The music is driven by the melodious rhythm of drums, keyboard, guitars, and even a vast array of horns, and even a harp and violin. The music speaks of victory, freedom, redemption, hope, and Jesus Christ. It might seem a little bit more rocky to a traditional church goer but in and of itself there is nothing seemingly wrong with it.
The difference though is immediately apparent. All house lights are out and in their place are red, blue, yellow, and green can lights mysteriously penetrating through what seems to be, yes…it is, a layer of fog coming from a fog machine. The stage is awash in purple lighting with the theme and motive of the church splashed in artistic colors on the background of the wall. Every now and then, the occasional flash of moving laser lights may catch your attention. Every now and then you may actually see a person in flowing garments dancing across the stage, almost appearing to be in a hallucinogenic high, twirling and gesturing back and forth across the stage.
The drummer with waist length hair whips back and forth as he moves to his perfected beat. He is wearing a tank top, shorts, and flip-flops to match the vast array of casual apparel worn by the other singers on the stage. The “congregation” is swaying back and forth in unison to the “prophetic” melody of what almost sounds like an old Pink Floyd anthem. Ecstatic sounds of elation and melodious improv pierces the darkness lit by the multi-colored light show.
Finally, after the “soaking” service has reach its peak and has come back down to the norms of reality, a man walks to the platform in Converse shoes (I love converse shoes btw), faded blue jeans with a fear fashionably placed tears, and a slightly too-small t-shirt with a large smiley face patterned across the front. This is, and I sling out a name, Pastor Tim. There is no pulpit, but must a short little black stool and a small folding music stand.
The sermon won’t be long, there will be no lifting of the voice, and there will definitely be nothing from the Word of God that deals remotely with what may be considered negative, judging, or seriously challenging. Instead, the focus will deal with love, hope, peace, community, happiness, and Christian living. More than likely there will not be a traditional altar call at the end. Most “confessions” take place during the “soaking worship.”
Finally, upon dismissal, the congregation converges upon the coffee shop and enjoys fellowship as they plan future events to volunteer, impact community, arrange Bible groups, and chat about everything normal people chat about.
While there may be a few that will read this and cast upon me the label of “judgmental,” I will submit that all I have done thus far is to illustrate for you what is actually happening in many churches today. Often, this is the portrayal of the “relevant church.” I now speak, and I speak with no shame or embarrassment on my part, but I speak now as a minister of the Oneness Apostolic Faith. The faith that was once delivered to the Apostles by Jesus and that which was delivered to me.
I do not speak with superiority but I speak as a sinner saved by grace through faith by the glorious infilling of the Holy Ghost and Baptism in Jesus name. I am not a perfect man nor do I claim to have all the answers. Each and everyday that I live it is my prayer that I know God more, love people more, and reach more people with the incredible Truth provided by the Word of God. Nothing can pluck me out of my Father’s hand…but I can walk out of it myself. Just because I have received the Holy Ghost, live a separated life from various things of the world, and claim the revelation and truth of the Apostolic faith does not solidify my salvation. Everyday I must die to myself and endeavor to live and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit that dwells within me. I must exhibit love towards people, resist the hypocritical robes of self-righteousness, and reach towards the mark of the high calling.
In the first two posts I have made it clear, hopefully, that we are living in a generation of “nones.” Our present is being dominated by godless men and women who fill governmental positions, fill professorships in our institutions of learning, and encroach continually upon the religious liberties we cherish so dearly. But my question deals with the Apostolic church and the many, primarily in the generations that span 40 and below, that are leaving our churches to embrace a reformation called relevant.
Why and how does it happen that one can leave some of the greatest worship experiences and some of the greatest preaching our nation has ever heard? How is it that men and women can leave so precious a faith and so powerful a revelation and embrace the superficiality of relevant church?
