4 wins that make renewal worth it
Everyone loves the fruit of renewal, but no-one wants a mess. Paradoxically, when the perfect power of heaven intersects with very imperfect people, plenty can go wrong.
Everyone has at least one story of how it all went sideways when the charismatics came to town. From unexplainable manifestations to prophecies that were obviously off-beam, the testimonies of transformation struggle to be heard over the complaints of disorder.
More than once I have asked myself, “Is renewal actually worth the pain?”
Having worked to encourage both large and small churches into a deeper experience of God, the battle scars are real.
But then I remember the countless lives that will never be the same again. The babies that would have remained unborn had not an anointed and skillful believer prayed for the woman with no ovaries. The cancers healed. The trauma lifted. The spiritual gifts released.
Of course it is worth it. Any price, any where.
Jesus promised abundant life, but so few people experience it. What sort of Christian leader would I be if I didn’t lead people in that direction?
But what is the end game? Where do the rails of renewal lead? How does it work out for the rest of us – the “quiet majority” of believers who are conservative and thoughtful?
Are we to just continually press in for more? More of what? That’s our question. For most of us, if you show us a cause worth fighting for, we will show up. But many remain unconvinced.
For me, it had to be about more than an overt demonstrations of power. As a pastor I was after first-prize, hearts that are transformed and set free as Jesus promised. I will put up with a lot if I can wade through to that end-point, The good news is, I have experienced first-prize. Over and over again. And with that in hand, I am more than happy to embrace the other big benefits of renewal.
Below are my short-list of the “wins” of well-managed renewal when it’s woven into the fabric of discipleship and church life.
1) Hearts can genuinely transform
So many people are stuck in their faith. Addictions, child-hood trauma, apathy, materialism, insecurity all conspire to lock believers down. More information alone can’t help them. Counselling seems to so often fall short.
When I first started seeing people break-through miraculously from their dysfunction – I admit I found it hard to believe. It took some years to deconstruct how it was happening, but happening it was. People were changing through our programs, and staying changed.
When a hungry heart is introduced to the 4 dynamics of growth, anything is possible. One of those is the Spiritual Dynamic. Transformation requires an encounter with the powerful grace of God. After all, it is He who is the Sanctifier.
2) Amazing things happen
There are just some things that happen in the presence of faith-filled and passionate people that does not happen elsewhere. Sorry, but its true.
Dry worship, apathetic hearts, and cynical judgement of leadership will ensure that even God Himself will think twice before showing Himself (see Mark 6:1-6). Dispassionate people too quickly judge the passionate ones, declaring it all emotionalism.
But I think Jesus’ idea of loving God with all our heart is little more passionate than most westerners would like. Likewise, His idea of having everything in order might be a little looser than ours too. This coming from a pastor who wants everything done just right.
When God’s people give it all they’ve got, more just happens. Healings, freedom, evangelism, mission … all the things any minister would love to see.
3) Momentum builds
People want to be where God is doing something. When renewal got some traction at one well-respected church I was pastor at, the attendance rose dramatically over just a few months. People just wanted to be a part of what God was doing.
Regularity of church attendance throughout the west is declining. There are many reasons for that, but one of them is that people aren’t expectant that God will actually be working in the hearts of His people. Sure, we can tell them to come out of faithfulness, but wouldn’t it be better if they came with faith?
This leads naturally to my final point.
4) Faith grows
Consumers come to church with a childish mindset of expectation. Invariably they will be disappointed. Childlike believers come with wide-eyed faith. It is childlike faith that Jesus wants.
When people see and hear the stories of transformation, they begin to believe again. The prayers of “If it be your will, Lord” decrease. The prayers of “Let your will be done as it is in heaven” increase.
I think those of us in denominational churches have largely undervalued the priority of being a people of faith. We espouse it for salvation, rightly. But we tend to leave it there, unwilling to go hard after break-through, lest we have to manage too much failure.
But the disciples failed in their faith too, and Jesus simply encouraged them to keep growing. Peter sunk under the waves, but Jesus didn’t tell Him to never try that again. They couldn’t deliver the boy of a demon, but remember that Jesus gave them instructions on how to get it right next time.
The reality is that the journey into experiencing what can be ours in Christ is one of small beginnings, and occasional error. The wins are worth it. People are worth it. And so much is possible if we commit ourselves whole-heartedly. As Hebrews 11:6 says:
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.