If the past few months have demonstrated anything, it is that our society is in need of authentic renewal. The seeds of this renewal are being planted around the globe and especially in our churches here in America. But what is the church’s responsibility in light of this fact? How do we fan into flame the work of the Spirit that is sweeping across our church’s? Alan Ehler, Dean of the Barnett College of Ministry and Theology at Southeastern University, identifies several characteristics of revivals that we must take to heart if we are to respond properly to the Spirit’s work.
Florida is facing the strongest storm ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Irma has already devastated the small island of Barbuda and wreaked havoc on several other islands. Now, this monster is headed right toward us. Hundreds of thousands are evacuating. Others are looking for shelter locally. Many of us in Florida are taking careful steps to ensure our homes survive. How can we, as people of faith, endure the terrible storm around us? What hope can we cling to when everything we own is threatened by circumstances beyond our control?
The new Martin Scorcese film Silence (set at the end of the era of Jesuit missions in Japan in the mid-16th Century) is loaded with theological elements from various sects within and beyond the Christian traditions. Scorcese effectively and powerfully puts the viewer into the mind and heart of the Jesuit priests and the Japanese Christians, each of whom is asked to renounce their faith in Christ or suffer. Would Christianity today be able to survive the same persecution from several centuries ago?
Signs are helpful. They tell us where we are. They tell us where to turn. Have you ever made a wrong turn because there was no sign? Have you ever turned onto a road because of a sign but then wondered later if you made a wrong turn or missed a road sign somewhere along the way? Sometimes in life we make major decisions in complete confidence only to question those decisions down the road.
Many American Christian leaders recognize their influence and have turned to the Bible to find support to persuade their followers in their voting and action. However, is this what we are called to do as pastors (and as the church)? Understanding our impact through our commitment to following Christ may offer a more productive way to influence our nation.
Many well-meaning evangelicals have tried to sell the Gospel as if it will produce a problem-free life. The positivism of sanitized American Christianity struggles to grasp why the very spiritual King David wrote such negative words in his Psalms (granted there are many positive words, too). There is a place for lamenting and mourning in our lives, but it is not the end. In fact, lamenting is often an essential part of a journey that leads to emotional and spiritual health.