THE CHURCH: A COURAGEOUS COMMUNITY TOUCHED BY THE HAND OF GOD!

Courageous

 

 

 

 

Outline of this Blog Article:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Nature of the Church as the Second Incarnation
  3. The Church and the Kingdom of God
  4. Toward a Trinitarian Theology
  5. Ruined for the Ordinary – The Holy Spirit Empowering for Global Witness

III. Mission and Purpose of the Church

  1. Biblical Leadership
  2. (The sacrament of Evangelism) & Worship

III. Living Like a Community Touched by the Finger of God

  1. A Theology of Language – Do we desire to be Relevant or Prophetic?
  2. “Blow-Up or “Grow-Up”: Some practical Thoughts About Pentecostal churches
  3. Conclusion

Introduction:

Bill Hybels and the church

Bill Hybels is no stranger to anyone who is involved at any level of local church leadership. The man who communicated the inspiring vision for the birth of Willow Creek tells a story of how during one of his summer breaks he was wrestling with the effectiveness of the church in impacting the world for Christ. In a little restaurant he wrote these words, “The local church is the hope of the world and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders.” He goes on to describe his thinking at the moment by stating, “I realized that from a human perspective the outcome of the redemptive drama being played out on planet Earth will be determined by how well church leaders lead.”[1] Any student of theology understands that the church is the instrument that God desires to use in giving physical expression to His divine work of manifesting the Kingdom of God. Howard Snyder, when defining what the church’s role is in God’s Master plan writes, “To be biblical, we must see the church and the gospel within the context of God’s cosmic plan.”[2]  He goes on to present that the Word of God is clear that as we begin to understand the church and its mission when we see the church as part of God’s plan and purpose for the whole creation.[3] The church is not plan “B”, but instead it is the primary agency of God’s divine activity in human history. God’s master plan is that God may glorify himself by uniting all things in Christ. God desires to use the church as His means of reconciling men and women to Him in order that they can serve Him.

A fascinating Biblical account that defines for this writer the unique way that God empowers His church to be a “new community” manifesting the power of reconciliation to a fractured world is found in the (Acts 11:19-30), at the Church in Antioch. There was a diaspora that occurred as a result of persecution that arose connected to the death of Stephen in which believers were scattered throughout Asia Minor. The passage records that there were Greeks that were preaching the Lord Jesus Christ in Antioch and it is in (v 21), in which Luke records, “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.”[4] What an incredible language to describe the favor of the Lord on this company of people. The Jerusalem Church heard what was taking place and sent Barnabas to Antioch (v 22), and he rejoiced in what was taking place that he went to get Saul in Tarsus and bring him to Antioch (v 25). The growth of the church was incredible and it is recorded that these disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (v 26). Why they were not called this in Jerusalem? Surely, those who followed Christ in Jerusalem had to suffer through much persecution from their Roman authorities. This writer assumption is that it was at Antioch that a mixed community of people who would have normally not had any form of relational connection began to become united which was contrary to what was normative. The work of reconciliation was in direct proportion to this church being under the hand of the Lord. The Greek word to identify hand is χείρ, which in its earliest usage denoted transference of power through another’s hands.[5] The Church in Antioch was manifesting the power of God in how many were coming to salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ but also it was made known in the heterogeneous ethnic diversity of their community which became the action of the seal of Divine blessing was on these people.[6] This churches capacity to influence an entire region was a result of their oneness in the Spirit and their expression of love for one another. They embodied the very message that they preached.

The purpose of this theological blog article is to discuss the essential nature of “evangelism” as integral aspect of the biblical nature of the church in the mission of God and the role of the Holy Spirit for the empowerment of believers to evangelize. I will conclude this article with a practical application for the church with specific comments concerning the charismatic tradition. It is my ultimate aim to give theological definition of why the Church is a Courageous Community that ultimately becomes an attractive witness of the Reconciling grace of God as they are touched by His hand. Being who Jesus Christ is to the world and to each other as well as doing what Jesus Christ both did in the past and does miraculously right now in and through His Church.

