If Jesus himself suddenly walked into your church, what would change (Luke 12:35-40)? Better yet, how much would change?
Consider Calvin’s burden for the church and plan for reform: God’s people must hear their God speak.
Here are three thoughts on three key issues that are necessary, by God’s grace, to see a Spirit-led, Gospel-enriched change in any local church:
#1 – Raise up Godly Men
The only way to turn a church is to turn the key men in the church.
Have a men’s Bible study with a small group of men (10-15 men) once a week where you can look those men in the eyes. I would study certain truths with them. If those men stand with me, then I could stand against anything or anybody.
On Sunday, you are preaching to everyone. In a smaller setting, you can have a fuller disclosure of the truth. There’s opportunity for give-and-take and exchange. They're also up close to you. It becomes contagious.
In the study itself, I would study the attributes of God first. It is God, God, God, and more God. They would see God like they have never seen God before. They would leave that study saying, “My head is hurting. You have blown the rooftop off of my world.”
Secondly, I would study how we got the Bible. People just assume we got the Bible from Lifeway or King James (seriously!). We have to show these men how it went from the mind of God to print on paper. There needs to be a healthy, reverential awe for the Bible. Yet, if we’re honest, it carries more clout and more weight in most churches to quote popular preachers sometimes than it does Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. People need to have a sense of trembling at the Word of God, lest we not obey the entirety of the Scripture.
And, finally, you have to preach the books in the Bible. Why? Because you preach the full counsel of God. You can’t ride a hobby-horse. You can’t duck certain issues. The Scripture has to set the agenda as you go through books of the Bible. As long as you are just always doing a “few steps to this” or playing off a TV program or movie title or some other sappy approach to the pulpit, you are always going to have Christian-lite. We need to be confronted, jolted, and shocked with God and His Word—with mercy, grace, and compassion, too.
It is always a challenge to reform the church. Luther tried to stay in the Catholic Church. Calvin came out and accomplished more than Luther did in. The Puritans tried to stay inside the Church of England and were thrown out in the “Great Ejection.” They couldn’t change it form the inside out.
It is rare in church history to change from the inside out. New wine doesn’t easily fit in new wineskin.
#2 – Preach to Awaken a Dead Church
The last thing I would preach is another sermon on John 3:16 that lulls everyone in the building to sleep.
I would rather preach:
- The Lordship of Christ
- New birth
- Necessary evidence of the new birth;
- Sovereignty of God in salvation to the extent that I could push that;
I would do everything I could to blow a trumpet in heaven to awaken those who are asleep spiritually. By God’s Spirit and grace, you have to peel back all the layers of religiosity and church-ianity to get down to the live nerve of what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
You have to pray that God shakes people loose from their dead testimony and dead religion. You have to be relentless with it in “black and white.” There are certain kinds of preaching and certain subject matters that are like a well-chosen arrow for the bow that find their target.
#3 – Reach the students—properly.
There is no secret. The reality of the power of the Gospel - the person and work of Christ - unleashed by the Spirit through the Scripture on the students is the key.
So many students are unconverted. And, gratefully, many of their parents want them to come.
Most churches resort to a bowling alley and a concert to entertain them. That’s a very challenging position to be in. What you win them to is what you must keep them with.
You get a mom and a dad saved—but all their kids may not be saved. How you hold their attention is important. By the grace of God, you have to have such a living reality in your own life - in your teaching, your preaching, and outreach to them - and pray that God in his sovereignty will arrest their attention.
There is no other play to call. Try to get the parents involved and have their emotional support to reinforce what you are doing.
The key: What God prescribes (and what works) in “big church” is what should be prescribed in “little church”—just with some adapting.
We don’t have to be “shock jocks” with young people where we have to shock them by our edginess to get them interested. The power is in the Gospel message, not the messenger.