The Church As It Will Be – Wow!

When we look at when the Church was first introduced to the world we see the following…

Acts 2:42-47 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

If the world is looking for a solid description of the Church, here it is. But instead of just listening to the description, let’s imagine what it was really like there in those first days. Let’s imagine that you are on assignment as a beat writer for the Jerusalem Times with the task of observing and reporting about this new community of people who are beginning to create significant buzz around the city. 

Three thousand people have come to faith in one day, (Acts 2:41) and more are being added daily (Acts 2:47). People are meeting every single day – not just one day a week – in the temple and in their homes. They are selling their stuff and sharing the profits.

These people are shaking things up and rocking the status quo.

Now imagine you have a friend who is a part of this new community. You ask him to meet you in the local cafe just to get the scoop. After catching up on small talk and niceties, you get right at it.

“What in the world has happened to you?”

“Well, I am hanging out with a new group of friends.”

“Where?”

“Anywhere really. It is not really a place but a group of people.”

“What is not a place?”

“The Church. Isn’t that what you are asking me about?”

“Church? What’s church? I have never heard of that before.”

“Well, it’s a community of people who, by God’s kindness, have seen Jesus and gather together to love one another and follow in His steps.”

“Jesus? Isn’t that the guy whom everyone loved but the religious establishment hated? And isn’t He dead? Look, I got sent over here to interview you because word on the street is that something very different – very alive – is happening with you people. And again, what is a church?”

At this point, your friend’s explanation will not include any mention of a denomination, since those do not even exist yet.

“Well, I guess you could say it’s called the First Church of …Ever!” 

It is also doubtful he will offer up a specific address or location. After all, everyone knows where the southern steps of the temple are and beyond that, the Church is meeting all over the community. “Walk down any street in Jerusalem, take a left, and then turn…well, anywhere.”

And though Peter did stand up and do the talking on the Day of Pentecost, your friend will not mention a specific individual as the leader. There is a broad leadership in the movement led by eleven men, original followers of this said-to-be-dead Jesus guy. That’s a whole mess of chiefs, except that they are all letting the personality fall on one Chief – Christ Himself. 

Their church then would not be described using the same adjectives as most people who attend churches today. You ask your friend to describe what is going on, and based on what we know was happening from the passage we just read, we can imagine he would say something like this:

“We are alive.” Makes sense – their whole way of living had changed.

“There are awe-inspiring things happening in our midst.” Since signs and wonders were being done through the apostles, that seems like a fair description.

“We are attractive.” God was drawing many new people to their community – and they were actually coming.

“We are aligned.” They were stedfast under leadership and in service, gathered with one mind in the temple and in homes.

“We are acts-oriented.” It’s hard to accuse them of being lazy or passive.

“Okay, that’s pretty impressive,” you say, feeling confident that you have more than enough to submit your article by the deadline. But before you can express your gratitude for his help, he interrupts and keeps going – and in rapid-fire succession this time.

“And we are biblical, blessed, bonded, caring, Christ-exalting, committed, compassionate, connected, consistent, and creative, dedicated, devoted, discerning, disciplined, driven, effective, encouraging, energized, evangelistic, exciting, engaging, faithful, focused, friendly, fun, fired up, generous, godly, growing…

“Uh, I think that’s plenty. And, besides, I’m kind of running out of papyrus sheets, so…”

But he doesn’t catch your drift or miss a beat.

“We are humble, hungry, hospitable, intentional. Inspiring, intimate, intense, joyful, like-minded, loving, magnetic, miraculous, motivated, neighbourly, obedient, ordained, others-minded, passionate, powerful, praising, prayerful, proactive, productive, progressive, pure, purposeful, redeeming, radical, real, relational minded, relevant, respected, sacrificial, safe, scary, selfless, Scripture-loving, servant-hearted, single-minded, sold out, Spirit-filled, sincere, submissive, tenacious, teachable, transformed, trustworthy, thankful, unified, unselfish, unspoiled, unwavering, wholehearted, and wise. We are a people full of wonder who worship God – you should come and join us!”