 

  1. The Church and the Kingdom of God

 

Jesus at the beginning of his ministry in the Gospel of Mark proclaimed these significant words: Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel (Mk 1:14-15). John Bright writes, “Mark makes it plain that the burden of Jesus’ preaching was to announce the Kingdom of God; that was the central thing with which he was concerned.”[7] The Kingdom of God was not a foreign concept for the Jews of the time of Jesus because it was in the vocabulary of every Jew. It involved the whole notion of the rule of God over His people, and particularly the vindication of that rule and people in glory at the end of history.[8]

God in His heart had the divine conviction of offering all people the opportunity to be redeemed. God made covenant with Abraham and in (Gen 17:4-7) he promises Abraham, “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you,  And you will be the father of a multitude of nations. “No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.  I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.” God in His covenant with Abraham was that He was going to bless the nations. In this encounter of special revelation God’s heart is revealed to be for all the people of the earth.

The promise of covenant was much broader than just specifically to the nation of Israel because in the New Testament Paul writes concerning this agreement between God and Abraham was a fulfillment that was on the heart of God. Paul writes in (Gal 3:14), “in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Jesus Christ was that fulfillment of the blessing of Abraham. In this eternal covenant God desires three things: First, He wants to be God. He wants to be His people. Finally, He wants to dwell among us. Jesus fulfilled each one of these requirements.

The Kingdom of God being both a present reality as well as an eschatalogical event places the church in an “in between” in which the church functions as both a community that contends for what Jesus can miraculously do in the “now” and at the same time is waiting for that future time of consummation. The Greek word for church is “ekklesia which literally denotes “the called out ones.” This idea of the church began in the Old Covenant itself and in the Old Testament longing for the true Israel of God’s purpose.[9] John Bright writes that in the church, the New Testament declares, is all the longing for a true Israel fit inherit the promised Kingdom – a longing best summed up in the concept of the Remnant – fulfilled.[10]

 

george eldon laddGeorge Eldon Ladd presents that in order to properly understand the relationship of the Kingdom with the church one’s definition of the Kingdom is important. For Ladd, the Kingdom is primarily the dynamic reign of kingly rule of God, and denotes the sphere in which the rule is experienced. The kingdom is not identified with its subjects. They are the people of God’s rule who enter it, live under it, and governed by it. The church is the community of the Kingdom but never the Kingdom itself. The Kingdom is the rule of God; the church is the society of men.[11]

In order to have an understanding of what is the nature of evangelism as to relates to the church it is important for us to identify the relationship with the Kingdom. This relationship can be summed up in Fee’s following points. First, the Kingdom creates the church.The dynamic rule of God, present in the mission of Jesus, challenged men and women to response, bringing them into new fellowship. The very nature of the church is that there are actually sons who are not sons of the Kingdom.[12] The heart of God has throughout Salvation History from (Genesis 3:15) which is known as the “Protoevangelium” to the book of Revelation is that God would establish His reign and that He would have a people who would represent Him to the world.

It is in this “in-between” time of two ages that David Watson reflects back to the children of Israel and lists four expressions as the “called-out” ones their experiences in the wilderness as a reference point for what is applicable to the modern church of today. First, the nation of Israel were God’s “called –out” ones. God in (Hosea 11:1), declared “When Israel was a child I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”  This is a marvelous shadow of the New Covenant church. God brought Israel through a process of physical salvation.[13] It is by the divine grace of God that He establishes this community and it becomes a place of refuge for people who are attracted to it’s beauty found in a God who loves humanity so unconditionally that He recovers back their lives. Second, God’s people were called for a relationship with Him. This was the basis of the covenants with Abraham and Moses. Abraham became a “friend” of God.[14] Likewise the church enters into a personal corporate relationship with Christ. Third, Israels calling was into a new community, and God called them together. The call of God was not a private affair. Abraham’s calling entailed the promise of descendants to be like the sand and stars in number, comprising a great family of children.[15]

The New Testament emphasis describe that this was a highly attractive to people who were desiring community. The Lord added to their numbers daily. Howard Snyder, in his paper for the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelism in 1974, wrote, “The church is the only divinely-appointed means for spreading the gospel… Further, evangelism makes little sense divorced from the fact of the Christian community… The evangelistic call intends to call persons to be the body of Christ… Biblical evangelism is church-centered evangelism. Evangelism should spark church growth, and the life and witness of the church should produce evangelism. In this sense the church is both the agent and the goal of evangelism.”[16]

As the agent for the Kingdom of God the “ekklesia” both gathers in a specific location but is also participating in continuous community. It is not the activity of the church that is community but rather it is the organic nature in which with all of peoples frail humanity people are challenged to “Be” and not just “Do.” It is in this posture of authentic humility and love that is lived out with one another that the Holy Spirit draws people to engage. The people of God were called to. By faith Abraham was called to a future inheritance. The people of God in Israel was called to a specific goal into a promise.[17]

Suffering has always been the mark of the Church. The church exist in the midst of the dynamic sphere of influence of the Kingdom of God in which He is a God for all time. It is an adventure of faith that the church is called to make. In the words of Leslie Newgigin, [18] The fact that the church has a Kingdom mandate to engage all of creation as a visible manifestation of the Kingdom there is also a culture mandate for Christians as well as an evangelistic mandate – or better, a kingdom mandate that combines both.[19] Thus, God’s action is not limited to only the church but to all creation which the church has a responsibility to serve the social needs that like a seed it is planted in.

