As I read historical accounts from my grandparents and great grandparents generation, I am struck by the rapidity of how many of them had to grow up. With world wars and great depressions, there was little to no choice in the matter. They had to grow up fast. They were forced to take on responsibilities that generations now would probably balk at. Reading it now builds admiration. Yes it’s good that we have opportunities that they didn’t have then. It’s true we don’t have to fast forward so quickly. But in many ways I am drawn to and thankful for their example to do what needed to be done in the moment. And maybe, just maybe, we need to be forced to grow as well.
Now I wasn’t referencing past generations simply to conjure up good ole days images. In reading this, I was reminded of the first church and how they grew: they grew with a beginning shove. Right? When we get into Acts, we see Jesus there, then leaving gloriously, then the church kicks off in an even more grand fashion. Things were happening! People were being saved by the thousands! The church was growing. And the gospel was being proclaimed. Don’t get me wrong, feathers were being ruffled. Waves were being made. But God in His infinite wisdom and plan, determined that it was time to take it to the next level. It was time to move past Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and the rest of the world. So I believe He did what He does and what He deemed absolutely necessary. He gave a Divine shove in the back of the church by way of a persecution. So the church was forced to spread. This is where I believe God can use the present evil in the world and turn it around for the ultimate good–His good and perfect plans were carried out.
It’s common to hear of wars and rumors of wars and whisperings of these happening. Especially in uncertain times where end times discussions are heightened. But I’ve also heard of revival and rumors of revival to happen and even happening now! In fact, I see the beginnings of what could be great revivals. I don’t mean planned week long scheduled “revivals” where a traveling band or a retired pastor is called on for “such a time as this.” I mean a revival in the people, the church, and everywhere that isn’t pre-planned. It just happens. It’s like trying to schedule a couple falling in love. You set up the music, the right lighting, and plan a night for them to eat at that one restaurant that no one can ever get in. You might create a mood and a short-lived connection. But it’s not the same as a couple meeting and developing a loving relationship organically.
So the first church. Let’s examine it briefly. We’re informed of the persecution in chapter eight. They scattered and the word of God continued to spread, but now it was going to new, unreached areas. That’s what the church should want. I pray we do. I believe in the simplest of ways it expanded and it did it according to the model of the Great Commission: as you go, make disciples.
Look For New Opportunities
So as we’re being forced into a new model, we look for new opportunities. This one is really an easy one in that we don’t have to think about this. We simply are forced to rethink how we’ve practically been doing ministry. I’m a creature of habit. I have my system of how I do my daily routine from when I get up, to the same breakfast I eat, to when I workout, when I study, what days I do particular ministry, writing, and everything in between. So when something throws any of that off, I am usually a little uncomfortable. But one thing I know it makes me do is actually think about what I’m doing. Rather than just sleep walk through the motions and not even recall how something got done (I’m reminded of Bradley Cooper on the movie Limitless), I am forced to think about what I do. It makes me more intentional and to consider alternative ways.
Doing everything online and with social media is connecting me with new people and new ways to get the gospel to those new people. Our Seeker Group that was normally done in person at church with seekers and skeptics, is now done online and really open to all who may be “passing by”. Just by doing this differently, I am now in contact (on Messenger and phone) with people who are asking questions about Christianity and who are turning to Jesus and want to be baptized. Going to the gas station to get a drink even opened up an opportunity for someone who I shared that we did a drive-in service (she wanted to attend that) and that she could join us for the online Seeker Group. These opportunities came about out of being forced to do something differently.
Understand The Pulse Of The People
I say this is an added point merely to get the church to not only look at this as a strategic opportunity, but also holding to doing this with compassion and love. So fight as hard as you can to keep the relational aspect alive and vibrant as possible. As we’re looking for opportunities and trying to figure out the new normal, remember we are created to live together in a community, because we are created by a Triune God who has existed in an eternal community within Himself. So in your drive to reach out, understand your people and be communal with them by understanding specifically what they are going through. Talk to them. Reach out by phone, text, and social media, and when possible, in person.
What about revival Kyle? Well, I think this all seems to be trending towards what could be a very powerful, culture-changing movement with the gospel at the center. Much like the early church that was forced to move and adapt, we too must do the same. But instead of waiting for the waters to stop stirring, let’s be active and intentional now. Things may go back to how they were before. That may be good or bad. Regardless, this may be an open door or pathway that God directly opened, or is highlighting for us to take. And it may only be around for a limited time. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” I believe God does big things behind the scenes–stuff that we can’t even begin to imagine (Habakkuk 1:5). Here’s a door–a chance. The church is called to love, respond, and share the good news that there is hope. That sounds like the makings of what could be a revival to me.