Dear Faith Family,
“We need to reach the local people of Frostburg.”
This is a recurring statement that I hear often when I am in or around conversations about our faith family and the desires we all have to see growth. For years I’ve been trying to discern and implement strategies and methods of evangelism and discipleship in order to make a dent in the kingdom of God. We, as church leaders, always hope that these methods and strategies will result in converts and an increased number of people attending our weekly services.
I’ve seen “new and improved” evangelism fads and “better than before” discipleship strategies come and go without much of a difference in results. In fact, it’s been quite frustrating to say the least. It seems as though we as the western church have bought into the idea that “if we sell it, they will come.”
We’ve become expert marketers and career consumers. It’s like we are looking for the one saving strategy that will finally drive unbelievers into our church, convert them, disciple them, teach them about tithing, and convince them why they need to serve on a ministry team; all while we sit in the pews like the judges on “American Idol” quietly giving high scores for the things we enjoy or arrogantly spreading our dissenting opinions on the things we don’t care for, possibly even berating those doing the work.
After years of revolutions on this merry-go-round there’s an emerging cry emanating from deep within my heart: “This isn’t what the New Testament church looked like! How have we gotten so far off track? What will it take, Lord?!”
The truth is…it will take what it has always taken. Even though times have changed and the world has changed…the key to “church growth” is the same as it always has been. We must recover the gospel of grace and learn to live in the moment with God.
We are in a great need for spiritual revival. I don’t mean just meetings that talk about change and services at night throughout the week. I’m talking bout real, spiritual revival where our people and the people in our community come to know and understand the gospel of grace. This is the type of revival we see described in church history any time there was an awaking or renewal that swept across neighborhoods and nations. Tim Keller describes what happens when revival really breaks out:
“When revival breaks out through a recovery of the gospel, three things happen: 1) nominal church members realize they’d never been converted; 2) sleepy, lethargic Christians are energized and renewed; 3) outsider non-Christians are attracted into the beautiful worship, community and lives of the converted and renewed church members. That’s how it works. We need it.”
So the question is not how can we cause our church to grow, but how can we recover the gospel of grace that leads to revival? Here are a few key things that must happen: The gospel is key. We must have a deep grasp on the gospel and strive to understand the many facets of how it applies to all of life. This happens through studying the Word (privately and corporately), living in and working out the gospel in community (we are not meant to go this alone, so being a committed member of a small group is essential), and living in the moment with God daily.
When we begin to see and understand the depth, beauty, and overwhelming nature of the gospel of grace, everything will begin to change for us individually and as a faith family. When we truly see God’s grace lavished on us in Christ instead of the condemnation we deserve, our hearts will be broken over our sinfulness. When we see the people around us through the eyes of God, we will begin to have the compassion for them that Jesus has and do anything and everything we can to save them. And when we finally realize what it means to have God within us (i.e. His Spirit living within us, continually communing with us), we will finally begin to walk in constant communion with Him and reorient everything in our lives around our daily walk with Him.
We need spiritual revival. We need to be broken over our sin so that we can live in freedom for God’s glory. I hope you will join me in yearning for this, in praying for this, in living for this. Let’s not waste our lives on things that will not last. As a humble man once said, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, if the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
Your brother in Christ,