Therefore, the church is not the Kingdom of God and it cannot build the Kingdom, but it can preach it and proclaim it.[20] In summarizing this section of my Essay it is important to present that the Community of the King is made up of a company people who all have a story. The story that each person has is the story that is the one that points to a King who restores broken lives. The Kingdom of God is working in the world through the disciples of Jesus Christ who have surrendered to the demand of the Kingdom and constitute the new people of God, the Church.[21] If one does not understand the Kingdom then one cannot understand the Church. If one does not understand the King one cannot understand the Divine calling of the Churches Evangelistic Mission.

 

  1. Toward a Trinitarian Theology

There are many voices that are beginning to give substance to the discussion that many in Protestant Evangelical Churches the idea of being Trinitarian in our view of God would not be something that one would even perceive as being emphasized in church. Alan Andrews writes,“Many Christians are theoretical Trinitarians but practical Unitarians.”[22] The theological reflection behind Alan Andrews comments is the thinking that there is not much consideration about the practical realities of an understanding of a Triune God is not even part of the conversation of many churches. The very Ontological nature of God is one of a diversity in unity in which the Godhead is the “First Perfect System” of all creation. The coherence of the Universe speaks of a Creative God who is coherently united and creates the same order in the cosmic design of creation.

Circle Dance Painting

Ancient Christian writers described the personal relations within the Trinity by the Greek word perichoresis, lierally meaning “dance around.” The term affirms the three persons of the Trinity indwell each other such that supernatural life of each flows among the others.[23]  The Trinity means fundamentally that “God is in himself a permanent conversation, a communion of love, and identity of purpose and unity of action: father, Son and Holy Spirit.”[24] When this student uses the language of the “first perfect system” it would be the same conviction that Howard Snyder would use when writing that the Trinity “is not an enigma to be solved but rather the model on which all human relationships, including the church, should be structured.[25] Because the church is fundamentally a community the eternal perichoresis of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit should “provide the basis for the personal dynamics of the community.”[26]

It is the basis of the Trinity that I am also convinced would be a model of creating a perfect template of maintaining the balanced tension of the churches emphasis of praxis in fulfilling its mission. Christian Schwartz states, “If a church is to maintain balanced ministry it must reflect the passion of a Trinitarian God.” He gives historical argument that different movements have emphasized different aspects of the Godhead. Most mainline churches have been concerned with “social justice” and the meeting of the needs of the poor which reflected the “Father.” It has been the tradition of Protestant Evangelicals to emphasize the need for personal regeneration which reflected the “Son.”

Finally, from his research both Classical Pentecostals and Neo- Charismatics have focused in on personal empowerment which reflected the Holy Spirit.”[27] The final analysis is if the church is to reflect the Trinity it should be concerned with each aspect of the work of the Godhead which then offers a template for balanced ministry. It is the conviction of this student that the rediscovery of a Trinitarian view point of God that accepts the reality of this perspective on our ecclesiology is vital to the renewal of the North American church. The reality of God as Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – has profound implications for Christian Community and mission, both of which are inextricably bound up with Spiritual formation.[28] It is the theological conviction that God is Trinity that allows for the dynamic of Christ-likeness to be formed in the people who form the Community of the King.

  1. Ruined for the Ordinary – The Holy Spirit Empowering for Global Witness

There is no doubt that in the past twenty years there has been the emergence of two streams of religious movements that have experienced global exponential growth and that of the growth of Islam as well as the growth what has been identified as the Pentecostal/Charismatic stream in Christendom. In 1985, there were over 168,000,000 classical Pentecostals and charismatic/Pentecostals in the mainline churches of the world, making up over ten percent of the Christian family.[29] Today, it estimated that twenty-five percent of the total population of Christianity is Pentecostal/Charismatic which is well over 440,000,000 participants.[30] The early part of the previous century unveiled that the role of the Holy Spirit was honored but the explosion of the Pentecostal movement has given rise to many streams within this community.

