Evening Session 1
Keynote Speaker: John Perkins
Jeremiah 29:7 – But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7 ESV)
The church today is, in many ways, like the church in America; it has done so much but lost its first love.
The gospel coming forth in the world manifests itself through crossing all barriers of injustice and brokenness, of sin and selfishness, and of culture and language and breaks through by shining the love of Christ.
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. (Revelation 2:4 ESV)
The church is primarily called to be a community of love that ministers to its neighborhood. We are to be salt and light locally. This is where we will see movements birthed.
God uses individuals to make initiatives, but he works his power through Christians in community with one another, ministering first to each other, and then being salt and light to the local community.
We have to have impact. It’s not enough to have a few communities doing this; it must be a movement globally; planting people all across the nations, reaching across racial and language and cultural barriers with authority and power.
What’s holding us back? We’re afraid that we cannot preach the gospel with relevance. But we forget the call of the gospel is to love God and love people well. This is the Greatest Command of Jesus! Love is what breaks through. Love is what takes us to the streets with a message of reconciliation, which is what’s missing so much, especially the joy that Christians have to go and make disciples.
We have turned the church into an individualistic and selfish group. We are focused on individual therapy and prosperity. But God has called us to go forth with peace and joy into a community that desperately needs to see what real love looks like.
Sin is where we turn away from God and fall into a twisted love with ourselves. We turn away, not as victims, but as rebels against God’s holiness and Lordship.
Process of Transformation:
1) Genuine Love
2) Powerful Impact
No Impact without Love
Our entire society is based around gradual individual significance: steps of education through seasons of maturity lead us to a career where we individually contribute something to society. But God’s design has always been for a Christian church community to bless and reach the lost in their local harvest field.
We keep trying to get into neighborhoods with an agenda to change our neighborhoods, when the people in each neighborhood are your best resource for not only knowing what the real issues are in the neighborhoods but also the best way to solve them. Our role as community-focused church networks are not to come in and solve problems, but to go into a community, plant our lives there, get to know the people, love them, learn from them, and facilitate the power of the gospel being birthed in their hearts and empowering them to see radical and lasting change transform that community for the glory of God, and then see that transformation reproduce and spread to other communities, nations, and peoples.
God is an investor, and he’s looking for good stewards who will be faithful with the little things so that he can give us more. The resources we have, the life we have, and the times we have all belong to God, and it’s always an issue of stewardship. Are we good stewards of what we have, or are we trying to take the place of God like the slave who received the resources from the Master and buried the resources in the ground until he returned?
We need to come back to the basics, because it’s in the basics that we discover again the power of God’s love, and then we are able to repent, reconcile, restore, and remember our first love! The church is always trying to move past the basics, but the gospel has always been simple and basic, so to move beyond the basics is to move beyond the gospel!
The Power of the Gospel in Romans 1
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. (Romans 1:8 ESV)
Basic Principle: When we proclaim the gospel verbally, people get saved. Period.
Basic Principle: When people get saved because of the power of the gospel, word spreads and people hear about the faithfulness of God.
So here is the step-by-step pattern for a New Testament church to see a Great Commission movement birthed in their local community:
1) Proclaim the gospel verbally. Payoff: People get saved
2) Promote the good news of God’s faithfulness. Payoff: People in other communities hear the good news and follow your example.
3) Plant this same biblical pattern in the hearts of everyone we disciple. Payoff: the gospel multiplies organically at a grassroots level until the whole world hears about Jesus’ love!
that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:12 ESV)
Basic Principle: There is great power in the gospel proclaimed verbally in the context of community, which is the church.
Basic Principle: God desires to reveal his truth and power to people in community with one another. He longs to educate, equip, and empower his body, which is the church.
John Perkins: I know what makes terrorists. When governments and nations set people free and then try to enslave them again. Freedom is too precious to give away. Once you have tasted and experienced what it means to be free, you’ll never be willing to be enslaved again. So when the gospel brings true repentance and freedom spiritually, it is manifested through the physical obedience of the church in their local community.
What is the gospel?
Definition: it’s the incarnated presence of God in our lives. The gospel begins spiritually with the transformation of a heart, but the gospel is not complete in a heart until it is lived out boldly and freely through the life of the body holding that transformed heart. In this way, people will see the gospel rather than just hear about it. But people need both a spiritual and physical gospel.
The gospel is the visible demonstration of God’s love. Jesus’ death on the cross was both a spiritual and a visible act; a demonstration of God’s love in the heavenly realm and the physical realm where angels, demons, and humans all witnessed the complete love of God for his creation through the destruction of his Son.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16, 17 ESV)
The first sign of God’s love in his church is not actions of love but words of love through a verbal proclamation of the Word, which is Jesus, because when we are no longer ashamed of the gospel, we will gladly, boldly, and joyfully proclaim the gospel verbally to people in our community, because not only are we no longer ashamed of the radical message, but we carry with us wherever we go the expectation that the Holy Spirit uses the preaching of the Word to demonstrate the love of God to a godless society.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12, 13 ESV)
So the Word of God is what penetrates the heart, not our actions, which is counter intuitive according to the prosperity gospel and social gospel movement. It’s not our actions, but the Word proclaimed that penetrates darkness and brings kingdom breakthrough. As Hebrews 4:13 teaches, the Word is what exposes the heart and tears down walls and opens blind eyes and deaf ears and dead hearts and brings light and life.
The church is trapped in a culture of liberalism and and materialism. We are stuck in a worldview of success related to money which then leads to a church that is measured by success in terms of finances and numbers, and God’s justice demands the ultimate destruction of anyone that bows down and worships the god of money and engages in cultural idolatry. God is not interested in our money or our numbers. He is interested in our hearts, and he is looking for ambassadors who have died with Christ and live according to their love and devotion to the man who called them to die and live in him.
The church must return to a three-fold love given by God:
1) Our first love: Jesus
2) Our second love: our family
3) Our third love: reaching our local communities so they can share in the joy of our first love and join us in the movement
This blog post comes from John Perkins’ message on the opening night of Christ Church’s Rejuvenate conference in Birmingham, AL.