As President of a global evangelistic ministry, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing traditional pictures of revival – thousands of people committing their lives to Christ at a single gathering, crowds of believers wholeheartedly praying for the lost in their cities. However, some of the inspiring, Gospel-proving, disciple-led movements I’ve encountered recently look a little different.
I think of a small, suburban church in an affluent suburb of Portland, Oregon, working with an inner city high school to demonstrate the love of Christ to students and staff. I think of churches across Oregon working together to better the lives of children in foster care. I think of conversations between Christians and the LGBTQ community defined by grace and respect instead of discord and anger.
Through these and countless other initiatives taking place all over the nation, the Body of Christ is “spurred to love and good deeds,” as it says in the book of Hebrews. And a dialogue begins. Followers of Jesus are able to engage the city, have real conversations, and deal with real issues. It’s the everyday job of the Holy Spirit – at work in the lives of everyday people – as we seek the shalom of the city (Jeremiah 29:7). The beauty of this revival is that it’s not for us. It’s outward-facing to the hurting, the disillusioned, and the poor in Spirit. A Gospel Movement.
In Portland, the light bulb came on when the evangelical community in the city recognized that Christians weren’t known for what we were for– but rather, what we were against. We realized the best way to counteract those preconceived notions was to humbly go to city leaders and ask how the evangelical community could partner with civic leaders to serve the city together. The city came up with several key areas of focus: hunger, homelessness, healthcare, the environment, and public schools.
Churches from all over the city joined together in a “Season of Service” (what we now call CityServe Portland) as we worked together to serve on a united front. We recruited thousands of volunteers and watched as a spiritual transformation took place. That was six years ago, and we’ve seen great improvements in how the city perceives Christians and the Gospel since then.
Yet, a Gospel Movement isn’t just about social justice. The first and foremost goal is to reconcile people with Jesus Christ. We believe service can be the means for that. We’ve seen it transform broken lives and instill a new sense of hope into communities that have found little to believe in. We’ve seen people change their perceptions of what Christians are like, opening the door a little wider for honest conversations about faith and love, and forgiveness, and acceptance. We don’t see any contradiction at all between proclamation and social justice. In fact, we see them as complementary. And together, they can be extremely powerful.
Cities across the United States – and even around the world – are experiencing renewed unity, revitalized ministry, and unprecedented passion for living out and sharing the Gospel. We’ve seen that the Holy Spirit shows up to move powerfully when the Body of Christ unites to love the people God loves. There is nothing more beautiful.
Kevin Palau is the president of Luis Palau Association.
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