Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I’ve been predicting a spiritual awakening for some years. But something that I didn’t see until recently: A return to church-based ministry.
Of course ministry should be based in local churches – after all, they’re the ones charged with winning souls to Christ, discipling them and fitting people for service in the assembly.
What happened? Well, in the 1980s we saw the rise of “media ministries,” generally parachurch groups without any responsibility to any larger body. While virtually all of the people involved were churchgoers, there seemed to be on one above the personality out front – and that proved their undoing.
Some fell victim to scandal (e.g. Jimmy Swaggart). Others focused on income to remain on the air and thus focused on the culture war and, thus, political matters, where they were bound for failure. In still some others, the point person died (witness Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy). Whatever, in the long run I would surmise that such groups have shown to be ineffective spiritually, though they did have some impact.
I would say, however, that the end of the age of media ministries came with the dismal showing of Republicans in the 2006 general election.
With most of these folks already off the scene by then, Focus on the Family, fearing that the GOP was about to lose big, convened “Stand for the Family” rallies in several battleground states, including Pennsylvania (more specifically Pittsburgh, as it was in practice a shill for the embattled Sen. Rick Santorum, who hailed from here). Not only did they didn’t have any positive effect but they may have even backfired – Santorum lost by 18 percentage points. (James Dobson, who founded and headed the organization, hasn’t been heard from since.)
But shouldn’t we try to remove evil from society? you may ask. Well, understanding that this world is hopelessly full of sin, how do you propose to do that?
This is where the church comes in. God calls us to live by alternative Kingdom values and influence the world that way, not to take the levers of power for our own aggrandizement, and the church is best suited for that role. Hopefully pastors and lay leaders are teaching the Scripture verse-by-verse and focusing on knowing Christ and making Him known in their respective communities.
I suggest that’s what Jesus meant when He said, “The Kingdom of God is among you” – that is, not to be found with any localized movement such as the “Toronto Blessing” or the “Pensacola revival.” Folks won’t need to travel hither and yon to see the “next great move of God”; they can – and should – experience it at home.