By Vince McCarty
I have noticed in the Bible that even in the darkest of times, God always had a remnant. As a matter of fact, a remnant is a recurring theme throughout the Bible. It is defined as “what is left” and usually referred to what was left of a community after it had undergone a catastrophe.
Most of you have felt the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, a catastrophe that left many of our churches in the U.S. with only a remnant of their congregations. This same impact has been felt by our Open Bible churches overseas as well. It is always interesting to observe how people will respond during and after a crisis.
After his victory over the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, Elijah fled from Queen Jezebel who wanted to take his life. In his darkest moment, he felt all alone. But the Lord let him know he wasn’t alone. The Apostle Paul refers to this story in Romans 11:2-5 (ESV):
God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
God is telling us the same thing today: even if your church suffered a setback or lost members, you are not alone and there is a remnant who desire to be faithful to the Great Commission and obedient to the Father’s voice.
I love verse 5: “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.” This Scripture tells us that despite the prevalent unbelief in our world, God will preserve a remnant today, and it will be accomplished by His grace – not by our efforts of hard work, blood, sweat and tears – by His grace only.
Recently I was in Brazil where we had seen a big reduction in church attendance. Thankfully, God preserved a remnant. Now we have a new leader and a very vibrant church in Cavalhada.
In order to succeed any remnant needs GRACE. Here are some ways we can pass that grace on to others:
As Christians, we understand grace because our Lord died for our sins. While we were still of the world, He expressed His unconditional love to us as He does to all of humankind. We need to extend grace to those who don’t know Christ. We need to remember that people need to know that we care before they care about what we know.
Showing people grace means I can talk with someone who has different beliefs or convictions than I do without condemning them. I can look for opportunities to share the Gospel and love of Christ in tangible ways. We may not convince people to follow Christ with our arguments and Scriptural points. We are more likely to convince them by the way we live and love them regardless – you know, like Jesus did.
As the Church many of us need to reboot our methodology for reaching people. There have been so many cultural shifts in the past twenty to thirty years, a reality that should lead us to shift the way we do church, teach Scripture, preach the gospel, and disciple people. Cultural shifts should make us reevaluate every program in the church in order to become more effective in reaching the communities around our churches.
Remember what Jesus said in John 17:14-19 (emphasis mine):
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
So even though we may not be part of the current culture, God doesn’t want to take us out of the culture. Instead, we are to live in the current culture (world) exemplifying the proper way to live for God in goodness, righteousness, and love.
In today’s world authority resides in the individual human self, not in the church, pastor, society, or Bible. Most people have not grown up attending Sunday school as many people did in the past so they are biblically illiterate. We cannot start sharing the Gospel with people assuming they know all the Bible stories and important Scriptures. We need to start from ground zero, taking time to explain the story of the Gospel from the beginning.
Even though Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms are very popular, people from all generations, especially the younger generation, long to be part of real community. We must remember that today, contrary to what many Christians think, people will need to feel they “belong” before they believe; they need to feel accepted before they allow influence. Can we befriend our neighbor, co-worker, or new family member even though there is no guarantee they will become Christians? I sure hope so because we will win more people through relationships than by just preaching at them.
We need to empower people, which means creating an environment where young and old alike can grow and use their God-given abilities to share the Gospel. Really it is about spending time with our fellow Christians, encouraging them to use their God-given abilities and natural talents to minister for the Lord. This means, for example, that professional people will share the Gospel through their lifestyles at their place of employment and among their unsaved neighbors and friends.
Empowering others means we relinquish our desire to control everything and help others discover their strengths and abilities as they reach out to help others learn about Christ and the gift of salvation.
We can be thankful to be part of God’s remnant, chosen by grace.
About the Author
Vince McCarty is the Executive Director of Global Missions of Open Bible Churches. He and his wife, Lois, served 12 years on the mission field between Spain and Argentina and then Vince served as Administrative Assistant of Global Missions for 12 years. He has served as Executive Director of Global Missions from 2007 to the present. He and Lois have two adult daughters, Jessica and Vanessa.