Howard Snyder when discussing the role of the Holy Spirit in this “new community, cites Leonardo Boff, A Brazilian Liberation Theologian, who states, “Christian Community is based not just on the crucified Christ but on the resurrected Christ and the Pentecostal power of the Spirit which is central to the church’s being.”[31] He continues thinking, “Christianity, with its values rooted in love, forgiveness, solidarity, the renunciation of oppressive power, amend the acceptance of others, … is essentially oriented to the creation, within societal structures, of the communitarian spirit.”[32] The coming of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church not empowers people in their missionary witness for the gospel but it is the unifying power of all members that transcends culture.

There are three core aspects of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity that are significant to present in this paper: First, the church as an empowered community of spiritual gifts.[33] The emphasis of spiritual empowerment with evidence of charismatic manifestations has not only reawakened the church to new expressions of spiritual gifts but has also given rise to specific Kingdom dynamics concerning the theological conviction of God being able to intervene into the “now” of human history with miraculous manifestations of healing. I have entitled this section as it relates to the Holy Spirit as “Being Ruined for the Ordinary” based on Missionary Scholars such as Dr. Douglas Petersen, citing as Howard Snyder’s observations among the Pentecostal church’s impact on the Latin American poor, “In a society that systematically denies them access to basic human rights and marginalizes them to huge slums and shantytowns, the Pentecostals, through the impetus of their spiritual experience, react in practical terms. The feelings of power, praise, and wholeness are interpreted theologically into the concrete realities of spiritual and social liberation, dignity and equality, and a sense of divine empowerment. Their vibrant faith, in a surge of irrepressible courage and hope, rejects thoughts of flight into a mystical world. Pentecostal reality is not a passive escape from the context (as some have argued), but on the contrary, the creation of a new existence (or in this students own language “Ruined for the Ordinary”).[34]

Often times from those outside of this movement Spirit empowerment is interpreted as being a mystical experience that has not outward manifestation in the area of social justice. However, this is in error which transitions into the second core belief that is in the Pentecostal Church which is the church as indigenous missionary community.[35] Pentecostals have a keen sense that being Spirit baptized means being missionaries.[36] Ernest Gentile views this aspect as one of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of the church which makes the church a “missiological community.” Ernest Gentile writes, “The evidence of how cultural barriers were broken and the Gospel moved from Jews to non-Jews through the ministry of Spirit-filled believers gives expression of it’s inspired mission.[37] The church then must multiply itself in order to fulfill it’s Kingdom mandate.

Finally, the third aspect is the church as an eschatalogical sign.[38] In Pentecostal theology, the Spiritual’s outpouring and empowerment is a latter-day gift, a sign that the end of the age is near. It is this core aspect that fuels a passion for their understanding of the key role of the Kingdom coming and God’s plan for history. Thus, the church in its being and witness is an eschatalogical sign.[39]

It is this writers opinion that Scriptural and Historical understanding concerning the Holy Spirit’s manifestation in the church are observed three ways in a variety of contexts: First, the Holy Spirit births transition in both theological mindsets and praxis that adaptable in any ecclesiastical structure. The Pentecostal/Charismatic experience has flowed into other streams of Christianity from mainline protestant churches to the Roman Catholic Church. Though there is controversy that has followed these moves it is undeniable the capacity of these expressions to maintain their conviction for Spirit empowerment and remain in their various denominations.  Second, there is a whole new perspective that takes root concerning the unique role that the Holy Spirit has in the Godhead of uniquely gifting each person for the calling that God has created them to “be” and thus, “do.” I would identify this as the transition from the “institutional” to the “organic.”

Finally, Spirit empowerment restores back to the church a sense of it’s important Kingdom assignment as an agent of both it’s present assignment in it’s missionary role and it’s future assignment as a people who have been chosen for an eternal destiny to rule and reign with the King forever!

