AN UNDENIABLE TRUTH
Rev Ed Schneider, MPTh
The undeniable truth is a huge number of churches in the United States need to be intentionally and strategically revitalized and renewed. Many of our Christian churches sit right in the middle of troubled neighborhoods and troubled lives. They are placed in areas where troubled schools, troubled social issues, and troubled political realities are tangibly recognizable. The very places that literally represent the resurrection power of God Almighty SHOULD BE making an obvious and sustainable difference. Instead, they find themselves void of any tangible evidence of firm belief of “resurrection” itself. It is not only theologically sad, it is also unnecessary.
Let me be perfectly clear. I am defining a failing congregation as one that is not visibly, actively and with intentionality living and breathing the tangible connection of Jesus Christ and His mission OUTSIDE the walls of their sanctuary. These failing churches have a great opportunity to outrageously prove the resurrection power of the God they claim. To be honest, it is often easier to say you “believe” in something than actually demonstrating it. Yet, as faithful CHRISTIANS that is exactly our foundational mission.
Everyone of us….who claims a genuine connection to God through Jesus Christ…. stands at a time within our own personal history where we will need to reassess who we are, where we are going, and what we truly believe in. Each local church and those who profess to follow Jesus Christ need to do the same. The church that claims victory over the world needs to start acting like what they proclaim. Sitting back in some sort of relaxed position while offering pious platitudes from inside the safety of their sanctuary is no longer sufficient. Our time in history requires more….much more. Our local churches stand at a time when they must, regardless of their circumstances, believe that God can and will perform one resurrection after another.
Our communities and the congregations we serve in the name of Jesus Christ shouldn’t have to wait until the “other side of glory” to touch a true and vibrant expression of Christianity. Unfortunately, far too many people…from every flavor of Christian thinking…haven’t had the opportunity to witness first-hand God’s resurrection power because of an overwhelming cloud of exclusionary philosophies, prideful impostors, self-serving institutions, and local church members who have fallen into the trap of believing where ever they find themselves is all they will ever be. That is not only sad it is a lie.
Let the words of Mark 1:14-15 speak to you. It reads….
14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
In not only the above scripture but every other scriptural reference where Jesus refers to the word, “repent” He is referring to the Greek word, “metanoeo.” The Greek word “metanoeo” is actually made up of two Greek words, “meta” and “noeo” which is interpreted as altering how a person’s mind foundational works. When Jesus talks about repenting or repentance He is specifically referring to the TRANSFORMATION of “the mind.”
In the Gospel of Matthew 3:2, Jesus is reportedly to have said,
“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
With the understanding of the “transformation” of a believer’s mind this scripture….and every other New Testament scripture referring to “repenting”…. is proclaiming clearly to each believer that when they come to know the intimate power and presence of Christ something miraculous happens. The believer is empowered to see like they couldn’t see before; to hear like they couldn’t have heard before; to think like they couldn’t think before, and to UNDERSTAND like they couldn’t have understood before!
The other phrase I want to bring to your attention is, “at hand.” These two words DO NOT MEAN….God’s kingdom or heaven or absolute proof of the believer’s promised reward is here or has already arrived. It has the meaning, IT IS CLOSE….so close you can ALMOST touch it. The implication here is the writer is strongly suggesting the Christian believer can ACTIVELY REACH OUT for the gift that is being placed in front of them. Imagine a thirsty and exhausted person who has received a tall glass of cool refreshing glass of water for them to drink. However, the glass is placed 15 feet in front of them.
- The gift has been given.
- It has been placed in plain view.
- It is readily available.
Now, all the person has to do is to make an intentional EFFORT to get up and walk over and TAKE THE GIFT SUPPLIED! That is where many local congregation and far too many of their members find themselves.
According to this one saying of Jesus, the kingdom of God, or the physical manifestation of God’s grace, can be experienced personally right now. We do not have to wait until the “other side of glory” to see God’s grace in action. We do not have to wait until we all get to heaven and start walking on the proverbial streets of gold, to see God’s resurrection power. Because of this gospel declaration, we must no longer limit our view of tangible Christianity to merely some existential, philosophical, or a metaphysically cheap expression of humanity’s innate searching for ultimate answers of life and death. True Christianity is far more than this view.
What I mean by that is, when Christianity is true and honest it brings those that it touches into a far higher understanding of life itself than merely thinking better and acting better. When real Christianity has been experienced….it cannot be denied, deluded, or delayed! When true Christianity is seen and profoundly shared….it is vibrant and compelling. It draws people rather than repelling them.
The great theologian, philosopher, and pastor, Dr. Howard Thurman once said,
“Commitment means that it is possible for a man to yield the nerve center of his consent to a purpose or cause, a movement or an ideal, which may be more important to him then whether he lives or dies.”
Every local church that is in fear of its failure needs to grasp that the vitality of their existence itself depends on the attitude that whether they live or die they “live in Christ,” for God’s glory, and for God’s purposes.
Another one of my personal hero’s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that what was being described as biblical Christianity was not just a good idea or a convenient philosophy. No! Dr. King’s entire public life was dedicated to calling the population of the United States to be a better place and the church itself back to it’s good, true, and right way of being. Dr. King called those who claim to be biblical Christians to remember their awakening to a rock solid shift in what they understood life itself to mean and how all believers are to interact with the God that they claim.
In Acts 10:38 it reads,
“God gave the Holy Spirit and power to Jesus from Nazareth. He was with Jesus, as he went around doing good in healing everyone who was under the power of the devil.”
It is within the spirit of Christ that we ourselves, and the congregations that we are part of, will be foundational he changed and continually transformed.
It is the spirit of Christ that provides; newness of life, the power of divine purpose, the abundance of gracious living and loving as well as the actual presence of the divine walking with each church as they attempt to prove that God can resurrect anything.
Again, when we speak of “revitalizing” it is a polite way of saying resurrecting something that has been slowly dying, if not already dead for years. The God that I know, the God that raised Christ from the dead, is the same God that can raise any church, under any circumstances. All God asks is for the believer to be willing to humble themselves and trust that opening their doors, hearts and minds to new people, ideas, methods, and strategies CAN PROVIDE A REMARKABLE GLORY TO GOD!