Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Revival, Revitalization, Revolution:

Revival, Revitalization, Revolution:

We hear these terms often in Christian circles. We need revival. We need revitalization within our souls, our neighborhoods and within our churches. But the word “revolution” seems to take a back seat to the action needed for such change.

Such words and such action was treasonous within the 13 colonies which would later become our Nation. Our founders believed in limited governmental control and faith in God-given potential of the American people. Our Declaration of Independence was and still is a radical idea. Tested and executed daily. That all men are created equal. Not some but all! Sound familiar?

I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. John 12:46 (NLT)

The key word here is “All.” As author, Rick Santorum writes; “America is not about birthrights, classes, or bloodlines. We are not a tribe or an ethnic group of a civilization with a long written history on this continent. America is an ideal-set of common values that unite us not only as states, but as a people.”

As we now look across our Nation we see those with poor jobs associated within poor neighborhoods. Seemingly trapped within the chains of bondage. The first thing to be lost is HOPE.

Our inner-city churches struggle to stay alive. Fighting the good fight each day. Struggling just as the neighborhoods they serve, just to keep the lights on. This while larger churches sit on the sidelines along open stretches of road with their big campuses of glory. They look more like country clubs than churches to outsiders. These are the churches that rich folks go to. Outreach is done with the signing of a check. Like a mother holding a baby tapping at the window of your car asking for money. You give her a dollar in hopes she will walk away and leave you alone.

Make no mistake, I too am guilty.

The problem with our churches today is the empty pews and empty chairs at church events. We build it and think they will come. That is not what God's Word tells us.

And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15 (NKJV)

Key word here is, “GO.” If God wanted us to build great palaces, entertainment events, elaborate programs and festivals within our “Fellowship Halls,” He would have said so. You think?

Personally I have never heard testimonies from a fellow Christians that he/she was so moved by a Christian concert or church event that he/she immediately gave themselves to Christ. It is always someone who took the time to share the gospel of Christ with them that lead them to repentance and a right relationship with Christ. Events are just that, “Events!” A concert is a concert. A picnic is a picnic.

Crusade after crusade new believers come in droves. Months or years later they are nowhere to be found in fellowship. What happen? Was it lack of followup? Perhaps. Was it lack of more events? More entertainment to keep them in the pews? Or is it the strange unspoken truth that they never accepted Christ's offer of salvation. They never truly repented? Matthew 13:1-23.

I was once a member and even a church staff member to a very large church in my home town. We had wonderful and huge events. They still do. Hundreds come. Few have remain to become members. Many who are members have no idea of the hard work of a few that makes these events possible. Its like going to an “Earth Day” rally the day after. All you see is an empty field with the liter left behind. The truth trampled on. Are these just dry bones or trophies of victory for the evil one?

Revival: An evangelistic meeting intended to reawaken interest in religion.

That's the text book definition of Revival. Dry and sometimes uninviting. To unbelievers this statement runs true. For many a Christian too. We come to church on Sunday morning expecting the choir to inspire our worship when it should be us bringing our worship to inspire all of us at church. We expect the preacher to invigorate us. To motivate us like a football coach at half time of the big game when we are down thirty to nothing. Pushing us to do better. To believe we can win. Except we will not allow the preacher to kick us in the rear to get us moving which we most desperately need. We say things like, “Its the preacher’s job to bring them to Christ. Not mine.” Or, “We pay people to set this up and arrange this or that. So what if we do not pay them enough to make a living? They are here to serve us anyway, right?” I have heard this over and over for the past 7 years. Back when I was in California, I never heard any mordacious statements like these in my church back home. Here in the South, Christians have told me, “You California's have no idea about church and God.” My experiences tells me different.

Revitalization: Bringing again onto activity and prominence.

Again that is the text book definition of Revitalization. Bringing again would be the key words here. Trying to bring back our first love. But without love, what do we have to offer?

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. 1 Cor 13:3 (MSG)

Bringing back that which you do not have in the first place is futile. Yet, we expect our preachers to keep banging on the same drum. Calling out for the selfsame thing, a message to a profoundly deaf crowd who call themselves Christians, who claim to have love for others. Just what is futile?

In an article in “On Mission” ( magazine, Winter 2013, issue, Pastor Johnny Hunt tells us the story of revitalization for New Hope Church in Mableton, GA. First Baptist Woodstock, which Hunt pastor's, is huge with nearly unlimited resources. It was not always that way. But on the foundation of love, they have grown beyond their dreams. The first step was for the smaller church of 17 members to ask for help from the larger church. Sounds simple enough. Yet, we rarely see it. Pride? If an inner-city church is in the trenches and a larger church away from the battlefield wants to help and serve. It makes sense for these two to get together and make it happen. It is church planting by caring for the church that is already there in the neighborhood serving on the front lines of battle. The seed has been planted. The soil has been tended too. Vinings Lake Church (formally: New Hope) is running 600 most weekends in attendance now. Together we can. Separate we lose. We are commanded to pray for the laborers of the harvest. Matthew 9:37-38

Revolution: A drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving.

I doubt most of you would describe the word, “Revolution” like that above. Yet, that is exactly what happen to form our country, The United States of America. Many in 1776 did not agree with the Revolutionary War against the crown. They still consider themselves British. Subject to the king. Subject to the ascendance of rule. Not looking at themselves as free men under the eyes of God.

What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.” Luke 11:52 (NLT)

The Gospel of Matthew was written for the Jews. Deep in Hebrew traditions and heritage. Mark's Gospel is a book of action. Meant for the Romans who saw themselves as men of action. Luke's Gospel was targeted for the Greeks. Ones who put the betterment of man first. Yet Jesus taught them and us to sacrifice for one another not pursue personal perfection. The Gospel of John is seen as the universal Gospel. Showing Christ's deity without question. Radical!

In a world hell-bent for itself, these were revolutionary ideas and beliefs. No wonder Christ appeared to them in His Resurrection.

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” John 20:27 (NLT)

This was revolutionary way of believing and thinking. Same as it is today despite our faults and doubts. You may stand on the road and tell everyone you do not believe in trucks. Stand there long enough and you will get run over by one.

Revolution of the heart for Christ must come first before we can even attempt to move into revitalization. Revitalization must come before we can even think of the grace of revival. Revival must come within each of us if we are to go and fulfill the Great Commission.

And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15 (NKJV)

Teach, Preach and Reach! 

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