By this point the coffee is long gone – and you know you’ve obliterated your editor’s word count. But be honest: If the Church were really all these things – as Scripture says it is – you would definitely be checking it out, wouldn’t you?

How could you not?”

So what happened? Something has gone terribly wrong; that’s what happened. The description of the first church is suppose to be the description of all churches today because the Leader of the first church is suppose to be the Leader of them all. 

The problem isn’t that God has stopped being in the business of changing the world by changing lives. The problem is that we have gotten into the business of doing His business our way, not being “people of His way” (Acts 9:2).

If church, as you think of it today, was truly a reflection of the adjectives we just used to describe it in Acts 2:42-47, my bet is that you would feel differently about it. A lot differently. You wouldn’t be alone.

You might be thinking, That is the exact kind of community of people I have been looking for. That is the purposeful life I really want to live, but I didn’t know it actually existed. What you are describing is what I have been searching for my whole life. In relationships. Clubs. Teams. Work. You name it. So don’t mess with me – just tell me: Where does something like this exist? Even though I am not sure I can believe, just out of curiosity, I’m going to come and check it out.

That is exactly what God had in mind – that in this lost, dark, broken world where there are only shadows of hope, a light would enter in. That people would begin to live in real relationships with a real God. That they would be that alive, awe-inspiring, authentic … a worshipful kingdom-of-God-on-earth community.

The Church is supposed to provide others a picture of God’s kingdom – a glimpse of heaven on earth. It is not a place you are suppose to go; it is a people who are suppose to be … and you can still experience what God intends for His Church to be. 

When you see life change, grace, compassion, mercy, sharing, provision, warmth, and hope – with a diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit in a bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3) – aren’t these at least small descriptions of heaven? Yes, they are. And instead of growing dimmer over the years, the Church is supposed to be growing brighter day by day as we yield more and more to the Spirit’s grace, power, and direction. Less of us: more of Him.

From the very beginning, this is what God intended church to be. God wants you to experience a community that is alive, awe-inspiring, attractive, aligned … well, you can go back and reread the rest. God created you for this. Your heart longs for it – even if you have only seen a glimpse of it from a distance. But, once you experience this true Church you will want to do more than attend at a church building – you will want to find others who are committed to joining you in being the Church that Jesus has always wanted to build. 

Do any exist? Is that possible? Yes, they do, and yes, it is!

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Fifty-eight (end)

Continued from yesterday…

The purity and authenticity of their cultivated spirit influence everything in their path. Their beliefs, identity, behaviour, and relationships blend to project a persona that pricks the spirit in everyone around them. Analysts might say that the job of a revolutionary is to reform the culture, but that confuses purpose and product. These extreme God-lovers reform the culture simply by being true representations of whom God made them to be. They do not create and enforce a carefully plotted and meticulously deployed agenda to reform. They simply live a holy and obedient life that a society suffering from the stronghold of sin cannot ignore. The transformation that follows in their wake is not so much their doing as it is an inevitable result of God’s creatures waking up to the difference between living in the freedom of Christ or in the shackles of Satan.

In past spiritual awakenings, dynamic preachers went into society to bring people into a local church for further development. This era of spiritual growth is different. It features millions of individuals quietly using the weapons of faith and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that God has given them to be scions of transformation within the framework of their typical space and connections. The starting point is internal, not external: their message is their own transformation by Christ, made real by their words and deeds. Rather than draw people out of the world, and into a relationship with an institution, revolutionaries demonstrate what it means to bring the presence of God to wherever they are. This a broad-based grassroots awakening that has no single leader and no headquarters. The declaration of purpose is more than two thousand years old: the Bible.