Here I present an honest theory and I realize it may not be the popular. I preface this theory with a very loud disclaimer. I am NOT excusing those who through consistent rebellion refused to commit, serve, and adhere to the authority of the church and in turn left with a bitter spirit. We have always had and will continue to have individuals who constantly gripe about dynamics of a local church. They will complain about outreach efforts and yet they are never helping with outreach. They will gripe about the lack of love and fellowship but they are always the first ones out of the door and rarely would they ever dream of volunteering to help the very functions they gripe about not happening.
Typically this group of individuals serve as leaches that suck the life out of all that is healthy around them. Always unhappy with leadership and the church. However, when getting to the core of the issue you will find that a vast majority had unteachable and proud spirits that family members, bosses on the job, and friends could never tame.
However, are all those we call “backsliders” a result of their rebellion, wickedness, and sinful life? Are we really to declare that the church NEVER had a problem, preachers NEVER made mistakes, and nothing was ever done incorrect by leadership and members? LET ME MAKE THIS CLEAR! THIS IS NOT A POST FOR THE BITTER, ANGRY, AND NOW DEPARTED individuals as a post of vindication and a “yeah…you are right…TELL THEM.” If that is how you view this…it explains the condition of your heart at this very moment.
Let us look once again at the major points of the mission and purpose of these “relevant churches.”
When one goes through this list one could easily admit that the vast majority of points are actually good things (within their proper context.) Community, love, acceptance, restoration, anti-religion, discussion, relationship, modernity…these are good things, right? The problem with these lie in the fact that each of them are fairly Biblical in scope.
The Bible speaks of being IN the world but not OF the world. Love is one of the most discussed and required elements of any Christian life. Acceptance in its proper context was seen commonly by Jesus and the disciples. Restoration is seen many times. Jesus was against the incorrect application of “religion.” Modernity…it had its measure of validity. Discussion was commonly presented and relationship a great theme of the Word of God.
Just like the vast majority of “nones” in our society today that have a background or home that was at some point affiliated with a religious movement so also I have found that many of these “relevant churches,” are composed of leadership and staffers once connected to another religion. Many times those who leave the Apostolic church will never go to church again. However, it has been seen that very seldom do those who leave became members of various churches of the denominational protestant world. The vast majority connect to what is labeled “charismatic” and now what is called “relevant.”
The reality of the relevant reformation is that it isn’t that they have a handle or bearing on doctrine but they have a handle and bearing of many things we LACK. It is a reformation that is capitalizing (and preying) upon the hurt, broken, pained, disconnected, and insecure. Yes, they capitalize on the rebellious also, but I will submit that many who embrace the relevant movement are looking for the other side they did not find in Pentecost.
Many of the relevant churches claim to be reaching the “unchurched,” and thus they are attempting to affect the fastest growing group of “religious unaffiliated” in our country. However, while they may be doing their best to draw the unchurched, it is quite obvious from their mission statements that they will have a higher success rate pulling from churches around them.
When Paul dealt with the church at Corinth he was not afraid to commend them for the various things they did right but he was not afraid to point out the gross imbalance that had happened in their ranks. This, I am afraid, is something we are needing within the Apostolic movement in a desperate way. I am a big fan of spiritual gifts and I would surely want to develop an atmosphere in my life and church that operated in them. I am a fan of great preaching, deep thoughts, and “good church.” There is a reason though that when Paul spoke to the church at Corinth regarding charity and spiritual gifts that he emphasized some very valuable lessons.
1 Corinthians 14:1 (KJV) 1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
Notice that Paul admonished them to FOLLOW after charity (love) and DESIRE spiritual gifts. To “follow” is to “pursue or to run quickly in order to catch.” He was adament in that we should earnestly labor to be put in possessin of that love which beareth, believeth, and endureth all things! (italicized: Adam Clark.)
1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (KJV) 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Paul did not tell them to chase, run after, or pursue spiritual gifts. Rather, he said, DESIRE them. Yes, desire is a strong word, meaning “to burn with zeal,” yet the implication is clear.
1 Corinthians 12:31 (KJV) 31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
Many believe the actual presentatin of this scripture, following the train of thought, “do all men prophecy, do all speak with tongues, do all have the gift of healing,” that Paul was stating in the affirmative, “ye earnestly contend for the best gifts but I shew to you a more excellent way!” Paul then goes immediately to speak of love in chapter 13. I think Peter in his second epistle helps us understand this even better!
