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….

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Forty-Nine

So, let’s look at why this current Kingdom movement – the revolution – matters.

Change is a constant as we all know. It is an unavoidable part of life. We endure changes and their personal implications every day – changes in technology, global politics, public policy, personal relationships, professional status, self-image, and more. Some of those changes happen to us; others happen because of us; all of them have some degree of influence on who we are and how we live. 

Think about past revolutions and the effect they have had on the world. The Protestant revolution redefined faith. The religious authority structure was altered. The place of the Bible was radically changed, from a sacred book interpreted for the masses by professionals to God’s personal words to sinners. Worship became more intimate. The burden of responsibility for the breadth and depth of faith jumped from the local church to the individual. The Pope went from being the preeminent religious leader of planet Earth to the preeminent religious leader of the world’s largest denomination.

The revolution of faith that is swelling within the soul of many nations today is no different in scope. It will affect you and everyone you know. Every social institution will be affected. This is not simply a movement: it is a full-scale reengineering of the role of faith in personal lives, the religious community, and society at large.

The burgeoning faith revolution is markedly different from the two major faith revolutions that changed the face of the Church – and that took place in the United States of America with worldwide implications. 

The Great Awakening swept through America from the 1730s through the 1760s. Like all successful revolutions, it provided new leaders, language, ideas, technologies, and structures. The Second Great Awakening in the 1820s and 1830s, introduced similar realities. But the catalyst for both of these religious juntas was an emphasis on sin, the need for forgiveness, and the means to salvation. The ultimate product was the first-time spiritual conversion of sinners. The Great Awakenings were spiritual revivals in the truest sense.

The new revolution we are now seeing differs in that its primary impetus is not salvation among the unrepentant but the personal renewal and recommitment of believers. The dominant catalyst is people’s desperation for a genuine relationship with God. The renewal of that relationship spurs believers to participate in spreading the Gospel. Rather than relying on a relative handful of inspired preachers to promote a local revival, the emerging revolution is truly a grassroots explosion of commitment to God that will refine the Church, redefine the Church,  and result in a natural and widespread immersion in outreach. This is the Church being restored so the Holy Spirit can work effectively through the Body of Christ. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Forty-Eight

The apostle to the gentiles, in his letter to the Romans, offers guidance in seven areas of life as seen in the life of a revolutionary: spiritual practices, personal faith, perspective on life, attitude, character, relationships, and behaviour. We looked at the first four over the past few days…

1> Spiritual practices 

2> Personal faith

3> Perspective on life 

4> Attitude

5> Character

Jesus majored on the character traits of His twelve disciples. Paul picks up the baton and drills home the evidence of revolutionary character. Integrity is a must-have quality: honesty, reliability, and trustworthiness are hallmarks he describes for the Romans. These characteristics make a change agent honourable.

Humility is a big issue for revolutionaries. We have no grounds for arrogance; we are lowly sinners incapable of earning salvation according to the rules. Knowing who and what we are, in comparison to the standard set by Jesus, should help us stay realistic.

Empathy is another trait Paul singles out as critical. If we are to be lovers of God and humankind, it will be hard to accomplish that goal without warmth and compassion. 

6> Relationships

Revolutionaries are to be known by their excessive love for God and people. Once again, consistently following through on this is one tall order. How can we do it?

Paul recommends that we aggressively look for opportunities to bless people. He suggests that we strive for peace and harmony with them, which we can facilitate by avoiding senseless arguments. He also moves us to realize that we need each other for the fabric of the Kingdom to be complete (see Romans 12). A team player mentality fosters loving relationships, rather than competitive or jealous interaction.

It is important to see that Paul also highlights the special responsibility revolutionaries have to each other. They are to seek unity with each other and always honour others. If we are to be the model for the world, what people see when they watch us together must reflect the affection and spiritual attachment we have for one another. 

7> Behaviour

The revolutionary lifestyle might be summarized as clean and productive.

