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Topic: DISCIPLESHIP & SPIRITUAL FORMATION

Reevangelizing the Church

June 8, 2009
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As we have seen thus far in our review of Michael Spencer’s provocative article The Coming Evangelical Collapse, evangelicalism in America has suffered from growing theological ignorance, cultural accommodation, and ecclesiastical confusion.

While the culture wars continue—unabated by a frail church—they do so in the face of an increasingly secular culture, indicating that time and attrition are currently on the side of those who press humanistic schemes and atheistic worldviews. Politics are proving futile in holding even the most traditional moral boundaries; freedom of conscience is increasingly denied to those who oppose these changes, and our entire economic system is in flux, moving away from the free market and toward greater government control.

These conditions have left many Christians afraid, confused, uncertain, or simply withdrawn and awaiting rapturous evacuation.  However, there is never a time for complacency or apathy in God’s victorious kingdom! Christians understand (or at least they should) that God is absolutely sovereign in the affairs of this world and that he causes all things to work together for good to those who love him (see Romans 8:28). We also know that God’s kingdom will come forth and no one or no thing in heaven or on earth can stay his hand (see Daniel 4:35). His perfect will shall be done. And, as a pastor friend of mine recently said in response to these darkening days, “The light shines brightest when it is the darkest.” Perhaps this is just what the church in America needs.

So, what must the church do in the face of its withered condition and these changing times? Michael Spencer acknowledges, “A small band will work hard to rescue the movement from its demise through theological renewal.” He further declares that this “small band” of reformation-minded Christians “is an attractive, innovative, and tireless community with outstanding media, publishing, and leadership development” but doesn’t believe they will ultimately succeed in their reformation efforts, although he concedes that their efforts “may result in benefits for many churches and the beginnings of new churches.”

I can attest to the fact that there are indeed a small (but growing) number of ministries and people concerned about the state of the church that are working for renewal. As one who has been committed to the cause of reformation and renewal since the inception of this ministry, I count myself among them and I am more encouraged than ever as I encounter people who share the same God-given burden. I don’t know whether or not we will succeed, either, but I do know that to try is the faithful thing to do. Such times call for boldness and honest self-examination and the results of our efforts are entirely in the hands of him who causes all things to work together.

If reformation is called for and given the multitude of issues plaguing the American church, where must this reformation begin? What must we do to remedy the situation within the church, the culture, or the nation to the glory of God?

First, we must establish the correct priorities and I would submit that our first priority cannot be the rescue of the nation or the culture but instead the church of Jesus Christ, because this is the only instrument of redemption available for the either of the former. This is not to suggest that we abandon those activities aimed at redeeming society and culture. However, those activities will never succeed without a renewed and faithful church that properly and fully engages the mission of Christ. As an example, William Wilberforce’s eighteenth-century struggle to abolish slavery would not have succeeded without the spiritual movements led by Wesley, Whitefield, Newton, and the like.

So, where do we begin? The apocalyptic George Orwell once wrote, “Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.” While not presuming myself to be one of those intelligent men, I do think there is a need to restate the obvious when it comes to renewing the church. And nothing is more obvious than the fact that we no longer understand the gospel!

Today, when evangelicals speak of the gospel, they almost always mean, simply, the “personal plan of salvation.” This is generally understood as an activity in which we present people with some facts about Jesus, ask them to agree with these facts, and if they do, instruct them to invite him into their lives, or pray the sinners prayer, and so on. Once they have done this, we tell them “You are saved!” We tell them to get baptized and join a Bible-believing church. The gospel in this sense is reduced to an ideological set of facts whose implications are only personal—when, in fact, the gospel is an incarnational reality, touching all of creation that can be seen and experienced. And most Christians, for the last 50 years, have been taught and believed that the proclamation of this simple set of facts is the sum and total of their mission on earth.

I submit to you that this paradigm represents a vastly reduced understanding of the gospel, and that this reductionism has radically altered the church’s understanding of its mission and purpose. And in so doing, this as much—if not more than—anything else has caused the church to drift off course. The church in America needs to be reevangelized with the true gospel: the “gospel of the kingdom.” Divorcing the “good news” from the kingdom is analogous to proclaiming the liberation of Europe before the allied invasion of Normandy. Such a proclamation might make one feel better but it wouldn’t represent a change in your reality—you would still be living under the occupation of the enemy.

In the coming weeks, we will explore the Scripture and test these statements. We will compare the reductionist gospel described above with the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus and the apostles preached. And we will explore how, practically speaking, this gospel of the kingdom is to be manifested in and through the body of Christ.