2 Peter 1:5 (KJV) 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
There is nothing more damaging to a church body or a ministerial movement than adding knowledge without virtue. In the truest sense of the matter we can understand virtue as the “nature of God.” We cannot say “character of God,” because God doesn’t have character. Character is something that is developed whereas virtue is something one IS. God doesn’t develop! He just IS.
Unfortunately, too much of Pentecostal has added to their faith, knowledge and fail to balance knowledge with virtue. In 1 Corinthians 12:31 when Paul admonished them to “covet earnestly the best gifts,” it can also be understood “covert earnestly the best that GRACE has to offer,” since the word “gifts” is “charis,” what we typically see as GRACE.
If one person stands too long on one leg alone he will fall. The reason he will give for his fall is “I lost my balance.” Can I submit that in too many instances today we are failing ourselves, God, and other people because we have “lost our balance?” We can only stand on great preaching, spiritual gifts, talented worship, and good church for so long. Please understand! It is becoming EVIDENT that we are living in a world right now that is not saved, transformed, or solidified with a GOOD THOUGHT, SPIRITUAL GIFTS, TALENTED CHOIRS, or GOOD CHURCH! We have to get this!
We are so adamant about RELATIONSHIP but lack what the suffix (-ship) implies! One can be RELATED or HAVE RELATIONS but fail to reflect upon the “state or quality” of that RELATION. Just look at some of the words synonyms and related with the word “relationship.”
Synonyms: affinity, association, bearing, kinship, liaison, linkage, relation, connection
Related words: correlation, interrelation; materiality, pertinence, relevance; bond, link, tie; affiliation, alliance, union; identicalness, sameness; alikeness, community, likeness, resemblance, similarity; accordance, agreement, conformity, congruity, correspondence
Now look at the antonyms and near antonyms:
Near Antonyms: breakup, dissolution, disunion; division, parting, separation, severance, split; alienation, divorce, estrangementAntonyms: disaffiliation, dissociation
There is a reason that one of the abominations of God…one of the things He hates was a man who soweth discord among brethren! (Prov. 6:19.) Tragically it isn’t the fiery darts of the enemy that seem to be flying through the air seeking a heart to pierce! It’s the forked tongue of brethren who are constantly finding fault in each other. We are being confronted with another form of what Paul dealt with in his day. We have such a “moving” benchmark. Everyone has their own ideas and thus everyone has their own tape measure that all too often does not match anyone elses tape measure.
We have become, not all but many, a group of people who legislate principles as law. (Example: A good principle is to avoid borrowing and accumulating debt. The Bible teaches this in Proverbs 17:18.) To legislate this as LAW would be ridiculous and practically impossible. However, through wisdom we should teach the PRINCIPLES of borrowing and debt. Suddenly we create DIVIDING lines among brethren, often times based upon principles that are not agreed upon. This is dangerous!
When Paul dealt with the group of Jewish Christians that demanded circumcision He never presented a position that was against them following circumcision! He never had a problem with their HIGHER STANDARD but what he did have a problem with was their ATTITUDE towards those who did not take that certain position. I will never forget one morning in prayer as I was praying about various brethren who will refuse to talk to one another over STUPIDITY how the Lord impressed into my spirit how about the SPIRIT OF OUR CONVICTIONS. God forbid the spirit of our convictions cause us to be in sin! Nothing was wrong with them practicing circumcision but when they looked at those not doing it and judged them all to hell and refused to associate with them and lived in a realm of “better and holier,” their conviction became a sin because of their spirit behind them.
Then on the flip side Paul did declare that we should take heed lest our liberty become a means to offend or cause a brother to stumble. If there are certain things (principles) within a church body that could become a serious issue among some with a weaker conscience and constitution then we should by no means do certain things we might find “pointless” lest those weaker take up those very things we can handle but they cannot!
