Heaven will be, well, Heavenly!
At GAFCON's closing worship service, I couldn’t help thinking it was a true taste of that Heavenly worship described to us in Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”
I looked and saw before me so many nations and peoples and tribes and languages, all in unity about the Gospel. I heard joy-filled praise for the fact that salvation belongs to our God! Other than the white robes and palm branches, a taste of Revelation 7 was literally what was happening! At one point, we sang “It is Well with my Soul,” together:
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul
Everyone wholeheartedly meant every word of it and you could feel it in a way unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was, well, heavenly!
Now, here’s the reality. Although there was unity on the essential belief of the uniqueness of Jesus only for salvation, there was not perfect unity on other non-essential beliefs in that room. And, that’s fine. That’s normal and expected this side of heaven. So here’s my point, if that taste of heavenly worship was so good even with our sin nature still present, how much more wonderful will it be when we’re all perfectly purified and united before our God in heaven! I can only imagine! And if it will be that good, that amazing, that wonderful, how much more do we need to do whatever it takes to see as many people who currently don’t know Jesus there with us! Not doing church in a missional way where non-believers are regularly coming to salvation in Jesus, is simply not okay.
And there is also the issue that Hell is the alternative. Jesus said in Matthew 13:49-50, “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” God so loved the world that he gave Jesus so people would not have to go there (John 3:16). Our hearts should also break over the thought that even one person would end up there and not enjoy heaven forever!
Until Jesus comes back or I go to be with him, I will never stop doing evangelism and writing questions like these for you: Who do you know who doesn’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior now, who you want to know Christ in this life and be in Heaven forever with Him? How can you build a relationship with them in order to lead them to salvation in Christ? Is your church a church for the unchurched? If not, how can you help it to be? Does your church need to Revive?
Revitalization is Vital
As I engaged with people over meals or instant coffee, the typical two starting questions were: “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” When in the course of the conversation I would explain that I’m the Director of Church Revitalization for the American Anglican Council, the response was often something like, “Oh, well that’s a big need,” and then they’d proceed to tell me about their church or their region and how many congregations were not growing. Many shared a common experience that just because a local church is Biblically faithful does not mean it is missional. And this was not just with people I met in the North America. This was a common need throughout the Anglican Communion.
In the Wednesday morning Bible exposition entitled, “Jesus: Buried and Risen,” based on Luke 23:50-24:12, The Rt. Rev. Dr. Tito Zavala of Chile spent most of his talk on the need for Church Revitalization. Unfortunately, he made a comment about GAFCON strategy in the Anglican Communion that took away from an otherwise really good message. In the good part, he pointed out that many Anglican congregations are distracted and discouraged because they are not personally experiencing the power of Jesus’ resurrection in their own life. This then leads to what he referred to as “Maintenance instead of Mission.” He told a story of maintenance in a church in Chile where they bought a new sound system but then the vestry refused to let the youth use it to preach the Gospel outside of the church because of how much it cost. Every Anglican there groaned because we have all experienced something similar in own churches! Maintenance more that mission in our communion is all too common.
The answer to maintenance church is Church Revitalization! I left GAFCON more convinced than ever that Revitalization is vital in the Anglican Church right now. The American Anglican Council’s commitment to addressing this need through our ReVive! Seminars and Coaching, Leadership Training, studying best practices in growing Anglican churches, and whatever else the Lord leads us to do, is so vital to the future of the Anglican Church in North America. GAFCON affirmed that while others are focused on other essential areas like Church Planting, we are in His will to be focused on meeting the dire need of Church Revitalization for our movement. Please pray for us as we move forward is this vital area!