He Must Increase; Our Churches Must Decrease

Thoughts on The Desire for Revival

by Jared C. Wilson September 9, 2019

There is one thing that the churches experiencing historic revival have in common: they seemed overrun with the sense of the glory of God. They preached the gospel and the response was, as some describe, that “glory came down.”

Now that’s not something you can schedule. You can’t advertise it on the church signboard: “Every Sunday: Glory comes down.” But it is something we can aim for, yearn for, cast a vision for, desire, crave, proclaim. You can’t program the glory, but you can plead for it.

See, nobody ever said, “We changed our music style and revival broke out.” Nobody ever said, “We moved from Sunday School classes to small groups and the glory of God came down.” Nobody ever said, “You would not believe the repenting unto holiness that happened when our pastor started preaching shorter sermons.”

No, all those things and more can be good things. Done for the right reasons, those can be very good moves to make, but the glory of God is best heard in the proclaimed gospel of Jesus Christ. So that’s where the glory-aimed church is going to camp out.

We all talk a big game about the glory of God, but it is a rare church that takes God’s glory seriously as the purpose of everything.

Even our desire for strong fellowship and "life-on-life" community must have God's glory as their purpose, above the desire for personal fulfillment which so often dominates the internal conversations about such things. The servant-hearted harmony and burden-bearing of Romans 15, for instance, isn't aimed primarily at becoming an impressive or accumulating church. The exhortations of Paul in Romans 15:1-5 are there so “that together,” verse 6 reads, “you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Consider the vision cast in Ephesians 1. Why has God blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places? Why has he chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him? Why has he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will? Ephesians 1:6: “For the praise of his glorious grace.”

Reflect on 1 Peter 2:9. Why did God make us a chosen race? Why did he make us a royal priesthood? Why did he makes us a holy nation? Why did he call us a people for his own possession? “That we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Over and over again, from Old Testament through New, we learn the foundational truth echoed by the Westminster divines, that “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We make realized the 5th of the Reformational solas: Soli Deo Gloria, “to God alone be the glory.”

A gospel-centered church makes that not just a spiritual slogan but her spiritual blood. A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the nicest church in town. That’d be nice. A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the most popular church in town. That’d be cool. A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the smartest church in town. That’d be okay.

No, a gospel-centered church doesn’t aim to be the anything-est church in town because it’s not comparing itself to other churches, but to the holiness of God, which will shrink the church down to size in its own estimation and make her hunger for the holiness that only comes from the riches of Christ in the gospel. A gospel-centered church aims to be a gospel-proclaiming church in town. Because that would be glorious.

A gospel-centered church is okay with its own decreasing — in reputation, in acclaim, in legacy, even in (gasp) numbers, but especially in self-regard — so long as it serves the increasing of the sense of the glory of God.

"Whatever it takes, Lord - do with us as you will."

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 
— Romans 15:7