Look at what Paul writes about the transformational life. He calls the believers to holiness, for goodness’ sake (see Romans 12:1). We know that God alone is holy and that Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf gives us the spiritual holiness to be with God in Heaven, but in the meantime we are challenged to live an ever more pure and perfect life as evidence of our cooperation with the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Obedience to God’s standards, motivated by our gratitude and desire to please Him, is crucial in this pursuit of the holy life. Paul points out that this effort should result in our being respectable representatives of the Kingdom. 

The clean nature of our lives is certainly associated with how we think. We are prompted to scrutinize our thoughts in order to resist those that dishonour God. Revolutionaries are also encouraged to rely upon a “transformed” mind; because our actions flow from our thoughts, we must think like a transformed human being if we hope to act like one

The changed mind of the revolutionary will produce different lifestyle choices. Working hard, producing good deeds, and avoiding debt are examples of the productive life that emerges from an intense commitment to God. 

Do you want to determined if someone is a revolutionary? Look at the characteristics Paul list in Romans, and compare them to the person in question. Even under the best circumstances, you will never find a perfect, 100 percent match. But as you examine the life of a genuine revolutionary, you will notice that he or she is different from the pack.

Did you notice the overlap between Paul’s instructions and the spiritual passions of the revolutionary we looked at in this series a few weeks ago? Paul hits them head-on: genuine worship, fearless outreach, consistent spiritual growth, wise investment of resources, opportunistic servanthood, and meaningful spiritual relationships.

How do you fare in relations to these attributes? 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Forty-Seven

We started looking at how you can tell if someone is a revolutionary? As Jesus taught, you look for the fruit. But what are the relevant behaviours that support the verbal intimations? Again the Bible is the best source of such measures. I believe that not only was Paul the apostle a stellar revolutionary, but his letters to the churches he mentored provide tremendous insight into the distinguishing attributes of genuine revolutionaries. 

The apostle to the gentiles, in his letter to the Romans, offers guidance in seven areas of life: spiritual practices, personal faith, perspective on life, attitude, character, relationships, and behaviour. We looked at the first two last time …

1> Spiritual practices 

2> Personal faith

3> Perspective on life

Paul encouraged the early believers to be firm and focused. Focused on what? Producing fruit! As he wrote to the Roman disciples, “I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit” (Romans 1:13)

More particularly, revolutionaries are urged to place their faith in God above all else, to be considerate of the needs of others and bless them whenever possible, and to be realistic in self-assessment. The bottom line in all of this: never lose confidence in your ability to make a lasting and positive difference in the world.

Bearing fruit is not easy. Paul does his best to describe the toughness of mind that a disciple and revolutionary will need to make a difference. He challenges the believers to turn a deaf ear to illegitimate criticism. He warns them that they will face hardships: trouble, calamity, persecution, hunger, poverty, and even death threats. And he cautions that God Himself may punish those He loves because of their offences.

Revolutionaries are, indeed, a different breed of people. They accept the fact that life on earth is all about life after earth, and they live accordingly.

4> Attitude

The attitude of a true revolutionary is assured, appropriately righteous, and upbeat.

And why not? Who would not feel secure knowing that they are connected to the omnipotent and omniscient God of the universe? That’s why Paul tells revolutionaries they ought to be confident and fearless.

And who wouldn’t be righteous, realizing that their sole purpose is to obey God, based on the clear directives He has provided? When Paul admonishes the world-changers to hate evil, love goodness, and be patient, respectful, and forgiving (Romans 12:9-21), that mind-set makes sense in the context of serving the Lord of truth.

And who wouldn’t be upbeat about their existence, given the promises of the God they serve? Encouraging the body of revolutionaries to remain happy and joyful is not much of a stretch if you can stay focused on the big picture.

