Manifestations

In the history of Azuza Street (1906) and the Pentecostal Movement it is said that the manifestations of the Spirit and the experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit soon took the place of Christ. The experience they had and were receiving placed the focus on the Holy Spirit and took the central focus off of Christ and Him crucified.

There was, according to Frank Bartleman who is called, by some, the father of the Pentecostal Movement a great danger of losing sight of the fact that Jesus was “all, and in all.” After all, the Holy Spirit was given to “show the things of Christ” and not to draw attention to Himself. He believed that the work of Calvary, the atonement, must be the centre of our consideration. The Holy Spirit never draws our attention from Christ to Himself, but rather reveals Christ in a fuller way. I believe we are facing the same danger today.

Frank Bartleman wrote, “We may not even hold a doctrine, or seek an experience, except in Christ. Many are willing to seek power from every battery they can lay their hands on in order to perform miracles, draw attention and adoration of the people to themselves, thus robbing Christ of His glory and making a fair showing in the flesh. The greatest religious need of our day would seem to be that of true followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. Religious enthusiasm easily goes to seed. The human spirit so predominates the show-off, religious spirit. But we must stick to our text – Christ, He alone can save!”

The attention of the people must be first of all, and always, held to Him. A true “Pentecost” will produce a mighty conviction of sin, a turning to God. Acts 2 and the Day of Pentecost saw Jesus preached and 3,000 saved the first time an apostle preached after receiving the power. False manifestations produce only excitement and wonder. Sin and self-life will not materially suffer from these. We must get what our conviction calls for. Believe in your own heart’s hunger and go ahead with God. Don’t allow the devil to rob you of a real ‘Pentecost.’

Any work that exalts the Holy Spirit or the gifts above Jesus will finally end up in fanaticism. Whatever causes us to exalt and love Jesus is well and safe. The reverse will ruin all. The Holy Spirit is a great light, but will always be focused on Jesus for His revealing.

When the Pentecostal Movement did not experience life lived in fellowship with the indwelling Christ, the artesian river that flows from Him as a life source was lost. Christ stated, “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, rivers of living waters will flow from within him. The fountainhead of the rivers is the indwelling Christ. The flowing of those rivers is the ministry of the Spirit.

I believe that is is what also happened in the 1940’s with the healing revival and the ministry of men like Oral Roberts. It happened again in the Latter Rains Movement in the same decade where the emphasis became who was an apostle and who was a prophet and then who was the greatest apostle or prophet. In the 1970’s the Charismatic Movement again forgot that Jesus should be the centre of the life of the Church and made the Holy Spirit and the gifts the major focus. And again, the river dried up. We might hazard a guess that this happened as well with the Toronto Blessing when the manifestations took centre stage and Jesus was left waiting in the wings.

Let’s learn from the past and be careful as we see the full fivefold ministry, and especially the ministry of the apostle, reintroduced to the Church. Let’s keep Jesus at the centre of all we do because it is Jesus who gave to the Church some to be apostles, some to be prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11-12). Jesus is the focus and only Jesus.

Let’s not watch the river dry up once again. The world needs to hear the message and come to the Cross of Christ – and the manifestations will not enable that to happen unless they are the true biblical manifestation listed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11…the manifestations of the Spirit … the 9 supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit given to us with the power when we were baptized in the Holy Spirit. With these manifestations (gifts) we can then be a witness (Acts 1:8) and thus Jesus is again and still the centre of the ministry and the only focus.

 

 

Born Pregnant

One of the most painful experiences anyone can go through is an old fashioned church split. It has happened to many. It has happened to me. People leave because a leader they trust comes under an Absalom spirit drawing the hearts of the people away from the leader of the church. This is what David’s son Absalom did in the gate of the city as people entered – drawing the hearts of the people away from his father. Winning their loyalty by speaking against his father, the appointed leader of that time. This spirit is still active today and causes much pain because the divisive leader does not recognize that he or she is being influenced by a spirit that works hand-in-hand with the Spirit of Jezebel.

A church split is only painful if you do not plan for one to happen. If we put regular, healthy church splits into our plans and our prayer, we will be gloriously happy, and everyone will be blessed when a split occurs. This means that every church being planted must be born pregnant. The vision of the local church being planted is to reach a certain size determined by the leaders in consultation with Jesus who is building the Church. From the very first day this should be noted – that the church will give birth to a baby church when it reaches a certain size. A planned church split. Part of multiplying the influence of the local church in that region and even, at times, worldwide. This is multiplication and not addition because many more can be impacted and influenced as the number of churches increases.