 

  1. Mission and Purpose of the Church

 

In this section I will be dealing with the mission and the purpose of the church as it relates to leadership, evangelism and worship. There are many definitions that are given to the Church and Howard Snyder understands the church to be the community of God’s people – a people called to  serve God and called to live together in true Christian community as a witness to the character and virtues of God’s reign.[40]  David Watson states that the concept of the church as ‘the people of God’ – as God’s new society, his family, his community – breaks upon many today as the most thrilling ‘good news’ they could ever hear.[41] Even such institutions as Wheaton College has created a creedal statement in order to give theological definition to the church: “We believe that the one, holy, universal Church is the body of Christ and is composed of the communities of Christ’s people. The task of Christ’s people in this world is to be God’s redeemed community, embodying His love by worshiping God with confession, prayer, and praise; by proclaiming the gospel of God’s redemptive love through our Lord Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth by word and deed; by caring for all of God’s creation and actively seeking the good of everyone, especially the poor and needy.”[42] The power of this declaration is that keeps Christ as Chrsistus Victor, the community of people where the victory of Christ over evil becomes present in and to this world.

In terms of the mission of the church I would agree with Dallas Willard’s conviction that local congregations are made up of children of the light who light up their world. The outcome of this as it finds it’s grounding in the Great Commission of (Matthew 28:18-20), is that spiritual formation in Christ-likeness is the exclusive primary goal of the local congregation.[43] It is because the Church is called to spiritual formation that the church must be committed to releasing of gifts in the form of men and women who are called to equip and nurture people to come along side people who are on the journey of their conformity to Christ. In the my section on Biblical leadership this is my focus to support this perspective.

 

  1. Biblical Leadership

Howard Snyder states that whether we call them elders, deacons, pastors, bishops or superintendents, the fact is that God provides for leadership in the church through the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit. This is God’s ecclesiology.[44] The goal of leadership can be summed up in (Eph. 4:13), “all reach the unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” In this section it is my desire to make three observations concerning people leadership and it relates to the Apostle Paul’s presentation of leaders in (Eph. 4:11).

My first observation is that the goal of leader’s are other focus with the goal being that of equipping the saints to maturity. The main idea of the Greek word equipping is the idea of “putting something in full working order, so that it can function effectively according to it’s design.”[45] The greatest resource is the people who are already in our churches and leader’s must make it their priority to disciple and equip those who are already in the church. Dallas Willard writes, “the most successful work of outreach would be the work of in-reach that turns people, wherever they are, into lights in the darkened world.”[46] Evangelism begins with the building up of people to fulfill their full potential in Christ.

My Second observation is that leader’s must view the people that they serve as people who have a great destiny. The biblical pattern of leadership and ministry clearly permits no rigid distinction between clergy and laity. The New Testament simply does not speak in terms of two classes of Christians – “ministers” and “lay people” as most contemporary Christians do.[47]  People are God’s masterpieces (Eph. 2:10), and they are priests before the Lord (I Peter 2:9), which means they have a great destiny in God to be discovered. There is an old definition of leadership that says leading people means getting them to want to do what you want them to do. That’s actually much more like herding. Lynn Anderson states, “that the real essence of spiritual leadership is the sheep following the shepherd because they know and trust him. This kind of trust and allegiance can be gained only one way – by a shepherd touching his sheep, carrying them, handling them, tending them, feeding them – to the extent the he smells like them.”[48] John Ortberg writes, “that the fact that each human being is created in the image of God Scripturely is not about some ability or trait we shape with God, its about the mission He has given us.Therefore, the language of Scripture is not for leaders to build bigger churches, but rather the main task is the creation of a kingdom of priests.”[49]

Finally, there may be a logical order of the gifts listed in (Eph. 4:11), but there is no hierarchy. There is no sense of superiority over any of the office gifts listed. Matter of fact the listing of the gifts are functional definitions that flow out of relationship.  Men and women who are called to function desire to success of those they serve in greater measure then their own success.

 2. (The sacrament of Evangelism) & Worship

Lausanne Conference manila 

The  idea of people being empowered for Evangelism is one of the outcomes of Spirit Baptism which empowers people for authentic witness. In this section of Scripture I would desire to focus on an address that made great impact by a leader in our Foursquare denomination which is,Pastor Jack Hayford,  was asked to address the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelism in Manila with his presentation that he entitled “A Passion for Fullness.” Jack Hayford speaks of a moment when his friend Paul Cedar who was the Senior Pastor of Lake Avenue Congregational Church located in Pasadena, California, and asked Jack, “What is the language that could be found to describe what he and others who agree with Jack but who came from different traditions concerning what they desired of God?” Pastor Jack stated that the verse in (Ephesians 3:16, 19) “… that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man … to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” The word in this verse that gives the  the language that all could embrace and it was the word “fullness.”[50] It is this “fullness” that Pastor Jack presents five points of conviction that the Holy Spirit was doing in churches throughout the world who desired the fullness of the Spirit in empowering them to be a witness.

