Many of us have seen the change coming, in the Church, but ignored it for one reason or another. Mostly we just like going along with the flow of things and not draw fire by coming out in the open and speaking about the obvious. Once you take a stand or give your opinion on an issue then you’re a target and the attacks are more likely to come, especially if what you’re saying goes against conventional wisdom.
I praise God that there are people like Hudson Taylor, the founder of The China Inland Mission, who was not afraid to blaze a trail of boldness, off the beaten path. Many have been blessed by his faith, wisdom, and courage. He listened for the voice of the Lord and heard Him speak, and obeyed, even though it went counter to time-honored tradition.
For me, at my age (57), discovering true faith, in January 2005, the initial beauty of what God is doing was displayed in the living and robust growth of the Church through true community and fellowship. Many old timers take for granted something that is unique to the Church and also much desired in our day, and that is the koinonia of God. This is a quality of the Holy Spirit that the institutional church has tried to imitate but has failed. It is also a quality that is absolutely necessary for proper Church growth, and the difference is as easy to see as it is easy to define. The difference between an organization and an organism is obvious, one is a living thing and the other is not. Many in the institutional church are becoming very hungry, in the wilderness, and they’re beginning to leave the established flock in search of food. Their search is leading some into a renewed relationship with God away from the brick-and-mortar edifice they used to call “church,” and others are taking a destructive path. Before 2005 I had never experienced anything like that and now it is all I desire and God’s word has become alive, as if I had never read it before. The power of the Holy Spirit working in the midst of Christians living in community is very powerful and my family could not resist the force of the koinonia that we were now experiencing. It was a new thing for them and for me which had never been experienced during our thirty years of being a member of the institutional church. This is what we were looking for. This gave us new life. This is what the first Church experience must have been like. This is the way it is suppose to be for an organism to mature. Even the Grand Canyon is no contest for the Grand Holy Spirit of God.
I have grown restless since I returned home after going to Mongolia. I continue to read the Word, witness, and write to announce the wave that is reverberating through the land. Church will never be the same for me again or for many others who are being caught up in the ever expanding reach of God’s Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has led a few of the brothers and sisters to start a small gathering to regularly encourage each other and to pray for Divine guidance. We have no agenda except to live righteously and to glorify God, however that may finish up. The fruits of true fellowship and community taste very good and satisfy a deep longing. Cell groups, book studies, accountability partners, and the like have all failed to provide what only the Holy Spirit is now producing, koinonia.
“God’s Ways are not Man’s Ways”
Multitudes of God fearing Christians are leaving the institutional church looking for the exact thing that I am experiencing. Christians are beginning to exhibit a healthy growing discontentment with the solutions coming from the pulpit; programs of men are not working but God is filling the gap. What men have not been able to do for the past 1900 years God is going to do for hungry hearts; the answer is Christ, not programs. It’s as if God is saying, “You have wandered in the desert long enough, it’s time to cross Jordan.” Hudson Taylor is just one, symbolic of a Joshua or a Caleb, to me, who brought back a good report of a land flowing with milk and honey. It is time to go in and possess our inheritance. The whole landscape of how He will provide will change in the future. It is time to write the new book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit in our generation.
The days ahead will be exciting and dangerous. Crossing Jordan means many battles will be fought. It means there will be a cup to drink and fire to cast upon the earth. It means honor and dignity and betrayal, and division, and suffering. But, most of all it means a great victory for the Lord, and rewards to the faithful, and the casting of crowns at the feet of our Savior.
I can hardly contain myself as I write because it is so exciting to envision the transformation that will soon be upon us. The question is, do you see Him, do you hear Him, and will you obey Him? The battle lines are developing even as I write. Jesus’ words, “I come not to bring peace on the Earth but a sword,” will take on new meaning in the near future as we begin to experience the divisions that will occur within our families, jobs, churches, and circle of friends. You will be forced to choose sides and it will become remarkably clear where you stand.
It is Time for Christians to Clear Their Hearts and Their Heads
The fog is beginning to clear for the elect, the veil is being pulled aside, and the scroll of knowledge is being unrolled a little more. The testing of our resolve to follow hard after Christ is at hand. A vivid understanding of what it means to “count the cost” will be introduced. It will be defined by radical action and obedience. We have all read Jesus’ response to Peter concerning who He is, it is “On this rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” Those gates, first of all, will come down that divide the true Church; the Satanic divisions of denominations, buildings, and programs that keep brothers and sisters apart and keep them from maturing must go. A united Body of Christ is the only means adequate to the task of destroying Satan’s strongholds and taking back lost ground.