When the church reaches a predetermined size they will not go out and build or buy a bigger building to house an increased crowd. They will send out key leaders and a group of good, mature disciples to start a church in a different location. This arises out of a vision for saturation church planting where the plan is to have Christ’s presence in every little neighbourhood in every city in every country in the world. This way the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus can literally be fulfilled in a few generations.

This means when planting a church or working to revive a dead church we need to make certain that within the stated DNA of the church we note the call on the local church to duplicate itself within every year or 18 months. Thus a church being planted will begin pregnant and another church will become reality as the first baby continued to grow and develop, soon giving birth to another baby. Then there will be two. And, the second church plant will also be birthed pregnant and the original “mother” church will, once again, be pregnant. Thus, two soon becomes four and four eight and eight sixteen.

Of course, this means that the local church must be constantly winning the lost and ready to welcome a constant flow of new believers, discipling them and training them in the Christian faith (according to Ephesians 4:11-15). Again, this must be part of the natural flow of the life of the church right from its inception and birth. Everyone must understand that multiplication through “making disciples” and birthing churches is the norm and part of the very essence and personality of the church that they are planting and attending. Plans are made and prayers offered about this part of the life of the local church before the church is ever conceived in the hearts of the parent church members.

This will include having to rapidly develop leadership  for the new plant. Thus every local church will be a hothouse for leadership development and release. This all means that believers will need to reach maturity quickly so that they become productive, reproducing Christians fulfilling the Great Commission in their lives almost immediately after being born again. This means that the focus is reproduction and multiplication and the expansion of the Kingdom – not the individual believer who, in the current church world, is the focus and always needing to be ministers to and helped. Growing up fast becoming healthy and whole and contributing disciples of the Living Jesus Christ will be the norm and not the exception in the Church that Jesus is building.will be the norm.

Every new believer will quickly find healing, wholeness, and health spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, and relationally so that they can become a vital part of the local Body of Christ – giving and not just taking. The focus is always the next church plant – the pregnancy of the current church plant. So, then we will have the manpower ready and willing to go and birth the next church when the time is right. The focus is not the constant, never-ending catering to and ministering to believers who refuse to grow up and become healthy and reproducing adult disciples.

And so the church expands through reproduction just as healthy children quickly grow up becoming mature, responsible adults, leave home, and begin another family with children of their own.

So, the Lord is challenging His Church – the Church that He is building – to become part of this multiplication. He is encouraging every believer to grow up and become mature, contributing members of the local church. He is wanting every local church to quickly grow in size and maturity and then reproduce itself as well. Disciples making disciples, churches planting churches. Then the increase of His government will be an established fact and the growth of the Kingdom continual and powerful just as the prophet Isaiah prophesied 750 years before the birth of Christ, the Head of the Church.

It is His Church and He has determined and recorded for us how it is to move forward to fulfill His ministry of seeking and saving the lost. Let’s become involved in what He has planned, revealed, and is currently doing. Then, the strife and division that causes unplanned for church division will cease and the Church will fulfill her mandate to “go into all the world making disciples.”

 

A Church Is a Church

I work with a variety of churches in many nations. And often I am asked about a certain church – have I heard of it? Have I met so-and-so who pastors a large church in a particular city? What about this pastor who has a church of 10,00 or 20,000 – what do I think about him? And then, there are questions about networks or unions of churches? And, questions about new and different ways that a leader is building – G-12, multiple campuses, user-friendly, Spirit-sensitive? And then, of course, the constant is: How big is the church I work with in my home city? Size matters to some, it seems.

In the Bible www read about the Church on four different levels. The New Testament Church is seen as: The Church in the world (Colossians 1:24), the Church in the province or region (Acts9:31), the Church in the city (2 Corinthians 1:1), and the Church in the house (Colossians 4:15). The Church in the house is a microcosm of the Church in the city, in the nation, and in the world. Often, I hear detain in the voice of the person speaking to me about a house church as if there is something inferior or wrong with a church that meets in a house. As if it is really not a real Church.

The Church in the house is just as much THE CHURCH as the Church in the city, or in the province, or in the world. It contains all the essential elements of Church. The word ‘microcosm simply means ‘little world’ or ‘a universe in miniature.’ The Church in the house is Church in the fullest sense of the word. That is ho the Apostle Paul saw his work in the first century. On his first apostolic journey, he left a little group of disciples in four different cities – Antioch, Iconic, Derby, and Lystra. He referred to each little group as the Church in that city.