In the great awakenings of the past, the pattern was always the same: draw people into the local church for teaching and other experiences. In this new movement of the Spirit, the approach is the opposite: it entails drawing people away from reliance upon a local church into a deeper connection with and reliance upon God. In other words, past awakenings and revivals were outside-inside phenomena, in which the dynamic and evangelistically gifted  Spurgeons, Finneys, Wesleys, and Whitefields of the Church brought non-christian people inside the local church to be ministered to. This edition is predominantly an outside-outside experience, where believers see the world as their church grounds and every human being they encounter as a soul to love into the permanent presence and experience of God. Many of these revolutionaries are active members of a local church, but their primary ministry effect is not within the congregational framework but in the raw world. 

So, what we believe drives what we do. What we believe matters to God – which is why so much of the Bible painstakingly explains God and His Kingdom to us. The revolution fosters a stunningly diverse array of activities that work together to produce spiritual and behavioural transformation which then changes their community and eventually the world. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Fifty-seven

This is a great time to be alive – especially for those who love Jesus Christ. The opportunities to minister are unparalleled: the million of searching hearts and agonized souls, combined with the abundance of resources Christians have at their disposal, make this a very special era for the Church. Throw in the rapid and profound cultural changes occurring, as well as the struggles local churches are undergoing, and we have an environment in which the birth of a spiritual revolution is inevitable. The confluence of those elements demands a dramatic response, and the emerging revolution represents such a historic thrust.

There can be no turning back at this point, no return to the old ways and the comfortable forms. Although we cannot accurately predict what the Church will look like twenty years hence, we can be confident that it will be more different from than similar to the Church at the start of the twenty-first century. The revolution is an extensive grassroots response to the undeniable and insatiable human longing for a genuine relationship with God our Father. The transformations it introduces are sometimes difficult to accept and oftentimes inefficient in their development, but the outgrowth is a stronger and more irresistible Church.

As you seek to comprehend the emerging revolution an describe it to others, keep in mind its central facets. It is comprised of a demographically diverse group of people who are determined to let nothing stand in the way of an authentic and genuine experience with God. They are involved in a variety of activities and connections designed to satisfy a spiritual focus. They are God-lovers and joyfully obedient servants. They are willing to do whatever it takes to draw closer to God, to bond with Him, and to bring Him glory and pleasure. If that can be accomplished through existing structures and processes, they accept that; if not, they will blaze new trails to facilitate such a Spirit-driven life.

En route to this intimacy with God, they are integrating the seven spiritual passions of a true revolutionary Christian into their lives. Their daily expressions of worship refine their sense of beauty, the creativity, and the majesty of God. Their joy at knowing Him naturally provides the impetus to communicate to others the Goos News about Jesus’ sacrifice and offer of salvation. Their infatuation with the Kingdom fuels their consistent effort to know more about God’s ways. They respond to His love by seeking ways to invest the resources they control of influence for Kingdom outcomes. Their friendships hinge on spiritual growth. They pursue opportunities to use their abilities to affect the quality of life in the world. And they recognize that their most important relationships is within their family and that Christ must be the centrepiece of their experiences together. These passions enable revolutionaries to remain centered on God in a world of distractions and seductions. Their attention to these passions allows them to be the Church.

At what stage, or under what conditions, is the revolution successful? Revolutionaries recognize that spiritual success is more about surrender than results. They know that God examines the fruit of someone’s livfe, but the real fruit of the Kingdom is flat-out, no-excuses obedience to God. Such submission produces a perpetual string of behaviours and outcomes that may be imperceptible to a frenetic and hardhearted world, but represent major victories within the Kingdom. Why? Because life is war, and every time a soldier willingly engages in sacrificial battle for the King, His honour is advanced. Revolutionaries’ complete and total surrender to Him and His cause is the essence of eternal victory. 

It is this holistic devotion to being Christlike that triggers the transformational legacy of the revolution. First, revolutionaries are changed so profoundly that they see life through na completely different lens. Then, armed with that new perspective and the courage to respond, these individuals set about transforming then world by being relics of Jesus in every space their inhabit. 

The last in the series tomorrow…

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Fifty-six

There are five reactions to the revolution….

The first, and at this moment the largest, is those who are completely ignorant of the revolution’s existence and emergence. As word gets out and the revolution expands in numbers and influence, this segment will shrink considerably. 