- Those wandering in the deserts of ignorance must learn obedience and trust in the Straight Way.
- Those that sit in the darkness and deep gloom of bad habits and addiction must be set free through Truth.
- Those who have become fools and rebellious through pride, thinking they were something when they were nothing, living on the sweetness of their own thoughts, drawing close to death because they loathed True Food, must be healed by the Word.
- And, scholars, philosophers, theologians who have gone out onto the great seas making merchandise of wisdom and truth, who have tasted of the wonderful deeds of the deep, who have mounted up to the heavens and staggered like drunken men will see their “wits end,” they will be brought down to the depths.
Let all of these, when they have called out to the Lord and been saved, give thanks and consider His great love.
The cost will be great when the Church comes to grips with the forces of Hell who have had many years to dig in and fortify their positions. Institutional church leaders are not unaware of the sad condition of their organizations. Many quotes are available from their leaders like: Jack Hayford, Tony Evans, Crawford Loritts, Henry Blackaby, Anne Graham Lotz, Kay Arthur, and Bill McCartney, one after another admitting that the religious world has not affected the world positively for Christ, but rather failing terribly to represent Jesus well and change lives. Their words are an open admission that the way they are building is not working. Here is what some have said:
“America is a reflection of the condition of the people of God the churches”
“In a recent research study, out of 66 life style categories, Christians are not demonstrably different than non-Christians in ANY of the 66 categories” “Christians have no credible moral voice in this nation”
‘For the first time in history, here in the western world, the divorce rate in the church is higher…HIGHER… than those that are not churched”
“God looks into our churches and sees as much divorce in the people of God as He does in the world. God looks into our churches and sees as much abortion in the people of God as He does in the world. God looks into our churches and sees as much gambling in the people of God as He does in the world. And the surveys taken say the difference between the Churches and the people of the world is hardly recognizable.”
“When it comes to marriage and family, we have not done well.”
“80% of all young people raised in the church, faithfully attending church… 80% of all of them, have left the church when they leave home.”
“We have substituted programs for prayer, and scheduled activities for the Spirit’s leading and orthodoxy for obedience, and CEO’s for pastors and shepherds” “We are at a decisive moment. God must do a new thing in His Church.
“We are at a crossroads, and have got to make serious changes in the churches. We stand on the critical moment of judgment or revival. We must decide if we will obey.
“From a historical perspective, it seems certain that if the nation will see a revival, the church must first see revival.
“We have entangled our lives with the affairs of this world, and we have made Christianity a show.
Read I Sam. 8:4-20, then pull your head out of the sand and CRY. Just like the Israelite’s demand of Samuel to give them a “king” to replace the organic (living) Leadership of God, the cost of building man’s way is very, very high. We have seen our families, and nation, and globe decay before our eyes and stand helpless to prevent it. We substituted for the Healer, “human services” and “ministries” and “missionaries” and “Para-church” organizations and “systems” and “cell groups.” Even our best and brightest Christian leaders see that it has been a terrible failure. Then we read the Lord’s declaration, “You know the tree by its fruit” and we look at our neighbor or that other denomination and just know that He couldn’t have been talking about us, could He? And, yet, even though it should be blatantly apparent by now, the overwhelming majority still doesn’t recognize that we are continuing to look for the solution using the same old, worn out, trial and error, methods.
What is the Solution?
