Warning: Spiritual Cliff Ahead!
While we cannot set the date when we will officially step off the spiritual cliff it is clear that danger is ahead. Some think we are already over the cliff. Our only hope is Jesus Christ living through a revived church.
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Warning! Spiritual Cliff Ahead.
The holiday season is a bit unusual for us all. On one hand, we are enjoying the ambiance of the Christmas season while expressing gratitude for the indescribable gift of our Savior Jesus Christ. On the other hand, we are bombarded with bad news about the ominous threats of a “financial cliff” in 2013. We are all hoping our government can somehow make progress in solving the mess we are in.
A More Serious Cliff
The more important issue is the spiritual cliff our nation is approaching. The recent elections were a reminder of the growing disintegration of family values as we saw more states redefine marriage. We witnessed heated debate about whether a political party should reinsert a reference to God in their platform. It’s been reported that 700 people a day stop reading their Bible in the United States. The percentage of Americans claiming NO religion is now up to 19%, up from just 8% twelve years ago. And, as we know, 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month in the United States. While we cannot set the date when we will officially step off the spiritual cliff it is clear that danger is ahead. Some think we are already over the cliff.
Our only hope is Jesus Christ living through a revived church. That is why I want to thank you again for your faithful and generous support. What we are doing together to ignite vital renewal in lives and homes and among leaders and congregations is absolutely essential and urgent.
A New Testament Snapshot of Revival
As I travel and speak at churches, conferences and leadership gatherings I hear many of my colleagues give passionate challenges on the topic of “revival.” Most of them are helpful but largely from Old Testament passages that frankly have some contextual disconnect from New Testament theology and living.
My heart has been captured by a powerful New Testament example of a great spiritual revival found in Acts 6:7. Please read this verse carefully: “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
Here we witness the life-giving Gospel spreading powerfully. We see Christ-followers “multiplying greatly” (They had been “adding” for the first five chapters and “multiplying” by Acts 6:1. Now they are “multiplying greatly.”) We find a “great many” of the ultimate antagonists, persecutors and spiritual opponents being converted. These priests conspired to crucify Christ and had been threatening the apostles just days earlier.
By any measure, this is a “revival” of the church and a supernatural advancement of the transforming power of the Gospel. Do we need this in America today? I hope your heart responds with a resounding “Yes”! There is no “formula” for revival here but we clearly see some principles that we must embrace to avert our spiritual cliff.
Four Essentials for a New Testament Revival and Averting a Spiritual Cliff
A Faithful Response to Crisis and Spiritual Battle
As the early church advanced they encountered constant counterattack. In these early chapters of the Book of Acts following the initiation of the church, the believers face persecution (chapter four and again at the end of chapter five). They witness corruption in chapter five (the story of Ananias and Sappirah). Here in chapter six they experienced the threat of division and distraction as the already-overloaded widow-feeding efforts break down and a great spirit of complaint arises.
Faith without opposition becomes flabby. Christians without challenges become selfish and myopic. Crisis is the precursor to a new dependence on God and tends to wake us from our slumber. Our American version of Christianity seeks to preserve a safe environment but leaves us languishing in an apathetic and somewhat self-centered approach to our real purpose in life. An unfriendly culture can sometimes be an impetus to a rekindling of authentic faith in the church. The Lord knows we need this.
A Resolute Leadership Focus on Supernatural Ministry
Today’s pastors are expected to be savvy CEO’s, do-it-all brokers of ministry activity and clever communicators that can attract an ever-growing crowd of entertainment-addicted attendees. As we head over the cliff we are certainly impressive and organized.
These early church apostles (while leading a Jerusalem church that was likely already as large as 20,000 by Acts 6) refused to succumb to the common distraction and dilutions of their calling. They resolved, “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (v. 4). Leaders establish congregational environments through their priorities. These apostles determined to choose and cultivate the supernatural movement of the Holy Spirit through their focus.
A Trusting Expression of Spiritual Sufficiency
The operational crisis and distraction is averted in Acts 6 as the apostles express great faith in the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit and profound trust in Spirit-filled people to carry the load of practical ministry. Seven leaders are selected and given full approval to solve this problem. This not only brings fresh health and wholeness to the situation but frees the apostles to lead from the supernatural position of “prayer and the word”. We cannot produce revival. It is a sovereign work of God. Yet, we can be in the right place, with the right priorities and in an environment ready for a move of the Holy Spirit. Here we see a picture of that kind of environment.
A Missional Expression of Gospel Power
Prayer does not exist so we can feel a temporary “quiver in our liver” for the sake of our own satisfaction. Rather, it is an encounter with Almighty God, thorough Christ, by the Holy Spirit in order to purify our hearts, align us with His purposes and fill us with His power for supernatural and fruitful witness. Today, our dark world awaits this kind of witness from a fully-alive church.
Perhaps you understand more clearly from this New Testament account the passion that drives all that we do here at Strategic Renewal. We believe the Lord for this kind of “organic” work in the hearts of thousands of pastors and churches in our society today. That is why we do all we do.
Frankly, friend, we really need your help today. Would you pray for our protection and direction today? Would you let us know if our ministry has been a blessing to you? Would you stand with us in generous giving so that our vital mission can continue in 2013? Thank you for your partnership. By the grace of Christ, we can see this ominous spiritual cliff averted and a great new awakening come to our society.
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