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Expiration and Renewal

Contemporary Christianity is vexed by a great paradox: it is expanding and imploding at the same time. While a great move of the Holy Spirit continues to sweep across the non-Western world bringing millions into contact with the life-giving power of Jesus Christ, the Western world is very quickly beginning to live up to the popular designation 'Post-Christian'. Christianity in America is in deep doodoo! 90% of churches in America have less than 100 members, and 80% of them are in decline. More than 15,000 churches a year close their doors, and more than 18,000 pastors a year leave the ministry never to return again. In the meantime, churches are clamoring to discover the secrets of success. The key question seems to be how to draw large crowds of people to a church building on a Sunday morning. It hasn't seemed to dawn on us yet that getting a lot of people in a building is not the same thing as making disciples!

It is obvious that the church of the West is in great need of spiritual renewal. New strategies just won't do. New models of church growth are simply insufficient to satisfy the longing of every heart for a face to face encounter with God. The question is how we are to partner with God in bringing about a great renewal that will sweep across the Western world marking the effective reversal of the currents of decline that are already approaching their tipping point. The answers to this question are the subject of this blog.

Renewal is a delicious word. The English word denotes the extension of the period of validity of a permit, license, or contract. Renewal happens when that which is about to expire is given life for another season. Every drivers license has an expiration date, but we don't worry too much about it because we know that when we approach that day we can simply go down to the Department of Motor Vehicles and get it renewed again and again and again. In that sense the drivers license only seems like it will expire. The possibility of renewal makes the expiration date superfluous. The validity of the license is virtually permanent...unless of course, we neglect the process of renewal.

In like manner, life-giving faith is an infinitely renewable resource. We needn't worry about the currents that seem to spell the end of Christianity in the West as long as we are willing to go through the process of renewal. There are many voices, both Christian and non-Christian, that are foretelling the end of Christianity as we know it. Some voices suggest that traditional church membership is being overtaken by a wave of individual Christian social activism. Others say that the traditional sermon will not be tolerated for much longer as post-modernism begins to replace all forms of monologue with dialogue. Still others suggest that Christianity as we know it will soon become a thing of the past. The fact of the matter is that people have been prophesying the demise of Christianity for 2,000 years and yet we are still here! Jesus made it very clear that his Church is indestructible! "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."

Those who prophesy the end of Western Christianity are not off base. They are recognizing the significance of current trends and extrapolating their outcome in the years to come. They have correctly assessed the current state of contemporary Christianity and correctly concluded that it is fast approaching its expiration date. I do not refute or deny the sad truth that the church in the West is dying. However, it is my contention that these prophets of doom have underestimated the commitment of Jesus to the future of his Church. The fact that the church of the West seems close to its expiration date simply means that it is about to be renewed! The coming renewal of the Holy Spirit in the Western world will make its coming expiration date irrelevant. Rather than the demise of the church, we are standing right on the cusp of its greatest moment of renewal! The Western world will soon rejoin the third world in as full participants in the greatest move of the Spirit of God the world has ever known! In the many posts to come I intend to talk about how.


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Author: admin
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