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Dynamics of Corporate Spiritual Renewal

(Adapted from Tim Keller’s Church Planter Manual)


One way the Spirit applies the gospel to a whole church can be likened to the two-stroke cycle of a gasoline engine. The first stroke is the “intake compression stroke.” In it, the piston moves up the cylinder pulling in a fuel-air mixture and compresses it. Then the spark plug ignites the mixture creating an explosion. This causes the second stroke – the “power stroke.” In it, the piston is propelled downward by the combustion. This stroke provides the power. The piston is attached to the crankshaft which transfers the motion into rotary motion that drives the wheels.

Two Activities that Lead to Renewal in the Church (the “Intake stroke”)

1. Kingdom-centered Prayer

Focuses on the church’s need for the power and presence of God, on the glory and kingdom of God, rather than simply on individual needs and hurts.

2. Depth Proclamation of the Gospel

A forceful emphasis on both the holiness and law of God, on one hand, and the love and mercy of the Father on the other, while at the same time giving emphasis to both sound doctrine and personal application of truth to heart and life.

This prayer and proclamation become the fuel-air mixture which the Holy Spirit can ignite.

Two Features of Corporate Spiritual Renewal (“Combustion”)

1. The church becomes attractive to the world

Acts 2:42-47 tells us that a revived Christian community is so filled with people of humility yet confidence, of understanding yet courage, of generosity, sincerity and joy, that “they had favor with all the people” of the surrounding community. There was beauty resting on the church. As a result . . .

2. There is significant church growth through conversions

Why? Because non-Christians are attracted to the Christian individuals and community.

Two Results of Corporate Spiritual Renewal (“Power Stroke”)

Eventually, if the renewal dynamics are strong, it pumps many new Christians into the community. As the number of Christians increase, and as they increase in their grasp of the gospel’s implications for all of life, it will lead to two activities that can powerfully change the world around the church.

1. The gospel implies a life of service to people in need. 

Revivals have historically led to good works – Christians becoming involved in addressing social problems in their neighborhoods, establishing mercy ministries, etc.

2. The gospel implies that we must bring all of our lives into serving Christ. 

So Christians begin to use kingdom values in business, science, the arts, literature, and scholarship. This cultural production has a renewing effect on all of society.

Four Marks of a Spiritually Renewed Church

1. Doctrinal yet relational

Without the gospel, churches tend to pit truth and principle against the needs of the people. But in renewed churches, there is both a strong emphasis on teaching and applying truth, yet also a dynamic fellowship and relationships.

2. Word yet deed

The implications of the gospel lead Christians to love both word and deed. Since the gospel is truth, it is natural to want to spread it, and thus renewed churches are heavily evangelistic. But because we were saved by Christ’s donated riches and despite our moral poverty, Christians have a heart for people who are materially poor as well.

3. Form yet freedom

A renewed church avoids the problems of moralistic and pragmatic churches. Renewed churches hold to Biblical central truths but are culturally flexible and creative, because of their freedom in the gospel.

4. Worship in spirit yet truth

A renewed church neither has worship which is like “Sunday school” (oriented only toward cognition) nor worship that is forced or hyped (oriented totally toward emotion). It is done both in spirit and truth. It is expectant and dynamic.

Application - How to Pray:

Pray for the presence and power of the Spirit. We need the Spirit because:

• The Spirit makes the truth not only clear, but real. (John 16)
• The Spirit unites the body of Christ. (Eph. 4:1-3)
• The Spirit reproduces the character of Christ in us. (2 Cor. 3:18)
• The Spirit empowers us for witness and makes our efforts in mission effective. (Acts 2-4)
• The Spirit fills us with the fullness of God – he takes the resources that are ours in Christ and applies them to our hearts and lives. (Eph. 3:14-21)

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