What is my point in this? Tragically our issues among ministerial brethren hasn’t remained with ministerial brethren. How many tables have I sat at with saints and ministry alike sharing the same table and ministry and those saints are privy to “opinions, gossip, and character assassination” of other preachers and often time over principles! “I heard this from a reliable source…” Does that ring a bell?
Oh that men would once again get on their knees in prayer and connect to the throne of God for other ministries, preachers, and church leadership! It is amazing how saints are rebuked for gossip and the “telephone grapevine,” and it is seen through so many in leadership.
I’ll put it this way…it sure doesn’t cast a positive light upon the “love, fellowship, kindness, and Jesus (likeness) of the church” when this is seen out of saints of God who are truly looking for truth! When an ACRONYM becomes more important than Jesus we have a problem!
The only people who Jesus dealt with in an extremely HARSH manner was the religious zealots who made their converts twice the devil they where. They were snakes, full of dead men’s bones, and the inside of their vessel was polluted and unclean. They legislated everything out of self-righteousness and their pride of position created a serious separation of equality among the people they were supposed to lead. They practiced lordship instead of liberty and they DROVE the people instead of LEADING the people.
One of the greatest mistakes men make today that I believe has driven so many people away has been to DEMAND obedience instead of INSPIRING obedience. Some of the hardest men in the reason of conviction have astounded me in their ability to grow and develop incredible revival churches. How and why is this possible? In those very same men ran a common theme. They loved and lead their people with a meekness and humility. The flock knew the voice of a shepherd and not a hireling. It is amazing what can be done when real love is present! People respond to love. They respond to compassion and concern. People respond to being touched!
I have watched in the same conference two preachers get up and preach practically the same message. Both messages were HARD. Both messages dealt with issues that were guaranteed to step on toes. However, one preacher screamed and beat the pulpit and you quickly got the feeling that the man was preaching truth but you didn’t feel that his reason for preaching was to save and change but rather to point out where and why everyone was wrong. For the most part, the congregation was quiet, EXCEPT the men and women that mirrored the spirit of the preacher who was preaching. They had plenty of “preach that…come on…tell it like it is!”
However, the second preacher was vastly different. He didn’t compromise on ONE DETAIL but like an artist he used wisdom, illustration, and applicable reasoning. It wasn’t an I’M right and you are all wrong but a sincereness of spirit often accompanied by genuine tears of brokeness from a man that saw the beauty and revelation of the WHY’s and the HOW’s and was desperate to share these incredible truths to sincerely affect and help those he was preaching to. By the time he finished the altars were filled, people were seeking deeper places with God, and the feeling you got was the PRIVILEDGE to be able to sacrifice and serve our wonderful God!
We can either DRIVE and DEMAND or LEAD and INSPIRE…the choice is up to us. The problem however, dealing with so many who have walked away from this glorious truth, is that they developed under a “bully pulpit.” I can personally look back over my life and with personal experience talk of the many times I was witness to this very concept. Recently, I had a conversation with a couple, very close to my generation who with sincere hearts said, “nobody ever told us why!”
It was an atmosphere that RIPPED out rocks. They RIPPED our weeds. They SLASHED and TORE away the world. It was a world in which holiness issues were accompanied with name calling when immodesty appeared and girls were called, “sluts, whores, and prostitutes.” Everything was DEMANDED by a firm promise of rebuke. Every service, no matter where you were with God, you found out you were always going to hell unless you “prayed back through.”
It wasn’t an atmosphere that INSPIRED LOVE but an atmosphere that inspired FEAR. Anyone that struggled with righteousness was viewed as backslid, rebellious, and wicked. Teenagers were never given the ability to actually be teenagers and work their way through a major and important time of shift! It was a generation of questions that got no answers! In fact, very seldom can I remember of TEACHING that occurred to explain various positions of separation, holiness, and doctrine. We SCREAMED one God. We SCREAMED Baptism. We SCREAMED repentance. We SCREAMED separation. We SCREAMED Holy Ghost and the result of not getting the Holy Ghost. It was HOLY GHOST OR HELL. SEPARATION or HELL. REPENTANCE OR HELL.