© 2009 by S. Michael Craven  

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Responses
Response from : Paul Blankenship  

June 8, 2009 8:26 AM
 

Excellent piece of work.

http://www.christfamilychurch.org

 
Response from : Rev. Dr. Cahyana E. Purnama, MA  

June 8, 2009 8:56 AM
 

Indication of such practical life of church that has loosen the power of giving light to this world has also happened every where, including in Indonsia. As a lecturer in theology of communication I have so far received a number of alarming condition from my student's report of local churches where they have to participate for their pastoral practices. So, in terms of finding way out that has a certain kind of relevant approach, I encourage them to ask first to several number of church members to be aware of their own position in their contextual setting of cultural life. In this way, I urge those students to look at Jesus who had lived in the specific cultural setting among the population around Jerusalem at that time. For the Javanese people, as an example, there are also some similarities where people have to make a cultural gathering around funeral rites that extend to the third, seventh, 40th day, and to a thousand one in order to raise a certain prayer for a better place in heaven for the death. Those ritual observances can hence be used as a breakthrough to unreveal the meaning of true life in Christ that far beyond the people's imagination. So the Christians among the Javanese can still make a certain contribution to their cultural life and at the same time have also a chance to develop their own spiritual life in Christ, which at least can be a useful means to make this live useful and meaningful. It is only an example, because I believe that the Holy Spirit has come also to all believers in all over the world, not only lived among the first believers in Jerusalem up to Roman era of Paul missionary trips.

http://www.ukdw.ac.id

 
Response from : James A Hutson  

June 8, 2009 9:01 AM
 

Looking forward to hearing your words Micheal and the valuable information that you have to entice Christians into being all for the Kingdom and the mission we've been given.
Enjoyed your interview with Bob Dukas on WMUZ-103.5FM in Detroit.....
Keep the Good Word coming, to the thirsty who would hear.....

http://www.chapel-michigan.blogspot.com

 
Response from : William  

June 8, 2009 9:20 AM
 

May I humbly submit that we are not called to 'save' evangelicalism, nor are we called to build churches. We are called to build 'the church', which is the body of Christ. We are called to do this by making desciples. Do we do this? No! The Holy Spirit does this through us. We are bond servants. Organized church is not going to prevail. We are not going to save it. And we're not going to save morality or marriage or any of the other cultural misdirections taking place in the culture of the day. End time descriptions throughout the Word tell us of the condition of the World in these last days, and we are clearly in that time in earths history.
So, what should we be doing?
Stand against the lies of same sex marriage? Yes! Stand against the lies of abortion? Yes! Stand against all of the lies of the father of lies? Yes! Devote all of our resources and energies in pursuit of this stand? No!
Our calling is to make desciples. Our calling is to bring Truth into the lives of those who are lost. That is where the biggest part of our resources and our energies should be expended.
Not in saving a ship that has steadily been sinking beneath the weight of it's own lies about God and His work in the transformation of His children.
Even so come, Lord Jesus! And find us working diligently in the fields.


 
Response from : Carl T. Fynboe  

June 8, 2009 10:49 AM
 

Michael: Another excellent article regarding renewal, reformtion, and revival of the declining evangelical church. I, with others, as members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are facing grave problems regarding the Authority of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. Our local congregations, churches, and members face a seemingly insurmountable obstacls in August 2009 when we will be faced with a strong move to changes our historical and fountational position on traditional practices of our Lutheran church, not unlike the same problems that exist for other mainline American denominations. Your article gives a pure and basic answer to overcoming the cultural bent regarding the clear revelation of the Scriptures. If there is a great call in our nation, it is for a Great Revival and Reawakening and Return to our roots.
To God by the Glory! II Chronicles 7:14.


 
Response from : Selase Kwawu  

June 8, 2009 10:53 AM
 

Thank you Michael. I have been thinking deeply about the article in the past couple of minutes and I am wondering and trying to figure out who is to champion or initiate this process of reevangelizing the church in the West. The church in the West or the church from the Southern hemisphere? Just as the western Christians arrived on the shores of Africa and Asia, with the 'good news' or 'the gospel of kingdom'(am not sure which was received), in your opinion, do you think it is time for Africa and Asian Christians to get to the West? and what sort of Gospel would they be carrying? the gospel of the kingdom or a a gospel devoid of the kingdom? These are questions on my mind and I will appreciate any help in finding answers.


 
Response from : Martin  

June 8, 2009 11:54 AM
 

Your article does reflect my thoughts. For the past 20 years I have tried to articulate the need for an increased theological focus.

My wife and I attend a church that is hierarchically controlled and promoting a psychologically-based belief.

We are to ask God "to join us". Could we reverse the request?.

I am very tired of psychology replacing theology. God's Word has been reduced to a psychologically-based coping tool. It appears that commitment to God's ways has been thrown out the door and has been with replaced by existentialism.

Average is not normal.

Christianity been reduced to an acclimatizing self directed managment of life.

A reformation awaits us....


 
Response from : nic gathers  

June 8, 2009 5:54 PM
 

Looking forward to the following ariticles, as pastor i can see the need for reevangelizing the church or maybe just the simple need to evangelize them for the first time.


 
Response from : jim freeland  

June 10, 2009 6:14 AM
 

Can't wait !!


 
Response from : Malenda Gross  

February 2, 2012 11:31 AM
 

I totally agree with what you are saying. God is stirring my heart with the same thoughts. Thank you for your book and ministry


 

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