Miracles are essential to church renewal because miracles are essential to the Christian faith. Consider some of the central doctrines of the Christian faith: the resurrection, the incarnation, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the triune God. If we remove miracles from the equation, there is nothing left in the religion to make it Christian.
Consider the Pentecost. In Jason Vickers’ book Minding the Good Ground, he discusses the supernatural elements of the Pentecost story:
For those who have been initiated into various forms of modern skepticism and doubt, the problem is even worse. We do not simply find the rushing wind and tongues of fire fascinating in a way that is analogous to the extraordinary special effects in movies. Rather, we find the whole thing highly doubtful, if not downright preposterous. Consequently, we get so sidetracked by inquires into the metaphysics of the person and work of the Holy Spirit that we miss the theological points that the story wants to make.
I think skeptics in regard to modern miracles must take a similar approach. By dismissing miracles entirely, we miss the way in which a belief in miracles changes our faith. I can say with personal confidence that my faith has been most alive when I actively trust in a God that I believe is powerful enough to work the impossible. I can equally argue that my faith is near death when I get caught up in theological speculation about how God isn’t really a god who does anything substantial or special.
The impact that this modern thought has had on the church cannot be overstated. The church has been guilty of focusing on natural means for church growth (marketing, art, entertainment, etc) instead of supernatural means for growth (conversion, healings, and miracles). It can be clearly seen that although we profess a belief in god, we have been trained by our culture to place our trust in the intelligence and talent of humanity. When did belief and trust become so different from each other? When did the church declare it was all right to believe in a God you didn’t have any plans to place your trust in?
As long as this is the case, church renewal will be nothing more than a poorly executed marketing campaign built around leadership personalities and motivational speakers. Humans, no matter how intelligent, theological, dynamic, or talented, cannot save an institution built on belief in God. The church only makes sense as a place where God interacts with God’s people. The church only makes sense when we believe in miracles.
Church renewal will happen amongst people who believe in a God that interacts. If mainline churches want to experience this renewal alongside their sisters and brothers from around the world, they must embrace a theology of miracles. This means the church must be foolish enough to believe in miracles, smart enough to not repeat our mistakes in history, wise enough to let go of our teachers and leaders who do not trust in a God who interacts, and, above all else, brave enough to trust God to do the impossible in our churches. It is only then that we begin to see that church renewal has always been a miracle waiting to happen.
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Reprint ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Riverhead Trade, 2009), page 88.
Jason E. Vickers, Minding the Good Ground: a Theology for Church Renewal (Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2011), page 31.
Allan Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity (New York: Cambridge University Pres