Pastor Jack affirms five definite points that mark the Spirit’s miracle workings in the spread of the Gospel: First, he affirms the miraculous immersion of power, by which the Spirit calls, equips, and anoints the messenger to bear witness of the Gospel (Acts 1:8). Second, he affirms the miraculous quickening of the Word proclaimed, as the Holy Spirit causes it to become prophetic and powerfully penetrating and convicting to the hearer. Third, he affirmed the miraculous confirmation of the Word with signs and wonders, by which the Holy Spirit verifies the living presence of Christ Jesus and demonstrates His superiority over all human and satanic power. Fourth, he affirmed the miraculous saving power, by which the Holy Spirit transforms souls from spiritual death to eternal life and brings to each one an abiding peace, hope and joy. Fifth, he affirmed the miraculous reproduction of this grace, by which, people upon conversion, by the help of the Holy Spirit begin to disciple others thus the whole process is miraculous.[51] It is this understanding that we live in the presence of the Future Kingdom now and that Jesus Christ desires that His church be an authentic witness of who He is in breaking down the satanic strongholds in our world.

The use of the word “Sacrament” denotes the conveyance of grace. The Sacramental quality of the Church as an empowered evangelistic community is that the grace does not reside on objects but rather it resides in people that make up the community. In other words the “Sacra” is in and on the community of the King to be the embodiment of the Gospel. The celebration of the Eucharist then becomes a center point of our worship because we as a community understand the atoning work of God that could only be implemented by him. It is at Communion that “Propitiation” becomes burned on the hearts of this evangelistic community as reflection through the exercise of “Remembrance” allows the community to understand the worth that has been imparted to them by a God who chose to appease His own wrath. The Resurrection reminds us of the power of “glorification” as we stand in the opinion of God. Spirit baptism then becomes the promise of living life fully as a citizen of the Kingdom of God in this “New Community.” The Holy Spirit which is the Spirit of truth sets me free to be a living epistle of the Good News.

It is the fulfillment of Jesus’ words to the woman at the well in which he stated that one would worship God in Spirit and in truth. In other words our worship is not connected to a specific location it is where ever the citizens of this new community are present. Therefore, we become Jesus on Mondays and our worship is more of a lifestyle then just a liturgy. It is also important to note that the churches worship becomes the basis for its evangelism. Howard Snyder remarks, “The first tasks of every Christian are worship and the edification of the community of believers.”[52] Worship speaks of relationship and all ministry talks flows out of relationship that the community of believers has with the Triune God.

 III. Living Like a Community Touched by the Finger of God

 

  1. A Theology of Language – Do we desire to be Relevant or Prophetic?

In section three I desire to summarize my blog article which this is the first of three propositions that I desire to present. My rhetorical question is in no way desiring to reinforce the idea that the church does not have to be sensitive to some of the characteristics of culture that would make it completely foreign to the people who are outside of the community. In the same idea we are to be a prophetic community It is this prophetic sense that empowers the church to be evangelistic as lives are transformed. One characteristic of this prophetic sense of the church is in its formation of people. Matter of fact, the goal of evangelism is the formation of the Christian community. It is making disciples and, further, forming these disciples into living cells of the Body of Christ, new expressions of God’s people.[53] This is the grounding for our proclamation of the Good News.

The prophetic element of the church occurs when it creates communities that visibly transcend the divisions in society that result from racism, economic or social marginalization, or other forms of injustice and oppression. When I was a pastor in San Jose, California, our church made the choice to intentionally merge with another congregation which was African-American and our church was predominantly white. We became one and the repercussions were huge as we walked in reconciliation and saw historic prejudice and racism brought down by the power of reconciliation. The merge was not based on a strategic church growth strategy but rather it was a process that began with a prophetic sense that God would have us do this as citizens of the Kingdom of God. The prophetic is always more effective than the focus on a community becoming relevant because the prophetic is the Holy Spirit using people in their context to be a living witness to the heartfelt need of another. What is required is that Leaders’ must surrender their pride understanding that we are key agents of expanding the Kingdom of God. The result of this humble posture understands that it is not simply in our strategic planning alone will the Church become an influence in the world. It must be strategic planning that is married with empowerment by the Spirit. George Eldon Ladd states it this way, “The Kingdom of God is a miracle. It is the act of God. It is supernatural. Men cannot build the Kingdom, they cannot erect it. The Kingdom is the Kingdom of God; it is God’s reign, God’s rule.”[54] It is our passionate surrender to the  Christ that gives us capacity to Proclaim the Gospel.