It seems that the house Church was part of the New Testament PRACTICE of Church planting. I did not say it was the New Testament PATTERN. God did not leave us a pattern to be followed as to how to build and function as a Church. The true New Testament pattern is to pray, hear from God, and obey what He tells us. If He tells us to build a gigantic cathedral, you must obey and do what He says. You will be blessed and so will the entire Body of Christ. The dynamic power of the early Church was just that. They were not trying to follow a ‘pattern’ that they read about somewhere. They were following the leading of the Holy Spirit day by day. Success followed. It is still safe to do the same in our day.

Many churches have tried to find the formula for growth from others who have grown large, influential churches for Christ. Many years ago the hero of Church growth and size was Dr. Cho who is the Senior Pastor of the largest Church in the world located in Seoul, Korea. Pastor Cho, when I was in a conference with him, shared that ‘formula’ in six simple words, “I just pray, and I obey.”

There is nothing wrong with meeting in a barn, a field, a cave, in a church building, or in a synagogue. The Lord is looking on the heart, not the method or the location.

But regardless of the size or method of planting and growing a Church, if we are encouraging a system that is stifling the life of a Church by heavy-handed leadership and a deadening clergy-laity caste system, we will not have the fruit we are seeking. The Church, whichever way it is being built must release the very life and nature of God in all aspects of its corporateness. It is the “life” that is the light that draws people from spiritual darkness. (see John 1:4 and Matthew 5:14).

Discipling and Mentoring

John Wesley once said: “Give me twelve men who love Jesus with all their hearts and who do not fear men or devils, and I care not one whit whether they be clergy or laity. With these men I will change the world.”

I believe that he was, and still is, right. I know that he happens to be one of very few heroes that I have, but he is right. God is not interested in our amazing education nor is He interested in the man-made system of ordination. God looks to the heart of things and the heart of man and determines who He can and will use to change the world and expand His Kingdom influence. I believe we have placed too much emphasis on and concern over unqualified leaders looking at people from our standards and understanding of qualified. This has brought much trouble to the Church and prevented her from doing as commanded – going into all the world and making disciples. This failure to use those who have not received a professional clergy education as leaders has been a gross mistake that has been very costly to the Kingdom.

Jesus did not go to the Levites who were the professional and qualified of His day. He did not go to the religious institutions of His day to pick the men He would use to lead out in building His Church. He chose fishermen and ordinary men whom He then discipled, mentored, and empowered by the Holy Spirit releasing them to do the work of the ministry.

God loves to use the little things and the weak things.

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 states: “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

In every movement that has had worldwide significance in the spread of the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout the history of the Church, ordinary men and women have had a leading roll. John Wesley understood the heart of God, choose people willing to give their lives for the cause of the Kingdom, discipled, trained, and equipped them and mentored some. He released them to minister publicly and outside the four walls of the organized Church. This was not without a great cost to him personally and publicly.

To preach the Gospel in the open air in John Wesley’s day was the height of sacrilege and a serious affront to the established Church. It was unthinkable in the Church of England (John was an Anglican priest) to stand outside of the walls of the holy sanctuaries to proclaim the sacred Word of God. The Wesley brothers (John and Charles) and their friend, George Whitfield, suffered years of persecution for breaking the long-standing traditions of the established Church, but this did not deter them. They knew the Scriptures and were convinced that if Jesus could do such things it was acceptable for them to do the same.

So, throughout my ministry I have chosen to do many things that were not the norm for the day. And, I have chosen to invest my time, emotion, and energy in young men who are willing to go with God regardless of the cost. Some of these young men have failed me and some have, more importantly, failed the Lord and not walked in their calling and ministry. But, there are those who have remained faithful, not let pride get in the way, have learned to serve, and are now ministering powerfully for the King and the Kingdom.

Like John Wesley I am always on the lookout for men who are hungry for more, want to do what God is asking them to do, and are willing and humble enough to grow and learn from others. And, willing to pay the cost no matter what it may be. I continue to take them into my heart, disciple and mentor them, and release them, in time, to continue to expand the Kingdom as the light moves into the darkness.

This year (2016) I have begun to take some of the more promising ones with me on the many trips overseas that are planned and scheduled for the coming months. Last November (2015) was my first time doing this as the Lord had just spoken to me about it. It was an amazing apostolic journey and ministry in the nation of Kazakhstan. The practice will continue as I follow the example of the Lord and of John Wesley.

It is an honour to have them join me and to watch them blossom and grow.