The second group is those who are antagonistic toward the revolution. These individuals feel threatened by the extreme change represented by the seemingly unorthodox approach to spirituality. These individuals tend to believe (or to hide behind theological arguments contending) that the Bible disallows a believer to intentionally live at arm’s length from the local church. The response of these folks ranges from outright hostility toward revolutionaries, to genuine prayer that the wayward sons will return to a church home, to pity for these ‘backsliders.’

A third group is the coexister segment. These are Christians who have adopted a “let them be” attitude, refusing to judge the spiritual journey of others. Often these people search for ways to have a peaceful relationship with revolutionaries and attempt to build bridges that facilitate continued harmony within the body of Christ. Most coexists have little interest in becoming revolutionaries, but they are willing to embrace them as brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of them will eventually join forces with the revolution. 

A fourth category is the late adopters. As in any situation where significant innovation is introduced, these people are nervously waiting on the sidelines for the transitions to become mainstream so it is safe to get on board. Because believers have a huge degree of confusion about life purpose and spiritual meaning and a latent desire to clarify such matters, this group will become a major feeder for the revolution as time progresses. This group disdains risk. They will cast their lot with the revolution once it seems socially acceptable and culturally unremarkable to do so. Whether their timidity will effectively remove the cutting edge of the revolution or whether these pliable saints will be spiritually energized by the passion and focus of the revolution remains to be seen.

The final category, of course, is the revolutionaries. Millions of them attend church, and millions of others do not. But they all love Jesus Christ and are devoted to Him as their Lord and Saviour. Knowing that they can be more effective lovers of God by recasting themselves as humble, single-minded servants, they are committed to the revolution for the duration of the battle, willing to endure the criticism of fellow believers so that they can be the Church in the best way that they know how. They are not so much interested in converting their distractors to be revolutionaries as they are determined to honour God through their purity and passion for Him.

The agents of transformation that we are calling revolutionaries realize that the only way to silence their critics is to be Christlike at all times. Even that did not stop Jesus’ critics, and many revolutionaries are resigned to the fact that perpetual criticism from Christians is simply an unfortunate and unjust price they will pay for loving and serving God with all their heart, mind, strength, and soul. Someday, they know, they will stand before the only true Judge and will be made whole by the One who reconciles everyone’s accounts. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Fifty-five

The second stream of concern contends that believers will become spiritually lazy and even compromise the principles and theology of the Christian faith because of their disconnection from the local church. The problem with this argument is that surveys find a measurably greater degree of lukewarm faith among the believers in the pews. Revolutionaries, almost by definition, are zealous and passionate about obeying God’s Word and honouring Him. More often than not, they resort to departing from a local church in order to foster that focus.

Warnings about heresy creeping into the minds and hearts of the Christian body are always worthy of consideration. However, it is just as easy to identify heretical teachings proposed from current church pulpits as it is to identify heretical revolutionaries. After all, research shows that only 51 percent of the pastors of Protestant churches have a biblical worldview! The embarrassing profile of Christians can be largely attributed to the quality of the teaching they have received in sermons, Sunday school classes, and small groups. It is inappropriate to suggest that revolutionaries are worse off because they do not receive teaching from a nearby congregation. In fact, many revolutionaries rely upon Bible teaching delivered through the media or via teaching of trusted Bible expositors whose podcasts they subscribe to.

Revolutionaries are spiritual warriors. They do whatever it takes to lead a holy and growing Christian life and lifestyle. Because they are vitally concerned about the truths and principles they absorb, their media usage and organizational affiliations reflect the care they take to limit their exposure to that which is edifying. They are not perfect, by any means, but they are sensitive to the importance of exposure to people and information that will raise them to a higher standard, rather than drag them down to a defiling level. 

The third and final thread of dismay is based on the argument that massive departure from the local church will dissipate the hard-won, expensive resources of the church community and its influence upon culture.

