Persist, as have other renewal movements

by Mark Chavez (Director, WordAlone Network)

March 28, 2003

Some people thought we might have been fighting a war in Iraq for only a matter of days or a couple weeks. But we’re apparently not. Some people may have hoped renewal movements in churches would experience sudden success. History has shown that has not been the case.

All of the mainline Protestant churches are experiencing a crisis in faithfulness to the Gospel.

Some people within these denominations have struggled for more than 40 years to preserve the apostolic witness to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

In response to the crisis, renewal movements have formed in almost all denominations. WordAlone is one of the newer movements. One of the earliest movements is the Good News movement in the United Methodist Church (UMC). It began when one Methodist pastor, Charles Keysor, began publishing the Good News magazine out of his parsonage basement in 1967.

The current president of Good News, Dr. James Heidinger, tells an interesting story about Good News’ efforts, together with another renewal group, the Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church, to influence the decisions of the UMC General Conference. It is similar to an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly but meets every four years instead of two.

Although Good News made some efforts at the General Conferences in 1972 and 1976, their first serious effort to influence decisions was in 1980. Good News lost every vote with which they were most concerned. They did not give up. They went back to the general conferences in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996. At each conference they gained support. They worked with the Confessing Movement. When they went into the 2000 conference, they knew ahead of time that members of Good News and the Confessing Movement made up the majority at the conference. They carried every vote with which they were concerned.

They were persistent and patient for more than 20 years in their efforts to influence the General Conferences.

If 20 or 30 years seems like a long time to help a denomination find its way back to the apostolic faith of the church, that is nothing compared to one of the first major crises in the Christian Church. Believers in the early church struggled for centuries over the question of whether Jesus of Nazareth was truly the Son of God or the son of Mary. Even though the Council of Nicaea reached the decision in 325 A.D. that Jesus was both truly divine and human, Christians argued off and on for another 200 years, halfway into the fifth century, over the same basic issue.

Believers from a succession of generations persisted for more than 400 years in making the confession that Jesus is both divine and human. We are the beneficiaries of their persistence.

God alone knows how long we are called to persist and how many generations will be called to persist after us. Two things are certain. Until the last day of this creation, Satan will always attack the faith and the faithful of the church. Even more certain, the faithful are not alone. Remember Jesus Christ kept his promise and sent the advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with us. Jesus Christ is Lord of his church, and always present with believers.

He has secured victory.