In 1978, we started the church I now pastor, based on the leading of the Holy Spirit. In the beginning, God told us to go the way of the Spirit and we “would possess things others have not possessed before.” This word came as we were looking for our first building. We found a building way above our financial means; but, by going the way of the Spirit, we saw how we were able to possess what God prepared for us. We were in a somewhat country setting, so none of the churches exceeded 200 in attendance and we were the largest church within two years. We have always had exceptional blessings in numbers and outreach, but numerical growth was never our goal. Our goal was to produce mature Christians. We were strong on teaching the foundational principles of Hebrews chapter 6, which begins with the admonition, “and let us go on to perfection.”
This has been the established goal for charismatic Pentecostal churches (going back to the holiness movement founded on the teachings of John Wesley). The principle has always been: as we allow God to move “in us”…He will, in the end, work “through us” to perform His great works in the earth. From the beginning, God has proposed to accomplish His purpose through us. I believe the greatest glory of the church lies ahead of us, and this is a time when we need to commit ourselves fully to Him. Through God’s divine program, the initiative belongs to Him and the work is accomplished through us. This is an important principle. If there has been one major problem for mankind since the Garden of Eden, it has been our desire to seize the initiative from God. In our partnership with God, we must always understand that we are the junior partners!
How Can We Produce Lasting Spiritual Results?
Through the great revival of the last 50 years, God’s Spirit has produced an amazing harvest in the earth. I see it especially clear in our mission to Latin America. In the span of a generation, many Latin American countries have changed from limited numbers of evangelical Christians to many being 30-40% evangelical. That is an amazing work of God!
Running along side this movement is another: the church growth movement. The church growth movement has found success, but mostly through attracting Christians from one church to another. Within the United States, we have seen an amazing increase in the number and size of the mega-churches. Yet, at the same time, our country has deteriorated morally and the impact of the Christian church seems to have disappeared. It is now apparent political efforts have been no more effective in impacting the nation than the church growth movement. Now, in the charismatic movement, there is a desire to activate spiritual gifts in people. This often results in people trying to create imaginary words of knowledge and “pretend” miracles of healing.
Everywhere one looks within the American church, people are trying to make something happen by seizing the divine initiative to produce spiritual results. The result will be flesh works. What will God do with our flesh works? A clear picture is seen in the natural when the forestry service tried to get rid of forest fires. Smoky the Bear made us so careful that the number of forest fires decreased considerably. However, a problem occurred when the fires did happen; the intensity of the fires did much more damage. We found out that forest fires are natural and when we to try to usurp natural order, the results can be catastrophic. Many Christians are praying for the fiery presence of God. It will come, but the results might surprise those who are unprepared. For those who do understand the way of Spirit, they will produce a glorious witness as the glory of the Lord is revealed through them. The scriptures tell us how the process will work. I believe we are moving into the Day that will declare it.
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:9-15
Maybe you’ve settled into the church growth movement, or even the Charismatic group that is activating gifts, but it’s time to see what God is doing so we can align ourselves with His plans. I want to remind you that the divine initiative is just that—divine! Let’s find our place being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit so we can be those refined elements fit for the King’s service!