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- The primary source of power for church renewal is found in God’s Spirit at work in and through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- The heart of church renewal involves restoring people to God, one another, the community, and the world – through the gospel.
Dynamics of Church Renewal
Earlier, we learned that a biblical vision for renewal includes a vision for the renewal of individuals, churches, and communities through the transforming power of the gospel. Now we’re taking a deeper look at what the Bible teaches about church renewal.
Like personal renewal, the primary source of power for church renewal is found in God’s Spirit at work in the local church through the person and work of Jesus Christ (the gospel). The good news is that God graciously gives all who repent and believe in Christ, not only a new status, a new heart, a new Spirit, and a promised new world, but also a new community – the church.
When the Holy Spirit unites us to God in Christ individually, he also unites us to Christ’s body, the Church, corporately. The Church is God’s new humanity on earth through which he carries out his mission to redeem and renew all things. Jesus refers to the Church as a new society on earth that is like a great city on a hill. It’s a new and better society that stands in stark contrast to the oppression, injustice, and brokenness on earth today.
In Christ, this communion of believers builds itself up in love to bring honor to God as they pray and work toward seeing “his kingdom come and his will be done” through their lives, individually and corporately.
God’s will for his church is their oneness with him through abiding in Christ. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). So it’s only by abiding in Christ that he will bear the spiritual fruit of renewal in and through our lives and churches.
So how did the first century church build itself up in love and abide in Christ to honor God and see his kingdom come in and through them?
Acts 2 tells us they prayed and worshipped God (42, 47), they learned the Apostles’ teaching (42), they had all things in common and broke bread and received their food with glad and generous hearts (44, 46), and they sold their possessions and gave generously to those who had need (45). What was the result? They had “favor with all the people” and “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (47).
One of the keys to renewal is for a church to experience oneness by abiding in Christ through alignment with God’s purposes. In Acts 2 we learn that some of these essential purposes include prayer, worship, learning, fellowship, mercy, and evangelism.
These biblical purposes should be seen as vital signs of healthy individuals and churches. The goal of church renewal should not be seen as growth in numbers, but growth in spiritual health by developing and strengthening these purposes as vital signs of church health.
These purposes should also be seen as the primary means Christ uses to build his church and fulfill his mission by restoring people to himself, one another, their community, and the world. To understand the biblical dynamics of church renewal, it’s helpful to integrate the biblical purposes for the church, with God’s mission of restoration:
- Restoring people to God includes developing a God-centered vision, biblical worship, Christ-centered preaching, and kingdom prayer.
- Restoring people to one another includes developing effective discipleship pathways and healthy community groups.
- Restoring people to their community includes developing effective evangelism, acts of mercy and justice, and integrating faith and work.
- Restoring people to the world includes developing world missions and church leaders who will lead ongoing renewal movements.
To help us deepen our understanding of church renewal, let’s briefly examine some of the essential biblical purposes for the church as a means of restoring people to God, one another, their community, and the world.
Restoring people to God
Vision: Developing vision includes helping people lift up their eyes to see how their life stories are meant to converge with God’s unfolding story of creation, redemption, and the restoration of all things in Christ. The vision is all about God: God’s glory, God’s kingdom, God’s church, and God’s gospel.
Worship: Developing worship includes helping people learn how to worship God with their whole being – understanding, affections, and behaviors. It also includes learning the importance of the biblical means of grace in worship and the essential elements of God-centered worship.
Prayer: Developing prayer includes helping people understand the nature and importance of prayer and the connection between prayer and the kingdom of God. It also includes equipping people to pray God-centered, kingdom prayers persistently and in faith.
Preaching: Developing preaching includes helping people understand the essential marks of biblical, Christ-centered preaching as a primary means of grace for individual and church renewal. It also includes helping people understand how the gospel applies to unbelievers and believers.
Restoring people to one another
Discipleship: Developing discipleship includes helping people learn how to become fully devoted followers of Christ by applying the truths of Scripture to their hearts and lives in the community of believers. It also includes learning intentional discipleship strategies and pathways.
Groups: Developing groups includes helping people understand the biblical vision and nature of a new community as God’s means of building up his people. It also includes equipping people to lead healthy community groups and raise up and shepherd group leaders.
Restoring people to their community
Evangelism: Developing evangelism includes helping people understand the essential beliefs of the gospel from both the personal salvation and cosmic restoration perspectives. It also includes helping people learn the biblical goals, motivations, and methods of effective evangelism.
Mercy: Developing mercy includes helping people gain a biblical view of the nature and priority of mercy in ministry. It also involves developing ministries to the poor, in and outside the church, and equipping people to do acts of mercy and justice in their spheres of influence.
Work: Developing work includes helping people learn how to integrate their faith with their work by gaining a biblical understanding of work as a calling from God. It also includes helping people understand how their work relates to God’s mission and why work matters forever.
Restoring people to the world
Missions: Developing missions includes helping people learn a biblical, theological, and practical perspective toward Christian missions. It also includes helping people understand why missions is an issue of Lordship and the relationship between joy and missions.
Renewal: Developing renewal includes helping people learn the biblical foundations for individual, church, and community renewal found in God’s Spirit at work through the gospel. It also includes equipping people to apply renewal dynamics to their personal lives and ministries.
Leadership: Developing leadership includes helping people understand the biblical purpose, nature, and role of church leaders. It also includes helping people learn the biblical qualifications for church leadership and the principles and methods for equipping church leaders.
Since the goal in renewal is oneness with God and his purposes for the church, a local church must always be aligning and realigning its purposes to be one with God’s purposes. Healthy churches are marked by continually striving for greater alignment with God’s purposes so that God will be glorified, his kingdom come, and his will be done through them.
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