Churches everywhere have a great opportunity now midst pandemic and political and economic uncertainty to undertake what the secular world calls a “reset.” “Renewal” is the term that has long been used in church life.
It is a kairos, an “opportune” moment.
The renewal must be “radical” — reaching all the way to the “roots” of the New Testament church. It is not enough to renew merely the institutional aspects of churches, but their very identity and heavenly commissioned function.
Churches in the present must reach back to the past for the sake of the future.
First, this necessitates an intense ontological analysis. Churches must ask the ontological questionbefore the functional. Who are we? must come before What are we to do?
To understand who the church is requires a penetrating study of the Scriptures that reveal the essential Being of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I Am that I Am is the most powerful ontological statement in the Bible. (Exodus 3:14) It was God’s response when Moses encountered Him in the burning bush and received the Lord’s commission to deliver Israel from Egypt. Moses gets the sequence right: before he asks the How? or What? questions, he asks the Who? question because that is the Authority, Person and Name by and through which Moses must stand before Pharaoh.
What does this mean for a church? Jesus answers it when He tells Phillip: “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father!” (John 14:9 NLT) Here the ontological and functional concerns are wrapped into one: The general function of a church is to manifest in its world the Being and nature of the Father as revealed in Jesus Christ.
Before a church can move on into a strategic institutional analysis — the quantitative — it must deal with the qualitative. Are people within its locus seeing God through its presence? This may lead a church to repentance for primarily being known in its community as a religious corporation rather than showing the people around it something of the character of God.
Repentance can lead to revival that ignites renewal.
A second great ontological statement is from the mouth of Jesus: “I AM THE LIFE.” (John 14:6) This prompts more needed soul-searching for a church seeking renewal, especially when coupled with the rest of Jesus’ statement in John 14:6: “No one comes to the Father but by Me.” That is, through Jesus Christ there is a special quality of life that transcends mere existence in time and space.
Its immanent characteristics are revealed in the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Churches seeking renewal must consider how they have manifested that beautiful life midst their neighborhoods, towns, cities, and nations. Such churches must assess their evangelistic effectiveness in leading unreached people to embrace that Life. Churches seeking renewal must also evaluate how ...