Resurrecting the Church: Why I Am Optimistic (Part One)

Church of the Holy Spirit in Dúbravka
Church of the Holy Spirit in Dúbravka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

Christ left his heavenly abode and came down to earth in order to accomplish a multi-dimensional mission. His task involved setting in motion in the physical realm God’s plan to restore humankind to spiritual life and right relationship with him, to provide a mechanism whereby we might be cleansed of our sins, teach us the proper way to live in relation to God and to one another, and to pave the way for the advent of the Holy Spirit. In addition, Christ accomplished numerous other themes, some quite subtle and others quite obvious. His primary mission, however, we have yet to mention.

Christ came to this planet first and foremost to inaugurate his kingdom on earth. This is how he kicked off his mission, by admonishing listeners to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. Christ indeed made progress toward laying the foundation of his kingdom on earth, but when he left our world and went back to the celestial realms, there was a monumental amount of work left to do. Amazingly, he left us in charge of carrying out that mission. Frank Laubach cogently speaks to this startling fact when he says:

When Christ was here on earth, He was limited to performing His ministry in one place and at one time. He was one man, walking beside one sea in one little corner of the earth. He healed whatever He touched, but His touch was necessarily limited by time and space.

Now, does it make sense that the Father would send His son for this limited ministry? I don’t think that is tenable. He made provision to carry on the work through the Holy Spirit: we are to complete His mission. We are his multiplied hands, His feet, His voice, and compassionate heart. Imperfect and partial to be sure, but His healing Body just the same. And it is through the Holy Spirit (Christ’s love which is everywhere at once),  that we receive the power to carry on the work of the apostles. It is a challenging and sobering thought: when we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives, we receive the same urgent and life-giving force that led our Master.

Whenever I sit down and prayerfully reflect on the fact that Christ left us in charge of establishing his kingdom here on the planet, I am amazed and awe-struck. Yet that is exactly what he did. When taking an objective look at the church and all its foibles, it would not be a reach to conclude that maybe the Master, in his exuberance and his love for us, may have over-estimated our talents and capabilities. Even a superficial examination of the problems and petty squabbles that have typified church history, along with the current chaotic state of doctrinal disunity and dwindling membership, points to we have, at least to this point, fallen quite short of where we should be.

In spite of these facts, I am hopeful that the Body of Christ will eventually move forward and make great strides in laying a positive foundation for Christ’s kingdom on earth. In fact, I am more than hopeful, I am downright optimistic! A few weeks ago, as we were discussing these very issues, a good friend was stunned when I told him I was optimistic about the church’s future and that I felt that the prognosis was far more positive than generally  forecasted by the many pessimistic, hand-wringing naysayers who have all but blown Taps on the church in America.

“How can you possibly be optimistic about the church and the kingdom?” said my friend as he almost choked on his fish taco. “Given the fact that so many people are leaving the church and so many churches are closing their doors, I see no grounds for hope, much less optimism.”

In truth, as a firm believer in the integrity of Christ and the teachings of the New Testament, I cannot be anything but optimistic. Although the numbers of this and the statistics of that are anything but positive, I am optimistic because I rest on the promises given to us by God in the Holy Scriptures.

To be continued…

(c) L.D. Turner 2013/All Rights Reserved

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Signs, Wonders, and the Supernatural

English: Inside Hillsong Church, Sydney
English: Inside Hillsong Church, Sydney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mick Turner

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the supernatural realm is where the real action is in these days. As a race, especially those of us in the West, we have become so sophisticated that we discount the supernatural without adequate investigation and, by doing so, fall into the enemy’s trap. We must pay closer attention to the supernatural realm because we are involved in a supernatural battle, whether or not we understand it or accept it.

It is interesting to note that the fastest growing churches in the world are those of the charismatic/Pentecostal traditions. This is especially true in Asia and Africa, but really, it is a phenomenon that can be seen all over the world. By the same token, it is those denominations that adhere most closely with the use of reason, logic, science, and the legacy of the Enlightenment that are withering on the vine. This is not how I would have predicted things to have worked out and it surely is not how I would have wished it would have worked out. Quite frankly, some of the craziness and downright foolishness seen in the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches is an abomination in my sight. And I suspect that much of the really fringe elements of these movements will disappear as time progresses.