More next time…

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Forty-Six

Jesus’ test of a true disciple was the fruit that emanated from their life. He encountered numerous people who talked a good game (such as the Pharisees), but He was only enthusiastic about those who lived what they claimed to believe. Today there are many people who like to think – and make others think – that they are revolutionaries and thus part of the new movement in the Kingdom; true believers and disciples of Jesus. But their lives betray that deception.

How can you tell if someone is a revolutionary? As Jesus taught, you look for the fruit. But what are the relevant behaviours that support the verbal intimations? Again the Bible is the best source of such measures. I believe that not only was Paul the apostle a stellar revolutionary, but his letters to the churches he mentored provide tremendous insight into the distinguishing attributes of genuine revolutionaries. 

Paul’s letter the the church in Rome stands out as perhaps the most forthright commentary on what such change agents look like. This is not surprising, since it would have taken robust faith to flourish as a Christian in the nucleus of the Roman Empire. There are great similarities between the context of the early Roman Church and the contemporary church in many nations today. The apostle to the gentiles offers guidance in seven areas of life: spiritual practices, personal faith, perspective on life, attitude, character, relationships, and behaviour. 

1> Spiritual practices

Paul’s view of a true disciple and thus revolutionary is that they are connected: they have formed a deep bond with God and relate to people intimately because of that bond.

Paul highlights several specific practices for the early believers. Early in his letter, he underscores the importance of constant prayer and worship. Later on he reminds the Christians to pull out all the stops to get the Good News a fair hearing by everyone and to use supernatural abilities God gave them for acts of service.

Recognizing that no one can anticipate everything that will come their way, Paul entreats Christ’s devotees to remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit. His final exhortation regarding their spiritual practices is to do whatever they can to build up others’ faith.

One of the lessons from this letter that is most impressive was that Paul, like Jesus, was less concerned about religious ceremonies and completing a checklist of activities and events than he was about people being tuned in to God. Not once did he rant about being present at church every week or completing specific amounts of activity. His message was profoundly simple: stay in touch with God and follow your instructions as provided by God. It is all about deepening your relationship with God, not about consistently engaging in your routines.

2> Personal faith

While Paul’s key message on spiritual practices was to be connected to God, the overarching message Paul had for believers regarding the development of their personal faith was simply to be available. Available for what? Available to do whatever it takes to grow your faith stronger. Available to hear and respond to the Spirit of God. Available to see Him work through you because of your trust in Him.

Paul describes this accessibility another way by prompting believers to “give themselves completely to God” (Romans 6:13). He called disciples to surrender every dimension of their lives to God. Nothing shows your faith more irrefutably than your willingness to give away control and follow any directive given by your leader (Jesus). Surrender is proof of conviction in the life of a true disciple (revolutionary). 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Forty-five

We are discussing the changes that happen to the disciples of Jesus, believers today —revolutionaries – when they become involved in the revolution. Typically, four highly significant changes appear to be produced by a revolutionary’s investment in a revolution. We have looked at 3 of 4 changes; Realigning personal identity; Clarifying Core Beliefs; Being part of a community. Moving on…

4> New forms of behaviour

Modern life is an exercise in dealing with distractions. It has been argued that one reason we feel stressed, fatigues, and ineffective is that there are so many distractions in our day that we struggle to finish critical tasks, rarely focus completely on any specific pursuit, generally feel as if other choices might have been more satisfying, and compromise the quality of our performance by juggling so much simultaneous activity.

Intentional and strategic change – especially on a major scale – occurs because it has been tirelessly pushed through by believers with blinders. Revolutionaries’ extreme resonance with the cause enables them to deny the multitude of distractions and seductions that could dissipate their effect. Sometimes these people are seen as narrow-minded or uninteresting because of their laser-like focus on revolutionary ideas. Such negative characterizations are meaningless to the revolutionaries. They receive their energy and their affirmation from God in ways that the world at large will never understand.

