The Revival will Come from the Margins
A friend of mine asked me last week, "Is the church obsolete?" It's a loaded question for sure, and one that probably needs a little nuance and context, but it's a question worth engaging. My answer to said question was one of perspective. We are currently living in a moment in which the church no longer dictates the social, political, or moral leanings of society. The story of Jesus as found in scripture is no longer normative for many of our neighbors. As such, many from the centers of power, the people of influence, the academic machine, and the economic systems have longed judged the church as obsolete, even antiquated. Who needs a concept of Christian salvation when the nation state and corporations have already saved us? That's one perspective.
Then there's the perspective of those on the periphery of society, the oppressed, the poor, the forgotten, those people and people groups who have been marginalized by the power brokers of our time. Historically, revival begins on the margins, from grass-roots engagement with the deep social needs in a community. Charles Finney, John Wesley, and our own Nazarene founders, like Phineas Bresee, all patterned their revival movements around the concept that social consciousness, communal justice, and individual holiness are intertwined. Indeed there is no view of the Kingdom that allows a gospel devoid of changed social relationships.
When one testifies to a changed life, the forgiveness of sin, and inward renewal of the Spirit toward Christ likeness, we call it conversion. When a group of people have devoted themselves to each other, their neighbors, and their community in love, allowing God to give new ways of living and seeing together that transforms our daily existence, we call it revival. Often times, the prompting of change occurs in a deep experience or interaction with marginalized people. When we read through scripture God continues to point toward the possibility of Spirit lead renewal through people otherwise forgotten by history: slaves, fishermen, zealots, Gentiles, and women. Out of these groups, we have movements of political and social liberation, new economic relationships, human dignity afforded to those culturally on the outskirts, hospitality extended to strangers, and forgiveness granted to enemies. For the church to embody these practices to our neighbors with the faith gifted to us by The Lord, revival would not be far off. In fact, for those in desperate need of belonging, forgiveness, honesty, social inclusion, economic equality, and purposeful work, the church is anything but obsolete.
One of Kona Coast Nazarene's core values states, "We are a Revival People." In other words, we expect God to do something new, to change our vision, to transform our pattern of living, and as a result use this church to transform our neighbors and neighborhoods into demonstrations of the Kingdom. One direction we're heading within my own mission zone (N. Kona), are working with the most recent and fastest growing immigrant populations: Marshallese, Micronesians, Hispanic, and Samoan people groups. A revival church places itself alongside these communities and people on the periphery. A missionary church inhabits the borders built to exclude. As missionary-pastors we are working to blend into this social milieu and, while there, begin to define the gifts and needs of the communities and identify local leaders for training, discipleship, and ministry. For us, it is not out of the realm of possibility to see a church plant within each of these communities, lead by a local leader, and supported by the staff of Kona Coast Naz.