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.
A Mission Field Nobody Wants to Engage
The presence of the unsaved thinking of themselves as Christians has been a reality forever. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus himself warns against putting stock in a false conversion saying, “not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus says it, but the state of the modern church is often resistant to hearing and heeding the admonishment. As author Inserra relates, cultural Christianity has embedded itself deeply in the Church, its comforting lack of accountability enveloping people in a warm embrace of false belief.
Inserra structures is excellent book along the lines of a missionary guide for an unreached people group. The interaction that he shares at the beginning of the book with his seminary classmate sets a challenging tone. While Pastor Inserra looked at his brother’s assignment to Northern California as an incredible challenge (the land of proud unbelief), his brother turned the table to warn him against the assumptions that came with an assignment to the Bible Belt. This bracing moment is when he began to really examine the reality of faith amongst those who proclaimed a belief in Christ as a part of their everyday life. Examination proved that this belief was anecdotal in some cases, cultural in most of them and simply a part of being a citizen of the South for many. The chapters of the book that follow the analysis give the reader excellent study points for ways in which to approach each of these groups and more.
“Unsaved” is a quick read but not shallow. As someone involved in ministry, I can see a face to go along with each of the belief types that he describes. This personalization gives the reader the opportunity to think through the conversation that you want to have in the way that you want to approach that person. It didn’t begin the book with high hopes because I thought it was simply stating the obvious, but Inserra has performed a valuable service for Christ’s church, saying the hard things that need to be said in love.
The Metrics of Mission
Measuring the performance of a missional church community is not performed using the same yardstick as many modern churches utilize. While the paramount measure of success in some church circles is bottoms in seats, the missional church evaluates their adherence to the missio dei by how many seats are provided for bottoms. Rather than making a mission of increasing the budget year over year, a missional community will consider the percentage of their budget turned around into the mission field. Tallying the noses of the churched kids who attend a VBS is one number, taking the VBS under various guises to the unreached children of the area is an entirely different count. In every missional metric the priority is reaching, touching and influencing the lives of our neighbors with the truth and reality of the gospel.
As Willow Creek discovered years ago, the metric used to evaluate success doesn’t always align with God’s intention for the church. Their numbers in terms of attendance and conversion were staggering by any measure but the culture that generated those numbers also came at a high cost. As the adage goes, they were a mile wide and an inch deep. “Go and make disciples” had reduced to “baptize them”, a crucial measure but only half the mission. The Commission is holistic and intended to build a self-replicating community of believers who will join the cycle and further the mission.
The missional church may never attain the size of a market-entertainment-self help driven church. That will always be more attractive to the itching ears of our time. The missional body will grow, perhaps not as numerically quickly, but in a more important aspect, they will grow spiritually. The numbers in this world may not impress but the results in the Kingdom ahead will be staggering.
image by Roland Tanglao
Our Last Great Hope by Ronnie Floyd
A fair percentage of the people sitting in our pews on Sunday morning would claim at least a passing familiarity with the Great Commission. A smaller percentage would be able to correctly locate it at the end of Matthew’s gospel. Fewer still would understand the far-reaching implications of these verses.
And only a handful would see the words of Jesus as applying to them personally.
This lack of apprehension lies at the core of Ronnie Floyd’s latest book, Our Last Great Hope. Pastor Floyd seeks to spark a renewed fervor for the mission of the Church in its call as the final hope of the world. Moreover, he wants to personalize the mission to individual believers. So many times, the church views this commission as applying only to the pros: the missionaries, pastors and other spiritual mentors. Pastor Floyd dispels this thinking throughout the book, speaking directly to the reader and imploring them to own the commission.
Floyd writes with a pastor’s heart for the lost and in a preacher’s exhortative voice. The pages ring with the active language of a Sunday sermon and the eyes of the pastor pointed directly at you. As the Christian mission is dissected, Pastor Floyd lays it in your lap and challenges you to claim that reaching the lost isn’t your responsibility. Good luck.
Floyd’s approach to awakening the Church contributes to the success of the book. Rather than a step-by-step, theological-practical treatise, the pastor writes about reorganizing our lives in ways that place us in the perfect position to step up and fulfill our calling. Instead of confronting the reader with the bottomless needs of the city, for example, pastor speaks to the transformation of our families that will naturally encourage engagement in the mission.
Ronnie Floyd has given us a fine book for sparking a renewal of the Mission. Irenic in tone, Our Last Great Hope is nonetheless urgent in proclaiming the need. Read this book and then go.
I am grateful to Thomas Nelson who provided this book for review.