 

  1. Blow-Up or Grow-Up: Some Practical thoughts about Pentecostal Churches.

If there is ever a time in my perspective that the Pentecostal church must engage in the development of it’s ecclesiology it is now. Many church leadership teams have adopted various models in which there has been very little reflection processing the theological congruence of their theology to that model that has been adopted. One of the concerns that I personally have is the decreasing in North America of any opportunity for people in many Pentecostal churches to be taught and exposed to Spirit empowerment as a process and not simply an event. I am convinced that there needs to be some theological reflection concerning the importance of “Spirit Empowerment” that is intentionally connected to the formation of a believer and at the same time not emphasize a few of the the “charismata” in such a way that Spirit Empowerment is identified only as the receiving of the gift of glossolalia. Spirit Baptism is empowerment to be a witness. This entails the supernatural process of a believer being transformed from the inside-out in order that he/she can more fully obey Christ by serving others. The language that the Pentecostal community must begin to adopt is one that no longer embraces a subtle form of arrogance that views others in the Body of Christ as being less than in their ability to be “Spirit Empowered.” All forms of language and practices that divide the Church into camps of the “Haves” and the “Have-Not’s” must be laid aside for greater mission of the Church which is to be a United Agency for the kingdom of God.   The decision that each believer must must make is the decision for one to  “Blow-up or Grow –up!”

Conclusion:

In Antioch the “Hand of the Lord was upon them. In this paper I have attempted to present how the Church is a Courageous Community. What makes the church Courageous? I will present it in this way. Men and women who were former some things come into regeneration and as they are filled with the Spirit of God and transformed from the mindsets of their former selves they begin to love others who were unloved and they make the choice to forgive when it is not fair because they have visited the Cross in their worship and in their community and as they do they are reconciled to Christ in which it allows them to set aside justice on their balance scale and exchange it for Christ’s. It is a courageous community because it will even face persecution and rejection in order to overcome the satanic strongholds that keep people in captivity. It is not the absence of resistance that makes the church a visible expression of the overcoming rule of God. It is in spite of it that they Church over- comes the evil one because of the “Blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to the death.” In closing this blog article I stand with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who in various parts of our world are suffering and in some cases have laid down their lives for the Cause of Jesus Christ. As courageous members of the Church they are carriers of the grace given to them in Jesus Christ. Their lives are their song and the courageous way they suffer, forgiving their persecutors gives evidence of a divine love afforded them that finds it’s source in the “Redeeming Love of A Savior who Sacrificed Himself for them.” It is with this closing sentence that I declare how grateful I am to be counted as part of this Courageous Community called His Church!1-Christian-is-killed-every-11-minutes


Footnotes:

[1] Bill Hybels, Courageous Leadership (Grand Rapids, Michigan: 2002) 21.

[2] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove: 2004) 62.

[3] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove: 2004) 64.

[4] Alfred Marshall, The NASB Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Michigan, Grand Rapids: 1984) 516.

[5] Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol. 9, (Michigan, Grand Rapids, 1974) 430-431.

[6] G Campbell Morgan, The Acts of the Apostles, (New Jersey, Old Tappan, 1924) 289.

[7] John Bright, The Kingdom of God (Nashville, Tennessee: 1981) 17.

[8] John Bright, The Kingdom of God (Nashville, Tennessee: 1981) 18.

[9] John Bright, The Kingdom of God (Nashville, Tennessee: 1981) 225.

[10] John Bright, The Kingdom of God (Nashville, Tennessee: 1981) 225.

[11] George Eldon Ladd, The Presence of the Future (Michigan, Grand Rapids: 1974) 262.

[12] George Eldon Ladd, The Presence of the Future (Michigan, Grand Rapids: 1974) 265.

[13] David Watson, I Believe in the Church (Illinois, Michigan, 1978), 67.

[14] David Watson, I Believe in the Church (Illinois, Michigan, 1978), 69-70.

[15] David Watson, I Believe in the Church (Illinois, Michigan, 1978), 70.

 

[16] David Watson, I Believe in the Church (Illinois, Michigan, 1978), 70-71.

[17] David Watson, I Believe in the Church (Illinois, Michigan, 1978), 72.

[18] David Watson, I Believe in the Church (Illinois, Michigan, 1978), 74.

[19] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 31.

[20] George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom (Michigan, Grand Rapids, 1959), p 117.