However, I think the core elements of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement will continue to prosper because God says he must be worshiped in spirit and in truth. And certainly, now more than ever, the supernatural side of things must be taken into account. I am uncertain as to exactly how this will manifest itself here in the West, however. One thing is certain, the church in the West will need more manifestations of God’s power in these rapidly changing times. Yet this revealing of God’s strength must be presented in a manner that is less chaotic and “sensational” than in the past. The days of flopping about, running around the sanctuary, barking like dogs and “holy drooling” have passed. It is a time for the world to see God’s power and presence in all its glory, not in patently bizarre human translations that greatly miss the mark.

As the future unfolds, one of the most needed of the spiritual gifts will be that of discernment. Pastors, teachers, elders, and others in positions of spiritual authority will need to be deeply educated in the criteria of discernment, or at least in recognizing those who have this gift, even in its embryonic forms. Anytime there is a period of increased Holy Spirit activity, and this is without a doubt one of those times, the potential for the Great Deceiver to lead many astray is great. We live in an age that is ripe for deception. Trained, gifted discerners are in critical need. James Goll speaks directly to this issue:

Lack of discernment and an unscriptural emphasis on experience beyond the confines of Scripture are major stumbling blocks for the majority of Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians who are open to the supernatural and revelatory realms of God…..When it comes to gifts of miraculous powers and prophecy, we need mature elders in every church who are equipped with the gift of discernment to watch over the flock. We also need apostolic voices who will release guidelines for discernment in the years to come, as the sense of God’s Presence and power increases throughout the world – growing alongside the “tares” of this world, evidenced in soulishly and demonically induced counterfeit expressions of power. Right now, we are sadly equipped with too few apostolic leaders who are respected enough to speak the truth in love about these issues of discernment and correction. And we have too few humble church leaders who are open to correction from apostolic leaders, regardless of their denominational preferences, networks, or alliances.

Many within the Mainline denominations and Evangelical churches have such a historically “negative charge” with the Charismatic movement that they suspect anything of Spirit-filled nature as being either doctrinally lacking or worse, a product of Satan. This mind-set is not entirely their fault as there has been such excess and, yes, plain wanton foolishness in more than a few Charismatic and Pentecostal circles. Yet at the same time, it is not wise to completely slam the door shut.

At one end of the spectrum you have those sincere followers of the Master who are so turned off by what they see as bizarre extremism that they close their minds to all Charismatic experience. In a sense, these folks use too much discernment in the sense that anything even remotely resembling “Spirit-filled” experience is discounted out of hand. At the other end of the spectrum you have the fringe elements of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity that fall into all sorts of error, both doctrinal and experiential, and wind up engaging in practices that seem too strange to be true. At this extreme, too little discernment is practiced and, in some cases, none at all.

The contemporary church has a critical need for a more balanced approach to and criteria for accurate discernment of supernatural phenomena, grounded in Scripture but not so tightly bound as to handcuff the Spirit. The real challenge for the church at this point is the development of this much-needed criteria and, after that, widespread training in its fundamental applications. Understandably, this development remains a work in progress.

© L.D. Turner 2013/ All Rights Reserved

Wise Words for Today

Christ icon in Taizé
Christ icon in Taizé (Photo credit: lgambett)

Set your eyes beyond the stratosphere and see a Christ who confounds the mind. This Christ is – present tense – the visible image of the invisible God. Jesus Christ displays God’s image visible in the invisible realm, where He is seated in heavenly places at the Father’s right hand. To look upon the carpenter of Nazareth is to discover God in totality. To know the Nazarene is to know the Almighty, the one true Creator – He who was, is, and is to come.

But that’s not all.