As a part of the Church, revolutionaries have no interest in denigrating any segment of the Kingdom; their goal is to be agents of transformation who support and add value to the good that exists in the Church.

Again, from a practical standpoint, it is hard to take the “undermining church influence” argument seriously. Research shows that local churches have virtually no influence in our culture. The seven dominant spheres of influence are movies, music, television, books, the internet, law, and family. The second tier of influencers is comprised of entities such as schools, peers, newspapers, radio, and businesses. The local church appears among the entities that have little to no influence on society. It seems that if revolutionaries approach faith from a different angle, the Church has little to lose and much to gain. 

To those who are worried about their investment in congregational real estate, the only answer is to recognize that the Kingdom of God is not about buildings and programs. Those resources can be useful in building up the body of Christ, but we can never allow brick-and-mortar to be the engine that drives the Church.

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Fifty-four

We have been looking at what the critics of the revolution will say to try and counteract the growing influence and impact of the revolutionaries on the Church as well as society and culture. The last blog dealt with the first of a number of very vocal criticisms. We saw that critics will argue that you must go to church – and they are referring to “church” as they define it. It would be good to reread that blog before continuing with this one as I continue to discuss this major concern.

As I mentioned last time, the same God who is more concerned with what’s in our hearts than about mindless observance of meaningless routines refuses to impose specific regulations about our religious practices. He wants us to use the creative abilities He entrusted to us to express in our own way how much we love Him and want to glorify Him.

In fact, there is not a verse in Scripture that links the concepts of worshipping God and a ‘church meeting.’ The Bible does not tell us that worship must happen in a church sanctuary and therefore we must be actively associated with a local church (as they define church). It simply tells us that we must worship God regularly and purely in spirit and truth. Take particular note of the fact that Jesus dismissed the organized worship of His day as “a farce” and intimated that we ought not be so limited as to how and when we worship God.

Mark 7:6-8 “And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

When the Samaritan woman asked about worship practices and places, Jesus responded bluntly that the place and the form of worship meant less to God than the heart and commitment. He noted that, “The time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem … But the time is coming – indeed it is here now – when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-23). He was highlighting the same foolish irrelevancies that traditionalists argue about today.

We are commanded to worship god, and we are encouraged to meet with other Christians for various purposes. However, as we follow the development of the new covenant and the related community of faith, notice that Jesus and His disciples provide few guidelines and commands regarding such meetings. The same God who is so specific about things that matter to Him and that are important for us has provided few details about the logistics of Christian assemblies. That silence suggests that we have freedom to develop the means by which we act as a united body of disciples, as long as we perform the functions of God’s chosen ones in ways that comply with His general guidelines of behaviour and the functioning of the body of believers.

And, let’s be loving but honest about what really goes on within the Body of Christ today. No informed Christian leader could ever make a straight-faced argument that involvement in a local church necessarily produces a more robust spiritual life than that seen among revolutionaries. Surveys tell us that Christians who are involved in local churches are actually less likely than revolutionaries to lead a biblical lifestyle.

We should also address one other reality: the Bible never describes “church” the way we have configured it. The Bible goes to great lengths to teach us principles for living and theology for understanding. However, it provides very little guidance in terms of the methods and structures we must use to make those principles and insights prevail in our lives. It seems that God really does not care how we honour and serve Him, as long as He is number one in our lives and our practices are consistent with His parameters. If a local church facilitates that kind of life, then it is good. And if a person is able to live a godly life outside of a congregation-based faith, then that, too, is good. Remember, Jesus looks at the fruit. “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit (Matthew 7:17-18). 

