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This Way to the Holy Ghost RevivalThere is one thing that the churches experiencing historic revival have in common: they seemed overrun with the sense of the glory of God. They preached the gospel and the response was, as some describe, that “glory came down.”

Now that’s not something you can schedule. You can’t advertise it on the church signboard: “Every Sunday: Glory comes down.” But it is something we can aim for, yearn for, cast a vision for, desire, crave, proclaim. You can’t program the glory, but you can plead for it.

See, nobody ever said, “We changed our music style and revival broke out.”
Nobody ever said, “We moved from Sunday School classes to small groups and the glory of God came down.”
Nobody ever said, “You would not believe the repenting unto holiness that happened when our pastor started preaching shorter sermons.”
(I’m just sayin’.)

No, all those things and more can be good things. Done for the right reasons, those can be very good moves to make, but the glory of God is best heard in the proclaimed gospel of Jesus Christ. So that’s where the glory-aimed church is going to camp out.

We all talk a big game about the glory of God, but it is a rare church that takes God’s glory seriously as the purpose of everything.

I preached on the servant-hearted harmony and burden-bearing of Romans 15 to my church last Sunday, and one point I stressed is that we aren’t to strive for these things in order to become an impressive church. The exhortations of Paul in Romans 15:1-5 are there so “that together,” verse 6 reads, “you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I cast the vision over to Ephesians 1. Why has he blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places? Why has he chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him? Why has he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will? Ephesians 1:6: “For the praise of his glorious grace.”

I took them to 1 Peter 2:9. Why did he make us a chosen race? Why did he make us a royal priesthood? Why did he makes us a holy nation? Why did he call us a people for his own possession? “That we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Over and over again, from Old Testament through New, we learn the foundational truth echoed by the Westminster divines, that “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We make realized the 5th of the Reformational solas: Soli Deo Gloria, “to God alone be the glory.”

A gospel-centered church makes that not just a spiritual slogan but her spiritual blood. A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the nicest church in town. That’d be nice. A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the most popular church in town. That’d be cool. A gospel-centered church is not aiming to be the smartest church in town. That’d be okay.

No, a gospel-centered church doesn’t aim to be the anything-est church in town because it’s not comparing itself to other churches, but to the holiness of God, which will shrink the church down to size in its own estimation and make her hunger for the holiness that only comes from the riches of Christ in the gospel. A gospel-centered church aims to be a gospel-proclaiming church in town. Because that would be glorious.

A gospel-centered church is okay with its own decreasing — in reputation, in acclaim, in legacy, even in (gasp) numbers, but especially in self-regard — so long as it serves the increasing of the sense of the glory of God.

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
— Romans 15:7

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11 thoughts on “He Must Increase; Our Churches Must Decrease”

  1. a. says:

    Glory comes down…… we will make Our abode with him

    Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. John 14 : 23

  2. Amen. I know as a pastor–and I’m sure others feel the same–it feels like my church is in an identity crisis. I’ve been here for a year and a half, and I’m thinking hard about a vision that will capture attention and encourage participation. This is it. That we’d be overrun and overcome by the glory of God.

  3. Tim Kerr says:

    Outstanding! This reminder is so timely. As Patrick has said–THIS IS IT. This IS the vision for the church. But how do we get there if it is not (functionally) the vision of my own heart as their shepherd? Could you recommend some reading or resources that would help “expand ones view of God”? Perhaps along the line of Edward’s, “The End for Which God Created The World” etc. Any online messages that you have found particularly helpful? A list of Scriptures that have thrown much light on this area? Practices that have grown you in this area? Worship songs that are focused strongly on Gods utter centrality and glory? Very very grateful for this reminder. Thank you!

  4. Craig Hamer says:

    To be honest, I am tired of the whole, gospel centered glorification. Seriously, quit using the gospel as your personal filter test to separate your church from the others. Where in the gospel do you see the ability to paint all churches with a broad stroke. Do us all a favor and go into gospel centered silence!

    1. Jared C. Wilson says:

      Very graciously said, Craig.

  5. Laurie says:

    A former pastor of mine was wont to remind us that when called into His kingdom our Lord will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” not “successful servant”. :)

  6. Craig Giddens says:

    Cast the vision?

  7. I could not agree more. I am a marketing communications guy. I have noticed how churches are not paying attention to how they communicate in media. Usually the biggest or most central thing on handouts is their logo. On much of church promotional materials you will be hard pressed to find even one verse of scripture – especially used correctly. The focus is usually them with a time, date and place. Many times “the why” is completely left out. Even in copy you will read what they did to help God, rather than what God did through them.

    The language needs to change to a Christ-centered God focus. Can you image a church praise band or choir singing “Mighty (insert Church name) saved me, raised me, etc.” No, most people would know to send them packing. However, in church media it is more subtle. A good question to ask is “Whose kingdom are you building?”

    Unfortunately a lot of really good churches have this problem. I don’t think it is intentional, but it robs God of His glory and sends the wrong message to a world who needs a Savior.

    Please understand that I love the church and I want to see churches thriving and growing, just not for their glory, coolness, rightness or even good causes. My call is to churches to be intentional about what they say in media. Keep it God honoring and for His glory and His kingdom. Take an inventory of what you communicate in media and make steps to change your language.

  8. Randy says:

    I am not agreeing or disagreeing here. The scripture states, God is jealous for His glory. If he is I want to be also, my ultimate goal to do that in my calling!

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Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, director of The Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church. You can follow him on Twitter.

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