This post is the first in a series tracing the dynamics of spiritual renewal in the Church as outlined in Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal by Dr. Richard Lovelace.
Spiritual renewal is another way of describing our biggest need in the Church – spiritual revival. Dr. Richard Lovelace made a name for himself tracing out the dynamics of spiritual renewal as a professor of Church History at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and as the author of Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal. In his book, he identifies preaching and teaching as the starting point for personal spiritual renewal in the life of the local church. As individuals are revived, so is the Church.
The kind of preaching and teaching that brings renewal encourages an intelligent response to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and the empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit. According to Lovelace, the core doctrines of Christ’s redemptive work are justification and sanctification. Justification is God’s full and final forgiveness extended to all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. This state is based on God’s righteousness, not our own. The doctrine of justification leads, by necessity, to the doctrine of sanctification, which is the incremental progress believers make, empowered by the Holy Spirit, towards moral and spiritual maturity. In addition, sanctification means being set apart for God’s holy purposes. As believers are set apart, they should experience the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and a spiritual victory over their sins.
Lovelace summarizes these doctrines with the following statements: You are accepted, you are delivered, you are not alone, and you have authority. From his perspective, these are the themes that are overlooked in churches that struggle with spiritual apathy. Renewed and revived churches, on the other hand, feature preachers who are not afraid to bring these themes out of the pages of Scripture. Vibrant believers need frequent reminders of what it looks like to live in light of Christ’s work and the Holy Spirit’s presence. Vibrant believers are necessary for vibrant churches.
Effective preachers will explain, emphasize, illustrate, and apply God’s Word. Based on Lovelace’s advice, they should also look for ways to highlight these key doctrines. Those who are listening should look for reminders that they are accepted and delivered in Christ. They should take hold of the resources they have in moving toward maturity and victory. These expectations will make preaching and teaching a primary factor in our spiritual renewal.