[21] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 121.

[22] Alan Andrews General Editor, The Kingdom of Life (Colorado, Colorado Springs, 2010), p 228.

[23] Alan Andrews General Editor, The Kingdom of Life (Colorado, Colorado Springs, 2010), p 231.

[24] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 55.

[25] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 55.

[26] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 55.

[27] Bob Logan, National Church Development Seminar. A Trinitarian Model for Parish Ministry, 2002.

[28] Alan Andrews General Editor, The Kingdom of Life (Colorado, Colorado Springs, 2010), p 243.

[29] David Barrett, World Christian Encyclopedia (New York, New York, 1982)

[30] Robert C. Crosby, A New Kind of Pentecostal, (Christianity Today, August 21, 2011, Vol 55, No, 8), p 50.

[31] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 45.

[32] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 45.

[33] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 50.

 

[34] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 51.

[35]Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 51.

[36] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 51.

[37] Ernest B. Gentile, The Glorious Disturbance (Michigan, Grand Rapids, 2004), p 181.

[38] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 53.

[39] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 53.

 

[40] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 13.

[41]David Watson, I Believe in the Church (Illinois, Michigan, 1978), p 76.

[42] Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Faith (Illinois, Michigan, 1999) p 77.

[43] Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart (Colorado, Colorado Springs, 2002), p 235.

[44] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 99.

[45] Bruce Stabbert, Paul’s Church Leadership Patterns Or Ours: The Team Concept (Washington, Tacoma, 1982), p 159.

[46] Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart (Colorado, Colorado Springs, 2002) p 244.

[47] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 112.

[48] Lynn Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep (Louisiana, West Monroe, 1997) p 17.

[49] John Ortberg, King and Priests, January 11, 2011, www.catalystspace.com  p 3.

[50] Jack Hayford, A Passion for Fullness (Texas, Fort Worth, 1990) p 16.

[51] Jack Hayford, A Passion for Fullness (Texas, Fort Worth, 1990) p 21-72.

[52] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 92.

[53] Howard A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Illinois, Downers Grove, 2004), p 122.

[54] George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom (Michigan, Grand Rapids, 1959) p 64.


Bibliography:

Anderson, Lynn. They Smell Like Sheep. West Monroe, Louisiana: Howard Publishing Company, 1997.

Barrett, David. World Christian Encyclopedia. Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University, 1982.

Bright, John. The Kingdom of God. Nashville, Tennessee Abingdon Press, 1983.

Crosby, Robert C. “A New Kind of Pentecostal.” Christianity Today 55 (2011).

Demarest, Bruce. The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Spiritual Formation. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Navy Press 2010.

Gentile, Ernest B. The Glorious Disturbance: Understanding and Receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Chosen Books, 2004.

Hayford, Jack. A Passion for Fullness. Fort Worth, Texas: LIFE Publishing, 1990.

Hybels, Bill. Courageous Leadership. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002.

Ladd, George Eldon. The Gospel of the Kingdom: Popular Expositions on the Kingdom of God. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959.

Logan, Bob. A Trinitarian Model for Parish Ministry. N Church Development Training Seminar, 2002.

Marshall, Alfred. The Nasb Interlinear Greek-English New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1984.

Morgan, G Campbell. The Acts of the Apostles. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1924.

Snyder, Howard A. The Community of the King. Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press Academic, 2004.

Stabbert, Bruce. The Team Concept: Paul’s Church Leadership Patterns or Ours? Tacoma, Washington: Hegg Brothers Printing, 1982.

Watson, David. I Believe in the Church. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1978.

Webber, Robert E. Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1999.

Willard, Dallas. Renovation of the Heart. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Navy Press, 2002.

About PastorAl

Al Soto has been married to his incredible wife Valerie for 30 years and they have five sons and one grandson. Al has been in Local Church Ministry for 35 years as both as a Lead Pastor, Associate Pastor, and for five years as a Regional Overseer for his denomination. He has a BA degree from LIFE Pacific College and is currently completing an MA in Leadership & Spiritual Formation from Vanguard University. He currently resides in Lincoln, CA where he is the new Lead Pastor for one of the Campus locations for Bayside Church. He continues to coach High School Football for the Lincoln Fighting Zebras for the Junior Varsity Program and is facilitating Leadership training and coaching as well as facilitating Spiritual Retreats. His hobbies include Golfing and Scuba Diving as well as he is a veracious reader. His Life Statement is “Real Success is Helping others to Succeed!”
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