Generations of parents became enforcers in the home and instruction became destruction because the only lesson ever taught was punishment and disappointment. Discipline became something done TO children instead of FOR children. In all of this where was the beauty of holiness? Where was the joy of living for God? Where was the privilege of separation?
Believe it or not, but there is an extremely powerful concept in teaching principles and laws on WHY WE DO instead of WHY WE DON’T. Why would it hurt to dangle LIFE over people instead of dangling DEATH all the time? In fact, I have come to realize, especially looking back over my own life, that I pretty much recognize my position of death when the beauty of life was revealed! Seriously! What were they such great preachers of in the New Testament church? The glorious truth of the Gospel! The GOOD NEWS!
Somewhere along the line I wonder how many like the couple I talked to truly didnt’ make it because they lived under dogmatic lordship that legislated and seldom ever loved? How many sheep were treated like wolves? How many sheep were starved and hungry for the nurturing touch of a shepherd?
1 Peter 3:8-12 (KJV) 8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. Colossians 3:21 (KJV)
21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
The way we choose to discipline our children can either encourage them to fulfill their God-ordained purpose or cause them to be fearful and discouraged. The word discouraged literally means “disheartened, dispirited, or broken in spirit.” Who does the breaking is of major importance. God loves a broken and contrite spirit but it was an act of the spirit and the heart of the individual that did the breaking. Anyone who has ever been to that place of brokenness with God can remember the BEAUTY of those moments.
However, when a man breaks another’s spirit, it produces anger, defeat, and often is accompanied by “I quit.”
Proverbs 17:22 (KJV)
22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
Remember the old phrase, “you catch more flies with honey?” Well…it’s true. I think too many times men forget who they are preaching to. We are preaching to Daddy’s SONS and DAUGHTERS. I found this list of four things I thought worth posting. Imagine raising children much the same as raising God’s children.
- Never administer discipline when you are angry, frustrated, or resentful. Don’t be too hard on them or expect too much from them; this will only frustrate them.
- Set reasonable expectations and limits. Explain to your children what is not acceptable before they are disciplined. Also, make them aware that they are held accountable for their actions.
- Respond with the correct course of action when your children disobey you. However, do not spank or discipline them for every little thing they do. This type of parenting communicates rejection instead of love.
- Be guided by love. First Corinthians 13:8 says love never fails. Remember, discipline should always be carried out in love.
- Do not abuse them! I believe in spanking, but any type of abuse is unacceptable and bad parenting. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (The Amplified Bible). This scripture is not saying that it is okay to abuse your children. Correction is a sign of love. However, bruises are a sign of abuse.
How many broken-hearted are there that God must try to heal because the brokenness came at the hands of men? How many people have come to despise our doctrine and truth because it was a hammer, a whip, or a death sentence?
Teaching and discussion is so important in the body of Christ. I agree that something are not up for DEBATE but I will submit that often times the primary reason that men are unwilling to teach on a subject or refuse to deal with the questions is their own lack of understanding and knowledge. We are ate up with men whose knowledge of the world of God is still “playing in the kiddy pool.” We must be able to give an answer for why we believe what we believe!
In all honesty, the lack of study among the saints has often times reduced the challenge of leadership to study further themselves. I am a firm believer that the DAY IS GONE where men can just walk into their offices after doing it for so many years and pulling out a neat little thought and preaching some neat little thought. It is done on a regular basis across this nation! Imagine as a preacher if you knew you were going to preach for a very learned and studious preacher. I guarantee, unless your brain doesn’t quite work, that you will truly study the word you are going to preach and make sure what you are preaching isn’t far-fetched or a little “off.” Why? The man you are going to preach for has challenged you to a higher level without ever talking to you!
This is what I believe happens in a church were study and teaching is pushed by leadership. Saints that study the Word of God and don’t take every single word spoken as “God’s truth,” without serious study and reflection automatically will cause a man to spend more time in the Word of God.
