In my quiet time, I have been meditating on I Cor. 2:1-5. The key to this passage is found in verse 2. Paul writes, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” This verse is clear, simple, and straight-forward. Paul goes on to state that he did not try to use high-toned linguistic skills or great philosophical arguments to persuade the Corinthians concerning the saving power of Christ. Rather, he let the power of the Gospel, through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, be the persuasion.
Why would he write such a thing to the Corinthian church? This church was one difficult church marked by confusion of truth and conflict of members. Jealousy and spiritual arrogance were pervasive among the membership. While Paul addressed other issues in the letter and brought clear admonition and direction to apply to the issues, he nevertheless, in most powerful terms, set the preeminence of the Gospel at the top of the list.
Indeed, if there ever was a church that needed revitalization and revival, Corinth would be at the forefront. In fact, as I have studied I Corinthians (central to my doctoral studies), I am struck by the resemblance of so many of our churches to the church at Corinth. Corinth had a propensity to major on the minors. Paul was convinced the major must not be just above the minor, but super-abundantly above.
One of the buzz words among Baptist leaders is revitalization—the need for churches that have lost their way, vitality, and mission to be revived and reinvigorated. Often, churches in need of revitalization were once powerful and strong; today they struggle to survive. The reasons for their decline are numerous, but lack of vision and mission often result in conflict and loss. Many churches have travelled this path with no vision or mission and stand in need of revitalization.
So, what does this have to do with Paul’s words to the church at Corinth? While there are many steps to revitalization, I think the apostle gives us one clear truth for any church in decline. Paul set his mission and message on declaring the Gospel. The Gospel brings sinners to faith and keeps saints humble, recognizing salvation is a gift of God undeserving of self-boasting. The Gospel brings new birth and new babies to the church, and it strikes a death blow to arrogance and pride among believers. Humility is the only adequate response to the Gospel.
In Acts 20, we get a bird’s-eye view of Paul’s pattern of ministry. He preached, taught, and testified to the Gospel in public and from house to house. Always central was the heralding of the Gospel. At the heart of church revitalization is the sowing of the seeds of the Gospel in worship, Sunday School, and from house to house. While it seems so simplistic, I can tell you if a church will sow the Gospel, without discrimination, throughout the community, and in multiple ways, the church will experience revitalization. This method is not a quick fix for a declining church, but the long-term fix.
In a conflicted and compromised church, Paul just kept bringing the members back to the realities of the Gospel. The Gospel is the great leveler. At the foot of the cross, the arrogant are humbled and the broken are lifted up. The ground at the foot of the cross is level, so all can come to the cross for salvation and all that God offers to those who believe in His Son.
One step in bringing your church out of the doldrums and spiritual apathy is to major on the Gospel. Broadcast the Gospel everywhere in the church and community. Do so until the seeds give birth to the fruit. The quickest way to bring joy, life, and vitality to the church is when babies are born (again).