This Christ is the firstborn of the entire cosmos, the first person to appear in creation, and He is preeminent in all of it. All things visible and invisible were created by Him, through Him, to Him, and for Him. He is the Originator as well as the Goal – the Creator as well as the Consummator.

But that’s not all.

This Christ existed before time as the eternal Son. He is above time and outside of time. He is the beginning. In fact, He was before the beginning. He lives in a realm where there are no ticking watches and clocks. Space and time are his servants. He is unfettered by them.

This Christ is not only before all things, but the entire universe is held together in Him. He is the cohesive force, the glue and gravitational pull that holds all created elements together. He is creation’s great adhesive, the hinge upon which the whole cosmos turns. Remove Christ, and the entire universe disintegrates. It comes apart at the seams. Remove Him, and creations wheels come off.

But there’s still more.

This Christ is the very meaning of creation. Eliminate Him, and the universe has no purpose. Remove Him, and every living thing loses its meaning.

But more than all this, the One who created the universe watched it fall. He saw the cosmic revolt in heaven and the wreckage on earth. Under the caring eye of the Father, the Lord looked upon His own creation as it morphed into an enemy – His own enemy. And then he did the unthinkable. He penetrated a fallen world.

This Christ pierced the veil of space-time. He became incarnate and took on human flesh. As such, He was touched with the same temptations, the same infirmities, and the same weaknesses as all mortals, only He never yielded. Christ entered into His own creation to reconcile it back to Himself and to His Father. The Creator became the creature to make peace with an alienated creation.

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

Wise Words for Today

Cover of "The Great Omission: Reclaiming ...
Cover via Amazon

So the great issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or by culture, are identified as “Christians” will become disciples – students, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of Heaven into every corner of human existence. Will they break out of the churches to be his Church – to be, without human force or violence, his mighty force for good on earth, drawing the churches after them toward the eternal purpose of God? And, on its own scale, there is no greater issue facing the individual human being, Christian or not.

Dallas Willard

(from The Great Omission)

Wise Words for Today

Inside of Saint Ananias taken in 2006
Inside of Saint Ananias taken in 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In organic Christianity or this new reformation, the move of God will not simply be at the hand of a person, but all of God’s people. There will be key leaders, but their job is to equip the people to do the work of ministry (see Eph. 4: 11-12). It was God’s intent from the beginning for every believer to do the work of the Kingdom (see Mark 16: 17-18). In this new reformation, God’s people will have their identity in who they are in Christ. They will understand that when they became a new creation, God put within them, by grace, what was necessary to succeed for His Kingdom…..

Ron McIntosh

(from Organic Christianity)

Wise Words for Today

Heart of Jesus
Heart of Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Personally, I am convinced that Jesus’ good news was and is better news than we have been led to believe by the conventional view. . . . . . . . . .Jesus in the conventional view has little or nothing to say regarding the world’s global crisis. The real issue is our individual souls and their eternal postmortem destiny. We are so familiar with this version of Jesus and the gospel that it is truly difficult to imagine any other alternative. It’s as if we’ve only seen trained lions in circuses behind iron bars, snarling at whips snapped by performing trainers, jumping through hoops, and leaping through rings of fire; we can’t imagine what a lion living wild and free on the Serengeti Plain would be like. We’ve got to release Jesus into the wild of his native habitat to let a fresh view emerge.

Brian McLaren

Wise Words for Today

Altar of Veit Stoss, Left bottom, The Magi hon...
Altar of Veit Stoss, Left bottom, The Magi honour Jesus, St. Mary’s Church, Krakow, Poland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You see, there is hope. It starts with one. One step. One kind deed. One loving word. One. The church may
have problems, but it is not beyond repair. All that is needed is for us to
turn around and go in another direction. God can do incredible things with one
single act of faithfulness. Taking that one step may be all that is needed to
start a chain of events that bring life back to the church. You don’t have to
be a leader of the church to take that first step. Life comes from following
after Jesus. You can be the spark that sets the church ablaze.

Tyler Edwards

(from The Zombie Church)