True revolutionaries agree that being isolates from other believers  – I.e., the Church (note the capital ‘C’) – is unbiblical. However, while they may not be integrated into a formal church congregation, they are not isolated from the Church. They may not belong to a specific collection of saints that engages in routines and customs at a particular location and under the leadership of a specific individual or group. However, neither are they spiritually untouchables who have no connection to the global Church. Every revolutionary I know have described a network of Christians to whom he or she relates regularly and a portfolio of spiritual activities which he or she engages in on a regular basis. This schedule of relationships and ministry efforts is the revolutionary equivalent of traditional congregational life – but better. These believers pursue the seven passions of a Christian revolutionary (discussed in detail earlier in this series of blogs) with a variety of people, in different forms and environments, but they are exuberant about their faith life. Compared to the “average” Christian I would say that the revolutionaries are substantially more Spirit-led, faith-focused, Scripturally-literate, and biblically obedient than their more traditional counterparts who are embedded within a congregation. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Fifty-three

 

Blog for February 14, 2019

Every movement of the Holy Spirit suffers through a multitude of critics who attack what God is currently doing. This new revolutionary move of the Spirit will be the same. These critics often arise from within the Church. George Whitefield, John Wesley, and other standard-bearers of the revivals withstood harsh attacks from established churches who complained bitterly that the itinerants used unorthodox means of reaching people, disrupted the status and flow of existing ministries, threatened the stability of society, and undermined the security and authority of pastors and denominational leaders. Today, however, we praise God that Whitefield and his colleagues persisted in thinking outside the box and enduring the unwarranted abuse from their spiritual kinfolk.

In fact, energetic resistance by the established Church has accompanied every significant episode of growth in the Kingdom since the time of Christ. Jesus and His followers were slandered, ridiculed, physically abused, and murdered. The Protestant Reformation produced heated debate and violent resistance. The Second Great Awakening drew strenuous opposition from the established Church community. Even the more recent and less extensive movements of faith, such as the Jesus Movement of the 1960s, were dismissed and attacked by religious leaders who were aghast at the different types of people, strategies, behaviours, and outcomes that characterized the freewheeling, hippie-friendly Jesus People.

The revolution of faith that is emerging today is no different. If you mention the mission of deeply devoted Christians whose lives are centered on knowing, loving, and serving God independently of a local church, you can count on criticism from the church establishment. Being Kingdom-minded and seeking innovative ways of reaching the world and honouring God suddenly get redefined to mean that such efforts must be approved and controlled by the presiding rulers of the institutional authorities. Some of the same people who profess love to be their hallmark ruthlessly attack anything that threatens their interpretation or turf.

The major concern about the revolution is that millions of its adherents are not affiliated with a local church – as the local church is currently defined and seen. Revolutionaries distancing themselves from formal congregations does not reflect a willingness to ignore God as much as a passion to deepen their connectedness to Him. Revolutionaries do not try to draw other people away from the local church. Theirs is a personal choice based on a genuine desire to be holy and obedient, but finding that need better served outside the framework of congregational structures.

Mainstream leaders seem to be voicing three dimensions of concern about believers making a conscious decision to separate from a local church. The first is an appeal to their interpretation of Scripture. “To call yourself a believer but leave the local church is unbiblical,” some will say. Others will comment, “The Bible clearly teaches that we are not to forsake the assembling of believers to worship God. Scripture also commands us to be accountable to the church and to be under the headship of His anointed leaders. Jesus Christ established the local church. Abandoning it is displeasing to God.” 

Those comments and others like it that I hear in all of the nation where I work pushed me to return to the Bible to find out what God actually says about the Church. If you will take a fresh, non-traditional look at the Scriptures you will find, even discover, some interesting things. For instance, when the word church appears in the Bible, it refers to people who are ‘called out’ from society to be the full expression of Jesus Christ on earth. That reminds me of what being a revolutionary is all about: rejecting the norm and paying the cost to stand apart from the crowd to honour God.

In fact, when the Bible admonishes us to gather together, it does not imply that that should be a church service or congregational event. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). Such interaction could be in a worship service or at Starbucks; it might be satisfied through a Sunday school class or a dinner in a fellow believer’s home. The same God who is more concerned about what is in our hearts than about mindless observance of meaningless routines refuses to impose specific regulations about our religious practices. He wants us to use the creative abilities He entrusted to us to express in our own way how much we love Him and want to glorify Him. 

