“When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they [Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven] were all together in one place.” (Acts 2:1 HCSB)
As the Holy Spirit was poured out on the growing church in her inception, we must note the UNITY that characterized a DIVERSE group of Jews. Although they were from different places – with different languages, customs, favorite foods, etc – they had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and they would become the earliest demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s ability to revitalize and unify soon-to-be-followers of Jesus Christ, who previously had been separated from God and one another by some many barriers.
Thankfully, I meet many pastors and believers that want better days for their congregations. I meet many that desire God to move among them in revival and revitalization. However, occasionally, these precious believers don’t realize how important the unity of Christ’s followers is to any significant move of God. They often think about the cosmetic atmosphere of their worship space, the effectiveness of their evangelistic programs, the style of music in their services, the fervency of their prayer for the unsaved, and other helpful things.
However, they sometimes overlook their attitude concerning the type of people that God will touch in such a move. Unless you live in a unique community, your pastoral leadership takes place in a city/town with people that are diverse and different. Will you target the gospel, or will you broadly shout to all the good news about the Person and Work of Jesus, the Christ?
For several decades the church growth movement has pursued the homogeneous-people-group model, as it has considered what (people-wise) a move of God would look like. Nothing could be farther from the New Testament!
As a matter of fact, one well-known pastor, who pioneered some of those techniques, has recently acknowledged their lack of biblical model/command and their ineffectiveness for fulfilling the disciple-making mandate of the Great Commission. Unless a congregation finds itself in a homogeneous city, most episodes of conversion, revival, and growth in godliness will occur in settings that feature people who are different – socially, economically, ethnically (racially), culturally, and spiritually (as it relates to their pre-Christ background).
If many of our congregations aren’t prepared for that type of book-of-Acts moving of the Holy Spirit among all kinds of people, then it is unlikely we will be useful tools for Christ in our melting pot nation. In other words, we shouldn’t expect revival and revitalization to take place THROUGH us.
God is moving, and will move, as He builds His Kingdom and draws people from every kindred, tribe, tongue, and nation. The question is not, “will God move?” The question is, “will God move through me and my congregation?”
This is a vital consideration for every pastor and congregation as we seek to (in the language of Henry Blackaby) be involved in “what God is doing.”
If we desire to be usable by God in seeing men and women changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, let us:
- Let us commit to models of church revitalization (and church planting) that reflect the Spirit-filled examples of the New Testament. The calling of different types of Jews (Acts 2:5-11), the inclusion of Gentiles into the Church (Acts 10:34-35), and the clear statements about the social/ethnic-breadth of the gospel (Romans 1:16) should influence all we think/do as it regards congregational worship, discipleship, outreach, and service.
- Let us be willing to be repent and be corrected by the rebukes and encouragements in the New Testament that address the unity/disunity of Christ’s followers. The letter to the Corinthians, for example, addresses various types of divisions among Christ-followers that undermine the testimony of the gospel and hinder those types of congregations from being used by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:33).
- Let us prioritize the pursuit of Christian unity as consistent with the command of scripture (Ephesians 4:1-3) and the burden of Jesus’ prayer to the Father in John 17. Part of the believer’s growing in godliness in a growth in one’s desire to obey the commands of God. Parts of His commands in scripture address how we relate to people that different from us. Also, as we seek to “follow” our Lord, we must be moved by his passionate prayer to His Father that His people would be one.
So, when you seek, desire, work, and pray for revival and revitalization, make sure your (biblically-informed) imagination is open to the Holy Spirit doing that work in, and around, your congregation by involving and moving upon different types and kinds of people – who all need to be changed by the grace of God extended to all kinds of sinners, in our Lord, Jesus Christ.