Volume 20 Issue 9
It comes unassembled in a box, but have no fear they say. Included free is an illustrated step-by-step instruction manual. But overcoming one’s dread of assembly is not easy. In spite of the promises, there likely will be problems. For me, these tasks are generally approached with great consternation. Are all the parts there? Are all the connectors, clamps, bolts and such accounted for? And definitions of parts are important too. How many really know what an interface locking tack screw is? Finally, I need a clear vision of what the thing is actually supposed to look like. I must have a picture.
Similarly, packaged ideology ready for assembly is being delivered to this generation, but this begs the question, “What will the assembled product be?” I understand that the future itself is “unassembled,” so to speak. Who knows or who can predict the future? Who knows exactly what we will face or how things will play out? The future is like an uncharted wilderness, unknown, and to some degree unknowable. Of course we make educated guesses, lay out our preparations, and put forth our best plans, as we should; but in the end surviving in the future depends more on our values, beliefs, character and our spiritual insights than on our carefully drawn plans.
For example, when I first starting writing my own computer programs on my Commodore 64, I had no concept of the pervasive power that the computer represented. Who knew that it would literally resolve the human communication problem worldwide and that it would so rapidly dominate the international social dynamic? While tinkering around with this primitive equipment there was no way to fully anticipate the fact that the world was on the edge of a technological renaissance that would literally transform everything. Who could have foreseen the complex questions this would create in our ministries, the way it would change pastoring, and the moral and ethical dangers it posed? How could we have planned for what most of us could not conceive? In truth, however, while everything has changed … nothing has changed. The powerful wilderness of virtual reality is survived by applying the same principles of morals, biblical holiness, love and Godliness that the Church has applied to revolutions for centuries. The future-proof answer is spiritual knowledge: God’s thoughts applicable across the board in every generation, in every situation.
The last days are sure to be deluged with progressive theologians, futurists and politicians who will cleverly attempt to deliver their enticements. We will undoubtedly risk deception without spiritual knowledge and discernment of the Holy Ghost. Today, high-profile “Christian” thinkers bring to our doors a beautifully packaged, re-thought and re-designed destiny of Christianity. It’s all ready to be assembled. It’s The Church of Tomorrow, The Church for the Future, The Church of Cool, The Church of Self-Fulfillment, The Church of Be Real, The Church of Be Your Own Authentic Self, The Church of All Religions Together, The Church of No Name, The Church of No Pulpit, The Church of No Threatening Symbols of Authority, and so on. Included in the packaging are the brightly colored illustrations of great revival that these hopeful new religious schemes are supposed to produce. But do these inventors really know what they are doing? And will their efforts really create revival? The looming future is not a game. The winds of the future are more threatening than comforting. We need God’s anointing and God’s authorship of our faith. Time is short and will require that we lay down our own ego and actually read the instructions. However, it can’t be any set of directions; we must recover the original blueprints and stick to them.
Suppose we settle on the idea that whatever the future holds, whatever it entails, whatever things we face, that we will trust God rather than man and that we will preach the Apostles’ Doctrine and let God do the redemption part, the transformation part, the born again part, the new life part, and we will refuse to be compromised. “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14). If we as an Apostolic movement truly desire a New Testament church, should we not follow the instructions that are so conveniently found in the New Testament? If we buy into emergent philosophy, or some new charismatic model, a re-invented Christianity modernized for today’s world, or new progressivism that more closely resembles Reformed Theology, or we integrate New Ageism and blend in New Thought or Spiritual Renewal philosophy, we may be able to put together the glossy megachurch on the box cover, but will these failed doctrines really produce the powerful Pentecostal church that can reach the world?
If you listen carefully, you can hear remnants of old Reform Theology in some Pentecostal preaching today – yet, despite centuries of practice, these unproven doctrines have failed to build a Spirit-filled church on this earth. They did not and cannot reach the masses of dying millions. They cannot build a church that is “future proof.” Sadly, the whining sound of failed evangelicalism is faintly nascent in some of our pulpits. Covertly shadowed in the methods versus message debate, we flippantly endorse preaching that belittles divine healing and the Pentecostal experience. We substitute beach gatherings and popcorn parties for the grueling task of praying for the sick and breaking the divine bread of the Word until one is physically exhausted. Church is chic, church is cool, but tragically it is also cold, with the fire waning and the Spirit quenched.
Put another way, if we pick up the box labeled “NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH – SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED” and lay it all out on the floor with the instructions and all the parts in hopes of building a real New Testament church, but the instructions are vague and many of the parts are missing, what do we do? We can see, on the box, the picture that promises a real church that relates to the future, but … let’s see. Is there any Apostolic Doctrine in this box? Uhh … Is there any supernatural anointing and power in this box? Let me see. Where are the gifts of the Spirit? Where is the divine healing? Have they left out speaking in tongues? Before long we will come to the realization that we are ill-equipped to assemble a New Testament church with this severely lacking “church kit.” Strewn around the room will be piles of disappointing pieces that will not connect: old Roman parts, old German parts, little gizmos and connectors from India, China and Greece and quasi-secular positive thinking components. The life, the power will not be found.
The vision for the church that will be victorious despite the looming struggles of a never-imagined future are given to us in the book of Acts. That vision is correct. It is not based on emotion or human concepts at all. Someone may say, “I’ve got a new idea that will take us down a new road and will help us better relate to this world.” But the gravity of today and the permanence of the future must cause us to ask, “What road and where does it lead?” Years of watching good men make the bad decision to forsake Godly living has proven that the likely end is more often disastrous than desirous, more train wreck than safe harbor. There are heartbreaking consequences that follow the impetuous departure from the faith.
Will the future be so utopic that we will need no certainties, no absolutes? Will abstract preaching cover the issues? Without the Holy Spirit what power will overcome human failure, weakness and evil? Is there really someone smart enough to assure us that departing from “the faith…once delivered” will have no consequences? And who would want to lead the people of God away from righteousness? What kind of spirit would instruct our youth into the paths of worldliness, nudity and carnality? At what cost do we dare to forsake the principles of Godliness, modesty and common sense?
What, may I ask, did those compromising heresies of ancient anti-Christ institutions filled with corruption and greed, human power and manipulation do for the world anyway? One may choose to adopt those deceiving and false doctrines, in hopes of pleasing men and being embraced by their institutions, but not all of us will. Let’s get out the original instruction manual. Let’s get the right picture of who we are and what we want to be in view. Let’s be Pentecostal.