More next time…

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Fifty-two

The revolution will have a major impact on the culture in which the Church is located. Culture is the accumulation of behaviours and beliefs that characterize a group of people. It is comprised of the attitudes, symbols, language, rewards, expectations, customs, and values that define the experience and context of those people.

How will the revolution affect culture? No less dramatically than it will rehabilitate the Church. The most important change will be the heightened visibility of Christian activity by the ever-present believers who are moving with the Spirit and are intent on being the Church in the world as Jesus commanded. They will affect the ways legislation is discussed and passed. They will model a moral lifestyle – and encourage others to follow suit. They will restore dignity to the family as the cornerstone of a healthy society.

New types of organizations will replace the inert stalwarts. Seminaries and Bible Schools will be challenged to become relevant or move over. Christian colleges, secondary schools, and elementary schools will be challenged to be more overtly and pragmatically Christian in their endeavours. A more diverse continuum of service (ministry) entities will blossom as believers seek ways to use their skills, money, and time in an effective and life-changing manner. 

In North America the Christian Church has effectively served as the scapegoat or whipping boy for the mass media for several decades. That will change as the move of the Spirit makes it more difficult to target a Church that is so dispersed and so obsessed with holiness. The standard criticisms will ring hallow; the typical charicatures of Christian people will vanish as the skeptics and critics recognize a wave of change through which true love for others has replaced hypocrisy and infighting.

Even the economy will be impacted. Revolutionaries will move their peers with their commitment to hard work and excellence. The renowned Protestant work ethic, which has been replaced in recent years by a more lackadaisical postmodern lifestyle ethic, will return with a third-millennium flavour. The consumer choices of revolutionaries will instigate a new sector of the marketplace geared toward meeting their needs; existing entities that produce garbage antithetical to God’s principles will face a serious fight for survival amidst the example and multidimensional attacks of the growing revolutionary population. 

All of this might come off sounding as if all evil will be whisked away and only gentility, civility, love, and goodness will remain. Nothing could be further from the truth. Life will remain a war zone. Until Jesus Christ returns, the battle will rage on.

Revolutionaries will have an impact, but they will not dominate the culture – at least not in the foreseeable future. After all, they too are sinners. They are and always will be imperfect creatures. They will fall prey to greed, lust, selfishness, and all the other vices and lures that Satan uses to undermine God’s ways and His people. Conditions will be better, but this is not a return to the Garden of Eden.

Spiritual maturity is a process. En route to maturity, you can count on a lot of false starts and stumbling. Revolutions are famous for being messy: things rarely go as planned and are notoriously inefficient. We see no reason to expect this budding revolution of faith to be any different.

But this does not erase the phenomenal significance of this historic quest for more of God in the life of those who embrace this move of the Spirit. The world will never be the same. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Fifty-one

The revolution we have been talking about will permanently alter the contours of the Body of Christ wherever and whenever it is seriously embraced. Of course, when a massive number of its constituency is transformed, the body itself is reshaped, by definition. But how the community sees itself and how it performs its functions as a community, will change. 

New leaders will gain recognition and authority among believers. Their role will not be building new institutions to replace the old. Rather, it will be providing guidance in the construction of new hearts and minds that produce a thriving Church community. Weaving together the spectrum of ideas, talents, and resources of believers into a richer ministry tapestry will be their challenge. Power, authority, and resources will be defined, awarded, recognized, and utilized in different ways as the move of the Spirit matures.

The systems and structures that fostered the old Church will give way to new realities in the revolution. New ministry organizations will emerge. Different educational methods and training systems will prosper. Technology will become more important in the networking and restructuring of the Church in its mission.

Whereas “Christian community” has generally been limited to the relationships facilitated within a congregation, the revolution is bursting open the walls of the worldwide Church to birth a truly international network of relationships. The synergies resulting from this expanded horizon will be impossible to quantify – or contain.

Christians’ broader view of the Church and of their own responsibilities will also bring forth a renaissance in global missions. 

There will also be a major impact on the local church….

