RENEWAL DEPENDS ON RESURRECTION POWER
In recent weeks I have had the privilege of being involved in events that focused on renewal. From worship renewal weekends with individual churches to a regional bivocational pastor and wives retreat the theme of revitalization is as prevalent as the equivalent need for its effect. I am grateful to be assigned to the Church Revitalization Task Force team at TBC, because renewal is very much a centerpiece of the ministry to which I believe I am called. I must hasten to say, however, that this should not in any way be construed to imply that I have lots of experience, I know a bunch about what to do and how to do it, and therefore I am some kind of renewal expert. To the contrary, I am convinced that one of the very shortcomings that has us in such need of revitalizing is that we too often search for the proverbial magic bullet that will bring about new life among our people, and we begin to stare at other churches, other leaders, even other fields of vocation. Before we know it we may begin to busy ourselves in activities that are like the quip, “rearranging the furniture on the decks of the Titanic.” If churches could be revitalized by changing the music, preaching more sermons, developing new marketing strategies, reworking the website, or engaging in social media presence, then most of our churches would be renewed already.
A cardinal principle of renewal is well-stated by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in the reminder that worship renewal is not something we achieve, or for which we strive, but rather is a gift of God, and thus it is something for which we pray. The natural instinct of our Puritan work ethic tends to fight against this reliance principle. Senior Pastors and Worship Ministry Leaders feel a responsibility to what is and/or is not happening in the worship service. Coupled with an ambition to succeed, we can find ourselves striving at quick fix methodology that is rooted in marketing strategies, entertainment enticements, and lose our place in understanding our complete dependency on the only power able to bring about true transformation and renewal, the Holy Spirit.
In 2009 New Orleans Seminary President, Dr. Chuck Kelly led a chapel service and released a paper calling Southern Baptists “The New Methodists.” At its heart the contention of the address proposed that Baptists lost our way by our focus on methods to reach while letting discipleship take a back seat. Kelly’s remarks are in no way a slur on another Christian denomination, but they do point out our penchant for trusting our own efforts rather than relying upon the Spirit’s power while remaining faithful at the basic activities of evangelism and discipleship. While we in worship ministry might add gathered worship to the short list, I believe such can also be the given that undergirds all efforts of the church’s mission and ministry. In worship, gathered and in solitude, we re-orient to the proper perspective upon which evangelism and discipleship will be built. That is to say we re-position ourselves to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8), and we remember our complete dependency on the finished work of Jesus, and in the face of our needs we are reminded of the centrality of the Gospel and pray for faithfulness in taking up the mantle of our place in God’s great story of redemption. It is in the midst of our praising and rehearsing the story that we stoke our grateful hearts to burn anew with zeal for the mission God has called us to in our context.
Sunday is Resurrection Day, and church pews will likely be more full than normal. I pray you and your church will find great celebration in the music and message of Easter. Let’s sing and proclaim the Resurrection message in a power beyond our loudest amplifier, biggest organ stop, full orchestra dynamic. Let’s pray the transforming power that raised Jesus from the dead to turn lives around, breathe new life into our willing souls, and free us to lives of worship that prepare us for the worship of eternity in which we will sing the everlasting song and crown Him Lord of all! Should that resurrection power permeate our ranks we will then see the revitalizing of our churches for which we hunger.