The answer is as easy to say as it is difficult to do. As a matter of fact it is impossible to do, as we have found out, because it was a miracle, Acts 2:42-47 was not an intellectual trend or a cultural phenomenon, but rather it was the birthing of the Candlestick, the Church, as foreshadowed in Zech. 4:1-3, being fed by an artery of pure living olive oil, the Holy Spirit. The new Church was 3000 brand new Christians led by the Holy Spirit to have Church, God’s Way. They were not simply adding Christianity to their busy schedules; they were “living, moving, and having their being in Christ,” each one seeking “first the Kingdom” every single day, having everything in common, confessing sin to one another to be healed, and seeing to it that none had an unbelieving heart, EVERY SINGLE DAY. This is God’s pattern, nothing else will work, and nothing else has worked. It is true selfless living, “wrestling to present every man perfect in Christ.” Did they just get together as an audience on Sunday with a few programs thrown in during the week? Or, was it daily, as a priesthood of believers? If God’s word is true then we can expect a change to occur, with true believers, in the way we experience community. The Apostle Paul said that we need to know both “the unsearchable riches of Christ” and the “administration,” or practical working out of those riches. A big question is, can the Church re-emerge triumphant as in the days of the Apostles? And the answer is of course, yes! The answer is in the trimming of the lamps and allowing the flow of life giving oil to resume its course. God is a magnificent Master Builder and has so made the Church that even the frail and the weak can overcome sin. He made it in such a way that regular men and women can live beautiful victorious lives. But, when I say Church I do not mean anything like what we see today with buildings and attendance. I mean what the Scriptures mean, and what Jesus meant when He used the word. I mean deep, constant, relationships, which can not be attended, relationships where the Word of God is lived and applied in every man, woman, and child, daily. This is the Church that Jesus said He would build, where every man, woman, and child has “a hundred mothers, brothers, and sisters, lands, possessions, persecutions, and after that, Life Eternal.” The “vital signs” of a Church are shown in the mutual love of one another, the sharing of one another’s burdens, so fulfilling the Law of Christ, where every true member knows and loves Jesus.
If it is the Church, by God’s definition, the Gates of Hell cannot prevail. Why should we lose our teens to the world? Why should we lose our men’s minds to the power of prestige and money? Why should divorce, abortion, gambling, and pornography keep our people in bondage? Why should sadness, gloom, and depression sap our strength? Why should entertainment and sports divert our attention from the Good Fight? WHY? WHY? WHY? The list goes on, and on, and on. When the Church is the Church we will not be defeated. We will not be satisfied with playing games. We will not be satisfied with the perfectly executed Sunday service, regardless of how great the songs were. We will not be satisfied with “perception management” or “group dynamics” or any other fad or method that seeks to control people. We will be the Church again and the world will be turned upside down, and the gates of Hell will not prevail. The true Church will he marked by a supernatural life, “that flesh and blood did not reveal,” as they “walk in the light as He is in the light.”
Much of what we hear today concerning the need of “community” is right-on in the acknowledgment of that great need, the problem is the method. The average man or woman in the workplace or the average child in public school or religious school, or the average woman at home all have far too little relationship, direction, and help in growing in depth with Jesus and others. They are left to the world of peer pressure, greed, fear, lust, ambition, laziness, depression, and spiritual illnesses of all kinds. Studies have shown that about five days is all that the average person can handle to stay clean from “leaven” and deception. That’s why God said, “Admonish one another DAILY, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that NONE will become hardened and deceived.”
We desperately need to return to God’s way in daily, heart-rending, and exposing and teaching in the Church. This is what our hearts cry out for because this is what it needs. We need that true revelation of Christ in every member, which will allow us to retake lost ground.
So, what do you do when that isn’t the way it is where you happen to be? What is your part when your environment is not a daily expression of the life of Christ, but rather living in a disconnected way from daily bonding and light-walking and burden-bearing? It really is no harder than this:
• Pray fervently, fast, and frequently.
• Be a worshiper in the secret place.
• Pray for wisdom and insight and God will speak to you.
• When you hear His voice, obey it.
• If God is not speaking to you go back to the last time He did speak to you and obey Him.
• Be a servant. God will reveal and make available opportunities to serve Him and others.
• Walk in the Light and be the Light to others.
• Deny the flesh and forgive.
• And Leave the rest to Him.
So, now we’re totally convinced that we have a problem, and all the heavy hitters in the “Leadership” department agree, and every honest person in Christ can see behind the scene and identify the players, it is not a hard thing to do. We can see the problem. But, are we going to face the problem and take our head out of the sand or will we just go with the flow. Will we be willing to go behind the veil to the Throne of God and get answers, and real solutions? Or will we slip back into our slumber and hang out the “Do Not Disturb” sign. Let’s go back, all the way back, for the solution. It’s in the heart and ways of the Messiah, the way He lived and the Truths He taught, the Straight Way.
Life is There waiting!