This month I celebrate an important milestone in the history of my ministry. It was in July, 1963 in Baltimore, MD that I preached my first public sermon and began both a spiritual and intellectual journey in discovering the God of Christianity. I am not clear now on what exactly brought me to this discussion to embrace ministry in my teens.
I do recall several events that may have influenced me. My dad was a pastor; we were having an explosion of youth receiving the Holy Ghost, as we termed it in those days; and my quest for biblical knowledge was consuming me. There were several sign gifts that helped build my confidence as I started out. I discovered I had a phenomenal ability to memorize scripture and I started playing the piano without any pervious lessons.
By now, I was used to hearing people call me strange, different, odd, and a loner. But it was my sixth grade teacher who made the biggest impression on me early in school. She kept telling me “You are an intelligent young man.” Not sure I even knew what that meant, but it resonated with me for years. While reflecting on my 50 year journey so far, I discovered that 2013 and 1963 are identical calendars. What does all this mean? A long history that has come full circle and accomplished very little.
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We are in a war between “rights” and “morals” and it obvious who is winning. America has a history of making what Christians have called in the past “vices” legal. When gambling became legal we got the lottery. When alcohol became legal we got state run stores. When churches became legal we got tax exempt status. What do we do when sin in general becomes legal? Constitutionally, we are enforcing the very core of this country’s real purpose. We were not formed to make a Christian nation, but a nation of individual rights. Everything in between we owe God praise and honor for the breathe He allowed us to experience. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. A melting pot of culture, religion, and the right to live my life my way. If institutions interfere with my rights then we just have to change the institutions.
We really can’t expect the world to comply with what they have not embraced. Jesus command was to “Go make disciples.” The Church needs to return to evangelism. When was the last time you heard the terms “repent”, “sin”, even a call to salvation in churches? We have become so self-absorbed in marketing our empires all we worry about is getting enough money to, as they say. “Advance the kingdom.” But don’t we really care who is populating the kingdom as long as they have a contribution to make. Have they been discipled or merely celebrated because of their contribution? We even have this attitude in churches and congregations are running the vision and mission of the church in the name of the people. We have rights – yes – the right to live and die. Everything in between we owe God praise and honor for the breath He allowed us to experience.
The “Light” is getting dim in America. Who has the courage to flip the switch back on to the “Light” of God’s Glory? Who is on the Lord’s side, let them come forward and pray not fight.
Jesus pointed out three misconceptions regarding worship to the woman at the well in John 4:21-24.
(1) KNOWLEDGE– Jesus began with the woman’s comprehension of what she practiced or knew (knowledge) as “worship.” That is the problem, many of us are trapped in traditions that were never fully explained or validated as scriptural or biblical. It is because we don’t take the time to study and research for ourselves that we come up with wrong conclusions to right ideas. Relearning what God really wants from us in worship must be sought and not imagined.
(2) LOCATION – Jesus then redefined the location of worship (the place) from a geographical structure to a supernatural reality. His attempt was to release one from the visible reality of a manifestation of God’s Glory; and then transport them to a faith-walk imprinting the presence of God in our minds. We have gotten so accustomed to physical structures that reflect worship (i.e. tabernacles, temples, sanctuaries, and churches); and mark time and space to capture the Glory, we are in essence lost in our own inventions. So we never journey to the supernatural because we see too much in the natural.
(3) PATTERN – Jesus then moved to the pattern of worship (Spirit and Truth). We must journey between the visible to the invisible and back again. In other words, our worship must invoke the presence of God as we assure ourselves that our prayer language is reaching the Throne Room. We really can’t have one without the other. The Holy Spirit is activated by the personification of Truth in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The need for Jesus Christ to become Truth, not just give truth. We are too factual and not focused on essence of truth because the wisdom of truth has not invaded our knowledge of truth.
Doctrinal differences and not doctrinal clarity are what define the diversity in the Protestant community. Along with that, what started out in the 1500s as an attack on the organized church to reform its practices and return to the scriptures, has in fact become a rebellion. So I ask who then can properly interpret scripture and bring truth to light? Over 600 years ago, the Protestant Reformation cried foul and offered every person the opportunity to read the scriptures for themselves and do their own interpretation. They suggested the bible be printed in the language of the people and let it be the sole interpreter of itself. What a disaster this has been. Countless messiahs and numerous cults later, the problems still have not been solved. Jesus stated when he returns will He find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8). I wonder does this means faith in God or faith in one another?
Christianity has always been a movement of a society within a society. It was never mandated to change the world order of its’ day. It defended the governments and rulers of the societies Christians lived in and called people out of darkness into the light of a new coming world order. The Church in essence, has been called to create its’ own society of Faith, while living in the corruption of the world. Jesus prayed to the Father, regarding the disciples, not to take them out of the world, but to keep them in the world.
Today, when a government of one country has a lot of citizens travelling or living in another country, or wants to maintain a presence in that country, it puts up an Embassy; an isolated place of refuge where citizens of one country are exempt from the rules of another country as long as they can get to the place.
The Church in essence is like a government “Embassy.” We are living in a foreign country with dual citizenship in Heaven. We have been called out to maintain a presence. To gather like-minded people who want to change their citizenship while they are living in a foreign land and create a society within a society of new thinkers that love the Lord above all else. Citizens who are brave enough to “market” a new way of living while walking on the same old dirt.
Evangelism today is faced with new and challenging dilemmas of communication and effectiveness. New trends birth new methods of evangelism for the church. However, should we forsake the core of the gospel message for the greed of establishing new empires? A healthy church then is a church that is accomplishing the Great Commission of Jesus Christ to take the gospel into the entire world. A healthy church sponsors growth through involvement. A healthy church must address cultural and ethic differences not by making them like us, but molding them into the image of Christ
I believe we have only seen a glimpse of the impact Christ intended the church to have in the world today. The church was established to have dominion over the kingdom of darkness and establish a real kingdom presence on earth. In fact the church started out being persecuted by civil government and later became the very tyrant that it prayed about being delivered from. Along the way the impact of the Holy Spirit directed truth in the form of canonical scripture to triumph over ecclesiastical order and civil corruption. The Holy Spirit also revived the establishment of spiritual gifts as a means of calling attention back to the supernatural.^DMG
Paul used several metaphors to relate his interpretation of the “church.” In Eph 2:19, he refers to the church as a “household” and in v21, as a “building” and a “temple.” Also in I Cor. 12:13-27, Paul sets out to make an analogy of the human body as a metaphor for the church. Paul reveals that the mystery of the church was a hidden reality (Eph 3:7-11); the book of Acts records that the growth of the church is by supernatural intervention (Acts 2:47); and the power of the church is in the distribution of spiritual gifts to every believer for a witness (1 Cor 12:7; 11). The church is to be a people of Faith in which the Holy Spirit takes up residence. ^DMG
The people who received the message of Jesus Christ were then called the “church.” They met in cell pockets in different locations and discipled new converts into the Faith. The importance of where they worshiped and what they called “Houses of Worship” were a later development and could be concluded as adding more complications to the growth and development of Christianity. ^DMG