I preached this morning, in Sugar Grove, Illinois, from Isaiah 57, on “Removing Three Obstructions to Awakening.” My thesis was simple: The church in America is asleep! This sleep is both moral and spiritual. While megachurches seem to thrive church attendance in our nation actually dips by 8,000 people every single day, or 56,000 less people attend church each Lord’s Day. If the unchurched population in America were a country unto itself it would be the third largest country in the world. The culture continues to slide into moral bankruptcy and anti-Christian cultural patterns while many of our Christian leaders tell us the church is doing well. I suggested we think about the words of Isaiah 57:1 “The righteous perish and no one takes it to heart.”
So what is the solution? We need a God-sent revival that awakens the church to the glory and supremacy of Christ. In the words of David Bryant we need nothing less than a full-scale “Christ Awakening,” The prophet puts clearly what we must do now in these words: “Remove every obstruction from my people’s way” (Isaiah 57:14). I suggested three obstructions every church ought to seek to remove as soon as possible:
1. We must teach the meaning of true revival so that we can pray for it in full agreement. Confusion abounds and careful teaching is truly needed.
2. We must identify the spirit of worldliness that exists within the church and repudiate it. This spirit is not what we think it is, a list of good and the bad things, as if worldliness is about material things. Worldliness is the “way the world thinks and acts in opposition to Christ’s Lordship.” When we take on this way of thinking we are worldly.
3. We must reject our preoccupation with methods and strategies make bold and broken prayer the center piece of the local church’s ministry. Only when this is done should we undertake anything else for the kingdom of our sovereign King.
I will seek to put this sermon on the Web site very soon in hopes that it might be used to stir others to join me in seeking God for true revival.
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In a recent article by Dr. Timothy George, he summarized Karl Barth’s (don’t crucify me yet) ecclesiastical principles this way.
1. “First, the real Church becomes visible only through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
2. “Second, Jesus Christ is the Lord as well as the Head of the Church which is his Body.”
3. “Third, the real Church is the creature of the Word and always stands under the authority of Holy Scripture.”
4. “Fourth, the real Church exists under the Cross and does not seek its own glory.”
5. “Fifth, the real Church lives for the sake of the manifestation of God’s grace and glory in its mission and witness to the world.”
In my seminary training I was “encouraged” to view Barth as a flaming liberal responsible for everything that was wrong in the church. Yet, when I read the above five points I am excited by their truth and at the same time dismayed that the truths expressed are often missing in the evangelical church.
Barth feared in his day that the visible church had become an idol in place of the Head of the Church. I don’t think he would change his mind if he saw the church today in America.
Am I a “Barthian”? No. But in this area he was right and we are quite often very wrong. We need a revival in our ecclesiology and a revival in our hearts.