However, a lot of times, men have viewed questions as rebellious. In fact, I know young people who were terrified to ask, “Why,” when it came to something they believed and lived as truth. Especially young ministers! “If I ask why then they will think I’m going charismatic or something!” Do you know how many of our young people today know all the right answers to doctrine but could not explain WHY? I recently challenged a group of young adults with many simple and foundational questions on doctrine. They had all the scriptures but could not explain how those scriptures exactly worked and why!
The Berean’s were a people of the Word! They searched the scriptures daily. They received the word with a readiness of mind. How much are we really helping people in discipleship and solidifying their walk with God if we only preach “neat thoughts,” and tell them, “because it’s in the Bible?”
Acts 17:11-12 (KJV)
11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
A bishop, preacher if you will allow me the liberty, was never commanded to be a GREAT PREACHER. We were commanded to preach…yes. However, we were commanded to be “APT TO TEACH!” That means SKILLFUL in teaching. Somewhere along the way we got so caught up in the fancies of sermonizing that we put teaching to sleep and now its in a coma! By nature, more than preaching, I am a teacher. I love teaching to the CORE of who and what I am. There are many men in our nation who are absolutely phenomenal teachers but there is no demand for a teacher.
So what is happening? Teachers are having to become what they are not in order to pay their bills. As long as church numbers are increasing who needs to think and dwell on the LACK OF KNOWLEDGE. There is a destruction occurring in our ranks and too often we are blaming people because they “had not a love of the truth.” Ok…granted…this is the case in many I’m sure…but how can someone love what they do not KNOW?
The grandparents in the Old Testament could have pointed the finger and called the current generation whatever they wanted but somewhere along the way they failed in their duty to TEACH and INSTRUCT!
Exodus 24:12 (KJV) 12 And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.
Deuteronomy 4:9 (KJV)
9 Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons;
Deuteronomy 6:1-8 (KJV)
1 Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it:
2 That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.
3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey.
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
Judges 2:10 (KJV) 10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
Teaching is so vital in the church. Show me a STRONG church and I will show you a church that understands teaching! Show me strong saints and I will show you somewhere in their life was a strong teacher! We are so eaten up with “pulpit idolatry,” and the “itching ears” seeking for a new thought that we fail to recognize that SEED is constantly cast and it never impregnated the womb! The cool preachers with raspy voices and great oratory abilities is touted on a level much higher than anything else. “Oh, hes a teacher?” and suddenly boredom and watch checking starts to happen. WE TAUGHT THIS ATTITUDE SOMEWHERE ALONG THE LINE!
Community is extremely important in the church. Fellowship is crucial. Sadly because of insecurities Pentecost happens to be one of the most anti-social groups of religion in the world. We can’t even say hello to each other in the grocery stores! Maybe there is a reason why people label us as arrogant and mean! I remember a story Ken Gurley told of a church he and his wife attending for 5 years. He said in the entire FIVE years nobody invited them to eat, asked them to their house, or asked them to fellowship beyond church. FIVE YEARS!
The paradox of course is that from the age of zero we instill in our church children to STAY AWAY FROM THE WORLD. Once again, lack of teaching creates a serious imbalance. By the time they are older, you can’t hardly get them involved in outreach, community, or other events that go beyond the church. It isn’t entirely their fault!
It was said once that if you ever take something away from people be ready to provide a substitute. We are not doing this! If the church does not create a FUN environment for the children, young adults, and others in the church they will look for fun elsewhere! Somewhere we figured we could demand everyone to get rid of half the things in the world and then we only come together Sundays and Wednesdays and then as soon as service is over everyone goes back to their own home lives until the do it again the next week.
This isn’t breaking bread and fellowship! The church should be a place of excitement and fellowship. I have found many times throughout my travels that a healthy church is easily spotted by the fellowship after a service. I’ve seen in some places that before I could even leave the lectern people have already practically RAN to the exits without even saying hello or goodbye to a single person in the church!
