Coronavirus: A Window for Change
Two years ago, at the time of the 500th Anniversary of Luther’s nailing the thesis to the church door in Wittenberg, God spoke to me clearly, saying, “I am about to thrust the church into a new apostolic epoch – it will not be optional.”
We are in desperate need of a new Reformation of the Church. The coronavirus may be our opportunity to examine our practices and redefine what it means to be the Church. Here are seven things that, I believe God is saying, must change.
1. The Church Cannot Continue as it has Functioned for Our Lifetime. God is calling us away from the definition of the Church as Sunday Morning Celebration. The Church is not a building; it is not a place – it is a people attached to the person of Jesus, the Christ, the Lord, called to communion with him, and out of that communion, into mission.
2. Deal with Congregational Sin. Set aside for a moment, the egregious sins of the culture. Set aside the cruel and sadistic nature of communist China – there’s is no sweet society. But, set that aside. There is something more grievous to God. The condition of the world is abominable, but the heart of God is broken over the condition of the bride. This is where purity must again be championed, where wholeness and healthy relationships must be modeled. It is in the church, among God’s people, where any cultural disaster is first discerned to be the finger, the ‘judgment’ of God. That will never be the conclusion of the world. The church must discern it, respond to it, and in the process, invite the culture into transformation. Don’t expect the culture to widely repent; before, the church repents.
3. Worship Must Change. We have structured worship events that are spectator in nature and audience passive. Our worship events have little or no true prayer – no heartfelt prayer that indicates surrender to God. They fail to provide consistent calls to action and commissioning into service. One can attend and not be confronted with conviction or invited to know and walk with God. The church must be in practice – a house of prayer for the nations.
4. God is Calling Pastors back to Himself. The church cannot and will not be a
house of prayer if the pastor is not a man of prayer. We have assumed prayer. “No man is greater than his prayer life.” We have built pastoral ministry around the idea that the pastor is to preach. Calvin Miller observed, “Preaching, in one sense, merely dischares the firearm that God has loaded in the silent place.” The real power of preaching is in praying.
5. The Church Must Become Missional. The church cannot exist for itself. It must engage the culture. There will be, as a result of this global crisis, an openness to the gospel in some lives, as never before. And, a hardness in others. Remember, the churches in which we have been a part have been severely compromised. They are Laodicean in nature. What has constituted normalcy is not normal – not for a Bible-based, Spirit-filled church. God is calling for a new normal. Jesus ministered to thousands, but he built a church with the twelve that he discipled – and with three at the core of those twelve. Around them were the 70, and in the Upper Room, the 120 – and they changed the world. It is your three and then twelve that will drive community impact. Mission begins with prayer.
6. There Must Come a Shift in Our Theology of Prayer. Current prayer practices are far too self-interested. We have made prayer fundamentally about us and our needs. That must shift to prayer that is about God, His presence, and His purposes. Good prayer is “at its heart worship; and at its edge mission. In between, God meets our needs.” The great Robert Webber would say – Substance is poured into form, and form is then styled. The important issue is not the style, but the substance. It is the theology of worship that is now at risk. It is its essence. We duplicate what we think is a successful style, thinking we have replicated its substance. Sadly, in too many cases, it is all about style – not substance.
7. We Need Revival and Great Awakening! I have been praying, not only for revival in the church but for a Great Awakening in the culture. A Great Awakening occurs when awareness of God, of sin, of offense to God, of conviction becomes widespread in a city or a region. Suddenly, God-awareness is irrepressible. In such awakenings, 7 – 12 percent of the unsaved population are swept into the kingdom of God. These are moments when God acts on behalf of His own purposes.We think, and it seems only logical, that awakening is the overflow of a revival. And we also think that revival happens as a result of growing ground-swell of concerned Christians. Neither appears to be true. Rather, both are typically traceable to one or two individuals who have been moved, stirred by God to the point of desperation, of tears, and they become the catalyst for revival and awakening. Awakenings do not happen because of widespread spiritual hunger; they happen because there is not widespread spiritual hunger, and into that vacuum, God speaks and moves. The awakening is not the cause but the effect. God is the cause, and yet, there is often a heaven-earth connection that served as a spark. Every Great Awakening began with a heaven-earth, divine-human connection. Someone was moved in prayer, and God used them as a catalyst in the midst of extreme spiritual darkness. One man. One woman. In prayer over an open Bible. We need a Great Awakening.