I believe we are in a Remnant moment in the church.
When I say that to people, I get one of two responses. First, many not only nod their heads, but enthusiastically agree. They have either had the same thought, or the phrase resonates with what they have been thinking and feeling. The other reaction is generally some level of confusion. What do I mean by remnant? Is that a biblical concept? What does a pastor see that makes him say something like that?
More and more, it seems, people are questioning their faith, deconstructing it, or falling away from it altogether. Nearly everything that is anti-faith is becoming more popular in both the culture and the church, and it is becoming more complicated for individuals and churches to hold to the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
That is a lot to unpack.
My goal is to make sense of my belief that the church is in a remnant moment by doing a few things. First, I want to unpack the biblical teaching about the remnant. Not only does that word show up in a lot of provocative and important ways, but the concept itself is crucial for several stories in the Bible as well as larger themes of Scripture. And second, I hope to make it clear that the dynamics that produce a remnant in Scripture are alive and well today. The third, and most important task ahead of us, is to learn what it means to faithfully follow Christ in a “Remnant moment.” We will discover there are a lot of great biblical examples of faithfulness and discipleship among a Remnant.
But primarily, I want to encourage followers of Jesus to live like they belong to the remnant and take hope in the sovereign goodness of their God. The faithful may be fewer than we want them to be right now, but the first lesson is that God is always at work on behalf of his remnant.
I believe we are in a Remnant moment in the church.Tweet
As I have canvased the biblical evidence, I believe this is a good place to begin in understanding the idea of remnant in Scripture:
The Remnant are the people faithful to the Lord who are left after a great falling away or God’s judgement, and is the group preserved and saved by God.
The dictionary definition of remnant is, “something that is left over”, or “a fragment or scrap.” The simple meaning of the word evokes a small thing compared to the whole. It even evokes a sense of uselessness. The bulk of the fabric was used to make a beautiful dress, but the remnant cannot be used for much at all.
The biblical sense of remnant trades on one of those senses and turns the other one upside down. The remnant is what is left over. But it is far from useless.
If it is what is left over, from what is it left over? As my description states, it is what is left over after a spiritual falling away or rebellion against God. And it is also often what is left over after God has enacted judgement upon his nation. If this is right, then we quickly get the sense that it is not easy to be part of the remnant. The remnant will often watch a falling away happen among its larger ranks. People we know and love will decide to walk away from the faith or waver between Christ and culture, and the remnant will face pressures to do the same. And in moments of judgement, the unstoppable hand of God does things that no human can control. The remnant and everyone else suffer alike. But one group will eventually emerge, safe in the hands of their God.
Often, the faithful who are left over are a part of the mysterious and powerful hand of God at work in larger sweep of his plans. God is not only shepherding the lives of his people, but he is also at work in the machinations of nations. And through it all, God is at work on behalf of his faithful people.
More than just being what is left over, the remnant is part of God’s proactive and preservative plan for humanity. Everyone else has let go of the truths of Scripture but the remnant has held on. Individuals and families make the decision that the Christian faith is no longer important to their lives, but the remnant has discovered how much more important it is. Entire groups will sever themselves from the Christian faith tradition, severing their culture and politics from its proverbial heart and mind. The remnant, now unique as a community, stands out even more as something different from the rest of the world.
More than just being what is left over, the remnant is part of God’s proactive and preservative plan for humanity.Tweet
One of the earliest and most significant stories about the remnant is Noah and the Ark. The image of God commissioning an Ark to save a small group of faithful, though imperfect, people, has become a symbol of the church and salvation. Christians have said for a long time that the church is the Ark of Salvation. Humanity is flooded with rebellion, so God prepares to flood the world with judgement. But a remnant is picked, and an Ark is built to save the people of God. In Genesis it was one family. Now it is everyone who belongs to the family of God. But the warp and woof of the story holds – rebellion, judgement, remnant.
It is certainly the case that when the rest of the world decides it can achieve its own version of salvation without Christ, the remnant keeps alive the truth that there is no way to the Father except through Jesus Christ. This may be the most fundamental thing the remnant does, but it is far from the only thing.
It might surprise some to take stock of the domino effect caused by simply holding to the doctrines of sin and salvation.
That domino effect includes the kinds of ideas and lifestyles that shape civilization for the better. We will also learn that the church is the Arc of Civilization.