People desire community. Yes it takes time and effort for people to do it but you know what it shows? “I CARE!” Love screams from our sacrifice of time and our desire to spend time with other people in our church and community. If all the church is in this hour is a place to drag sinners to an altar then we have missed it! Think about it this way. We can view people as souls so much that we fail to recognize them as people!
So we see a visitor come to church…what happens so much of the time? WE DO NOT EVEN CARE ABOUT WHO THEY ARE, WHAT THEY LIKE, WHERE THEY COME FROM…we just immediately shift into… “preach them into an altar and make sure they get the Holy Ghost!” How do you think some of these people feel? Isn’t it quite obvious sometimes? We will give saints time to get things right with God (those who are living in sin and struggling) and yet the first time a person visits a church we SLAM THEM with everything we got to get them to an altar. (I know this is not popular with some but we lose a lot of people because we show how little we care about them beyond their soul.)
Meaner than a snake and yet they have the Holy Ghost! Sure! This happens all the time. One of the greatest issues I personally see that I pray would be taught and dealt with is our failure to push the continuing evidence of the Holy Ghost. We are so big on the INITIAL experience, to the point that it is insane! We break necks, spit all over the place, shake and push people into convulsions, and even some times (I have seen it) grab their chin and shake it to make them stammer.
First off, like the wind, God will blow where He decides to blow. Secondly, we preach how EASY it is to get the Holy Ghost and yet we make it the hardest thing to get once they make it to our altars. Do you know how confusing and frustrating it is to a person to have repented, sobbed and cried, and be emotionally spent and after 45 minutes we won’t let them go and basically make it seem like nothing happened to them at all?
Anyways…I think many times we lose people who get the Holy Ghost because once they “speak in tongues” we are satisfied and drop them like a hot potato. Well, we just dropped a new-born baby on a busy intersection screaming with voices and moving objects. Two weeks into their “conversion” we are shocked they haven’t cut their beard off, or changed the way they dress, or don’t speak like every other good saint of God.
I preached a message one time titled, “What do you do after the baby is born?” Ask yourself this question! How many births occur and we leave them in the field to die? How many occur and we just give them up to whoever wants to adopt them (typically the devil loves to) because we don’t want to spend the time nurturing them and helping them grow. I will submit that getting the baby born is the first step. It is painful and involves a lot of change but I will submit that AFTER the baby is born is the deciding factor. Will a mother LOVE the baby or not?
Something must happen in the mother in order for the baby to succeed and mature. She must have such a love in her for that child that she will be patient, caring, giving, and sacrificial. She will teach that child little things that will develop into ABC’s and crawling and walking, and blowing nose, and going to the bathroom on their own. It is a LIFELONG PROCESS. The birth was just the beginning.
The Bible tells us that you shall know them by their “FRUIT.” Fruit comes from a mature tree that has had environment, soil, and root system all working together. The initial evidence of the new birth is evidence by the tongue because they were given a new heart and our of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaketh or utters. THAT IS JUST THE BEGINNING!
We must disciple, develop, teach, train, and work with these babies and push the develop of CONTINUING EVIDENCE. A lot of people sit around Apostolic churches that showed the initial evidence but have yet to show the continuing evidence of FRUIT. This should be done for everyone! Church kids or people out of the world. We should stop making such a distinction in our discipleship. EVERYONE needs to be disciples…doesn’t matter if they are 3,4,5 generation Pentecost!
There are many reasons beyond rebellion that we are seeing the relevant reformation sweep our people away. They have a bearing or handle on many things we have failed to work on. We can be so spiritual that we are no earthly good. We are dealing with people of flesh and blood that need to be touched like Jesus touched. They need community and fellowship. They need to feel like they are special. They need to feel like they can talk to a preacher. They need to see love and acceptance and joy in living for God. I think it is time for us to reflect and pray. We need some soul-searching.
I pray that we don’t continue to do as Pilate and wash our hands free of blood that is still rightfully staining our fingers. We have a job to do, revival to have, and people to help, encourage, teach, and to equip with the greatest truth in all the world.