This disregard for the world’s applause, combined with their intense dissatisfaction with the existing reality, enables them to do what they believe is right, oblivious to public reaction, are simultaneously intriguing and scary to those who uphold the societal norm. In fact, this public fascination with and resistance to revolutionaries’ behaviour serve to spur the change agents on to ever more advanced forms of transformational activity.

So, as we bring these four personal changes together in the revolutionary we see “a new person.” 

In the end, the revolution may be more about reshaping the revolutionary than it is about altering the course of society. Revolutionaries themselves comprehend what is at stake and how critical it is to model transformation so others are more likely to buy into the process and its outcomes. The ultimate desire, of course, is to influence the world for Christ. But the means to accomplish that lofty end is to be revolutionized by the revolution. 

The Church Jesus Is Building – Part Forty-four

We are discussing the changes that happen to the disciples of Jesus, believers today, when they become involved in the revolution. Typically, four highly significant changes appear to be produced by a revolutionary’s investment in a revolution. Last time we saw the first one: Realigning personal identity. Let’s move one to the second and third changes.

2> Clarifying core beliefs

There is no room in a revolution for those who are ignorant of the foundational beliefs and philosophy of the revolution. These movements live or die on the vitality of their foundational, seminal ideas – ideas about truth, justice, value, freedom, and similarly weighty matters. God’s revolution is no different. The soldiers of this revolutionary band must champion the breath and profundity of the worldview God provides. By personally embracing those perspectives, their lives are altered. 

Revolutionaries have a wholly biblical outlook on life, based on the belief that the Bible is God’s perfect and reliable revelation designed to instruct and guide all people. The core beliefs of the Christ-followers relate to the existence, origins, character, and purposes of God; the origins and purpose of people; the need for and means to eternal salvation; the repository and content of moral and spiritual truths; and the existence, powers, and role of various spiritual beings. 

Possessing a biblical point of view on all matters, and allowing it to drive your moment-to-moment decisions, enables you to distinguish yourself from conventional thinking and behaviour.

Know this: you become what you believe. Because your core spiritual convictions dramatically influence your life choices, your major spiritual beliefs shape your self-image and behaviour. The revolution, because it is based on applying biblical principles, constantly elevates and clarifies the central beliefs that facilitate sinners being transformed into forgiven, satisfying servants of the living God. 

3> Part of a community

Having a reference group as an anchor is important. Revolutionaries are often iconoclastic and frequently initiate their journey toward a new life with the intention of being fiercely independent rebels who will show the world how to do things the right way. Almost inevitably, these people discover three important things:  they are not the only ones dissatisfied with the status quo, it is difficult to sustain their rebellion when they are alone in the process, and they are having less influence on their own than they expected. The result is for them to join forces, carefully but enthusiastically, with others who seem to be on the same wavelength.

Individuals involved in the revolution of faith that is currently redefining the Church in many nations are predisposed to community activity. Why? They have been exposed to biblical preaching that emphasizes the relational nature of God and the connectional character of ministries. As much as they may appreciate the intensity and gutsiness of John the Baptist, they recognize that a solitary voice in the desert has less effect than a united voice in the marketplace. This is a major point of difference between social malcontents, who often act out their displeasures in isolated and unconstructive ways, and social reformers, who refuse to accept what is and agree to work in tandem with like-minded reformers to introduce needed transformation.

Integrating into a pool of compatible change agents has tangible benefits. Each revolutionary’s impact is multiplied by being part of a larger, harder-to-ignore group of companions. An individual’s personal skills and gifts are exploited to maximum advantage, while the community compensates for each person’s deficiencies. Affirmation from fellow transformers leads to increased strength, and being part of a larger force builds self-confidence. 

Both the cause and the individual are better off because of accountability in relation to thinking, message, behaviour, and resource use. Revolutionaries take pride in their connection to the community of fellow zealots. As in any society, it is the community to which they belong that sustains them and nurtures them through the good times and the bad. This adopted community anchors them both to reality and to the idealism to which they aspire. 

More next time….