deafens us. The louder sound that convinces us that we are not that bad and certainly worthy of heaven prevents us from hearing and responding to the humility of repentance. Our eyes are blinded by the self-idolatry of our independence, not needing or wanting the Creator to be involved in our existence.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” (John 6:44)
Recognizing our helplessness, God mercifully goes beyond the general, external call and calls us. In His time and way, God effectually calls us internally to respond (1 Co 1:9). The Holy Spirit gently sharpens the vision and hearing of the stubborn soul, turning the heart back toward God. The Gospel invitation suddenly reverberates with hope. The formerly blind eyes can see gift before them. Ears that were deaf can hear the gentle voice of God inviting the soul to come and relinquish one’s burden and be saved.
“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” John 1:16 – 18
The Gospel is sometimes referred to as the gospel of grace. There is a tremendous amount of truth in that label, but it can also lead to a diminishing of the fullness of the gospel. Our elementary school grammar lessons taught us that a preposition connects a modifying word, an adjective or adverb, to a noun. The purpose of this construct is to give the reader or listener a more detailed definition of that down. This is why it is so important to be cautious in selecting those words that we attach to gospel. The Good News needs no modification. That God, in his great mercy, intervened in history to reconcile humankind to himself is the greatest news that one could ever receive. That this invitation to reconciliation is addressed to everyone takes your breath away.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…” John 3:36
The Gospel is power; power to save, power to regenerate, power to make holy that which is unholy. (Rom 1:16-17). The Gospel is not just words or an idea or a theological concept, the Gospel is divine power. It is the incarnation of God’s grace, it is alive and growing. The apostle Paul writes to the church at Colosse, “all over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” (Colossians 1:6)
“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 6:45
The grace of God is made manifest in his benevolent care for his creation, despite the fact that it has rebelled against Him. The result of this common grace should be the universal recognition that God is present and active in the world. It should result in gratitude as God demonstrates his goodness to all but the rebellious mind is devoted to denying these truths by any means possible.
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
Our greatest need has been addressed in the Gospel. Salvation comes by grace; salvation comes by the power of the gospel. The Gospel is God’s merciful grace embodied. The Gospel IS grace.
The good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, is anchored in faith. This is incredible news for many reasons, not the least of which is that it removes the giving or receiving of this gift of grace from our hands. The apostle Paul speaks about the result of the good news, the power of the gospel and our utter dependence on God for its application; “for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8 – 9) We must hear the good news in faith, respond to the gospel in faith and continue to believe in faith for the gift of salvation to have its effect on our life.
It is good news that the gospel of Jesus Christ is anchored in faith. This means that on our part we take no action that we can claim as our own. This means that nothing on our part is worthy of note. We hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus by faith alone. This means that
we do no preparation to make ourselves worthy of the gospel
there are no works that we perform their worthy of the good news of Jesus
there is no ritual that we must perfect and perform for the gospel to have its effect
there will be no wondering on our part whether we have done enough, or done anything properly for the good news to be good news
In the midst of the magnificent “Hall of Fame of Faith”, the author of Hebrews cements this good news:
“(And) without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
What sets this chapter apart is that the heroes of faith listed all exercise that faith before the gospel of Jesus Christ was realized in full. Their faith was rooted in the promise of the care and the mercy and the benevolence of God, all of these fully realized in the gospel: that Jesus Christ, God incarnate came into the world of man, lived and gave his life as the atonement for sin for those highlighted in Hebrews, those in our day and those who will come after us until that glorious day when Jesus returns again.
The good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, is anchored in faith. We believe the incredible news that God has dealt with our greatest problem – our separation from him by sin – in Jesus. We believe in the full sufficiency of the Lord’s sacrifice to atone from our sin, no matter its degree. We believe that on that earth-shaking Sunday morning the Lord rose and lives again, continuing to this day his ministry of intercession and care for those who have placed their faith in this good news. We believe and keep on believing.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16
The gospel that the Apostle spoke of is good news, stupendously good news. God had intervened in history, entering personally into the morass of human rebellion against Him and making a way out, a way to be freed from the entanglements that drew them to destruction. Jesus Christ entered the world in purity, lived a life of perfect holiness and died as the sacrifice for the sins of the world. His death atoned for all sin. When Jesus was then resurrected on that third day, He demonstrated indisputably that He had overcome death and broken the entrapping bonds of sin. The long-awaited promises to Israel were fulfilled and the blessing of God extended to all who would believe that Jesus was their only avenue of freedom from the bondage of the Fall.
That is fabulously good news. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15
The Apostle quoted the prophet Isaiah in this assuring statement. The prophet communicated to God’s people Israel that their exile would end, that they would be released from their captivity in Babylon, that freedom was imminent. Good news to be sure, fantastic even. Except, the power sin remained and, while physically freed, people were still held in its vise-like grip. Better news was still to come.
The better news is Jesus. Jesus, the savior who died for the “sins of the whole world” 1 John 2:2. The amazing news is Jesus who overcame death and its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-57) and gives all who will believe that victory. Jesus not only makes the way of atonement, He shepherds believers along the path of life (Hebrews 7:25) until they are rejoined with God in perfect communion.