By: Robert L. Rodenbush
G.K. Chesterton in an illustration describes a man of incomparable vision, a reformer: a man who desired a specific type of world in which everything was the color blue. The man labored throughout his life with paint and brush. He didn’t despise the time it took as he altered each blade of grass to reflect his favorite hue. He did not complain about the seemingly endless and daunting task he had taken on. Methodically, he took on the mission of making his world a “better” bluer place. But then Chesterton, in his biting English wit, turns the story on end as he asks the reader to imagine what would happen if the great visionary had changed his favorite color each day? Would he still manage to be progressive? Could he still see his vision of the blue world enacted?
“But if he altered his favorite color everyday, he would not get on at all. If after reading a fresh philosopher, he started to paint everything red or yellow, his work would be thrown away: there would be nothing to show except a few blue tigers walking about, specimens of his early bad manner.” G.K. Chesterton, “Orthodoxy,” 1908).
Let us imagine for a moment that the reformer in Chesterton’s story is today’s Apostolic preacher. Let’s agree that the vision he was given to paint the world blue is his heritage, the message of his forefathers, the Apostle’s doctrine. Let us assume that his motive is not evil. He wants to see the world changed and he wants revival. He has committed to “painting the world blue.” But, let us also account for modernism and current societal pressures put on the preacher – the color blue is passé, even offensive in many circles. He is under pressure to make adjustments, modify the color to make it friendly to outsiders. The color blue is ridiculed, associated with the Pentecostal movement’s unschooled, blue collar past. It begins to appear that others who have moved on from the absolutism and dogmatism of the Apostles’ doctrine have been successful, their ministries have grown.
It is my great fear that in the name of progress, in the name of revolution, that we may cast aside the vision passed down to us by our elders, and sacrifice our steadfastness to the Apostolic message. It is a new era. There are new methods, new technology, new ways to reach the lost and dying of this world – that is not where the contention lies. The issue of the day is whether we will stay committed to the vision regardless of methodology.
I believe we should strive for excellence in all we do, but dying and hungry souls aren’t really interested in our hyped-up programs, our cool staging, our cutting-edge productions. Those aren’t the things that really draw hungry people. The Spirit of a praying church, an on-fire church, a blood-bought church will win the hearts of the lost. Yet, perhaps because we crave innovation, or because we begin to compete among ourselves, or because we don’t want to appear out of touch we are at risk for temptation to make changes that we ought not to make. Perhaps it’s because we haven’t really decided what we want the modern Apostolic church to look like? Perhaps we aren’t sure that we are really committed to making sure the old paths are still recognizable?
An article in Harvard Business Review online states “Some 70% of family-owned businesses fail or are sold before the second generation gets a chance to take over. Just 10% remain active, privately held companies for the third generation to lead” (hbr.org/2012/01). We all know stories of great men with great businesses, great homes, great retirements, but they turn it all over to someone who was unprepared for the commitment to run the business with the same quality and standards that the customers were used to; they squander the profits, destroy the retirement funds. The doors close and the dreams are gone.
We are the second and third generation of the modern Pentecostal movement and we have grave decisions that need to be made. Will we throw aside the commission we have been handed? Will we cast aside the color of true holiness and separation from the world, the essentiality of water baptism in Jesus’ name and try painting things a different color for a while? Will we pick up the seemingly more appealing color of ecumenism? Will we try a little of the seemingly harmless hue of worldliness? All the while, consoling ourselves with the notion that our motive is revival and these are the trade-offs that must be made to see it happen? I do not believe that the answer to church growth lies in compromise. I do not believe that we have to water down the color of this great gospel in order to fill our pews. We can’t take an easier road. We can’t look around following every new philosophy or idea and hope that our kids and our grandkids will stay saved. Loosening the reigns, letting things slip, letting the banner fall will not lead to our success, it will not profit us, it will not lead to true Spirit-led revival.
There can be no change in our hearts. We must stay fixed, unmovable and unshakeable against the attack of the enemy. We must know in whom we have believed. We must know that we have completely sold out to God’s will and purpose for our lives, for our ministry and for our churches.
“Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit” (Jeremiah 2:11).
This is not an easy time. Endtime revival has been promised, but we were not given this promise with an addendum that says it will come to us without trial or test. In fact, we were warned that the last days would be perilous (2 Timothy 3). There is great evil, chaos and confusion in the world. We feel the heaviness of dealing with the implications of modern technology and the unsettling effects it is having on young people’s ability to communicate. We witness the devastating effects of pornography and live with the fear that with one slip or misstep our children will be exposed and their minds forever and irreparably scarred. There is so much at stake, so much to lose, so much to give up. Are we really ready for the colors of sin to be added to our children’s lives? We can’t live our children’s lives for them, and they make their own choices, but are we really going to send them into this chaotic world without a compass? Are we to give them no directions? Are we willing to risk telling them it doesn’t really matter, to go ahead and make up their own color scheme?
The Old Testament prophet Daniel was in mourning and fasting, seemingly waiting on God. After many days he saw a vision. However, when the vision came to Daniel he was not alone. Daniel states that there were other men with him, but when the vision began to come, the others started to quake and ran to hide themselves and Daniel was left alone and saw a great vision from the Lord. This day is not an easy day; we will be forced like Daniel to wait on the Lord for His direction, His vision and His purpose. But, when the answer comes, not everyone may be ready to receive it. The prophet Daniel stood alone. He was ready for the challenge. Having faced the hand of a wicked king, having stood face to face with lions in a pit — Daniel knew in whom he had believed and there was no change in him. God honored Daniel, and let him know that heaven had heard his prayer because he had committed himself and chastened himself before God.
“And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground. And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands. And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words” (Daniel 10:7-12).
We cannot fear what God has for us in this last day (Psalm 91). This message will be preached. God will have a people, a church, His messengers. It will be our choice as ministers of this generation to decide whether we walk among them or whether we walk away. We know that in the last days young men will see visions (Joel 2:28), but will some like those with Daniel run away? Will some turn and hide themselves in fear? Will some fail to prepare themselves to hear the voice of the Lord?
Will we just be left with our elders standing as just a few blue tigers, roaming around as a painful reminder of the old, worn-out traditions that we once held? Or, will we truly embrace what God has for His church, preach without fear (Galatians 1), preach with passion and conviction the Mighty God in Christ? There is a committed army, they are chastening themselves before God, and God is hearing their cry. I have the privilege of watching the great students of Indiana Bible College as they lay before God, as they study, as they prepare their hearts and I know they are not alone. God is raising up Daniels throughout the world, and I believe He will honor them, anoint them and make them ready for the great work of revival that is to come.
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:4-7).