Existing churches have a historic decision to make: to ignore the revolution and new move of the Spirit and continue business as usual, to invest energy in fighting the revolution as an unbiblical advance, or to look for ways of retaining their identity while cooperating with the revolution as a mark of unity and genuine ministry. Current research suggests that the latter approach of embracing change and the revolution will be the least common.

For the local churches whose leaders choose either to ignore or fight the revolution, the consequences are predictable. A percentage of them will be seriously impaired by the exodus of individuals – even though it may be just a few people leaving an already tiny congregation. Other churches will continue as if nothing new were happening in the faith world. However, every church, regardless of its public response to the move of the Spirit, will feel increasing internal and external pressure to get more serious about ministry and to lock into a vision from God for the congregation’s existence. 

We will see a reduction in the number of churches as presently configured (congregational-formatted ministries). Church service attendance will decline as Christians devote their time to a wider array of spiritual events. Donations to churches will drop because millions of believers will invest their money in other ministry ventures. Churches’ already limited cultural influence will diminish even further at the same time that Christians will exert greater influence through more disparate mechanisms. Fewer church programs will be sustained in favour of more communal experiences among Christians.

A declining number of professional clergy will receive a livable salary from their churches. Denominations will go through cutbacks and executives will be relieved of their duties as their boards attempt to understand and halt the hemorrhaging.

To some, this will sound like the Great Fall of the Church. To revolutionaries, it will be the Great Reawakening of the Church. New scenarios do not mean mayhem and dissipation, In this case, I believe they represent a new day in which the Church can truly be the Church – different from what we know today, but more responsive to and reflective of God. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Fifty

As this new movement of the Spirit grows, sparked by the spiritual renewal of believers, people’s faith experience and expression will be substantially altered. For instance, believers will not have an institution such as the local church to use as a crutch or excuse for wimpy faith. In this movement each believer consents to be personally responsible for his or her spiritual state – whether that’s growth or stagnation. Complaints about the pastor, church staff, programs, or other obstacles disappear from the conversation of believers: the onus is now on the believer to put up or shut up. The failure to develop a robust spiritual life becomes the responsibility of the person God intended: you!

This shifting responsibility will affect all dimensions of spirituality: Besides personal growth, believers will bear the obligation for performing acts of community service, promoting the Gospel of the Kingdom among family, friends, and social contacts, growing their family in faith maturity, worshipping God regularly, developing intimacy with God, understanding and applying the content of the Scriptures, representing the Kingdom in all walks of life, investing every resource they manage for holy outcomes, and being connected to a community of God-loving people. No more waiting for others to do the job; every person caught up in this revolutionary move of the Holy Spirit must handle the duty to be the Church with dedication and excellence.

This transition also means that believers will have a much wider base of options to choose from. The field of possibilities will no longer be restricted to what a congregation proposes, or what their denomination’s agencies suggest. A global infrastructure of revolutionary activities and alternatives will emerge, making plentiful choices accessible. Because this move of the Spirit will naturally encourage people gifted in specific areas to produce ministry that exploits those gifts, the range and quality of option will expand the influence of the Church and every believer.

Expect young people to be taken more seriously as spiritual beings and even leaders in this new move. Revolutionaries have the duty to raise their family to be the Church. Instead of passing off their children and young adults to others in the hope that someone will do something that bears some fruit, believers will accept God’s challenge to raise each young one to become a spiritual champion. The breadth of the revolution will make ample assistance available to satisfy that obligation without allowing these parents to abdicate their duty.

In the end, the revolution transforms believers so that they can transform the world. Their perception of faith becomes more real and personal. Their relationship with God becomes more natural and intimate. The Bible becomes a true book of life-giving wisdom, indispensable for right and holy living. The very life of the believer becomes a means of worship and outreach. And, tent-making – the practice of working at a non-religious job as a means of paying the bills while facilitating one’s desire to be a genuine representative of Christ in the world – moves from a quirky, first-century idea to a defining, personal lifestyle. 

Next time – the impact of the new move of the Spirit on the Christian Community….