Revival, the Spirit, and Your Spirit, Part II

Why I am concerned for our young revivalists.

In part one of this blog series, we talked about the challenges of understanding how the Holy Spirit works as the Scripture instructs us, and one of the cultural reasons why we should pray King David’s prayer and beg that God would “….try me and know my thoughts. And see if there be any grievous way in me…” (Ps. 139:23). That reason is narcissism—for we live in an incredibly self-promoting time. Self-promotion is so common now that we hardly notice it. Are we participating in “revival” for the advancement of God’s Kingdom, or for our own image?

In Part II, however, I want to share a grave concern for our young revivalists—for I have for a long while spoken to young believers about a peculiar challenge that my generation has handed down to them.

In working with teens and young adults who come to me asking how they can grow spiritually—I have repeatedly shared this: You (the younger person) will likely have to go beyond what you have seen me or your parent’s generation do in terms of living a faith in Christ. For way too long my generation has focused more on going to or doing church than being the body of Christ.

In other words, we have focused on the system of worship rather than engaging in the highest form of worship. I would contend as your brother in Christ that our highest worship is described in Romans 12:1, 2:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

To translate, our highest worship is when each of us offers all that we are each day to the ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Cor. Chapters 3-6, i.e., the New Covenant) by walking with Christ in whatever role our Lord has given us. We are to be faithful to what he has put in front of us. We are to spend time with him in his Word so that we are living as transformed individuals—not like or by the standards of the world.

You are aware that there are a number of church-types and that different churches have different focuses spiritually.

No matter what type of church we are a part of we must realize what the church really is—It is the body of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. And like the body he occupied while on earth—we are to be out-and-about being Jesus for a lost and hopeless world.

While it is certainly good to assemble together in some large place and pray, sing, and listen to a sermon—the highest form of worship is found, as Paul said, in presenting our bodies as a “living sacrifice.”

What does this look like? First, let’s look at what much of my (and other older generations) portrayed.

The Problem of System-Centric Believers

I perceive that one of the big issues with my generation is that we placed too much value on formal-church systems. Do not get me wrong, if you read my book Superhero; Being Who God You Are you see that the critical importance of the “our not my” ecclesia is continually stressed.

What I am talking about though is something that Jesus warned us about that somehow many of us (and many of the founders of variously-named church systems) missed:

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me so that you may have life.” (Jn. 5:39, 40)

Throughout the ages men have searched the Scripture and attempted to form a more perfect church from those search results—and that is very noble. But Jesus let those around him know that Scripture point to him as the source of life, or as he says later (and thereby declares his intent in one of his goals in coming to earth), that we would have life “abundantly.” (Jn. 10:10)

It is a wonderful blessing to get together with groups of believers (a.k.a., churches) and sing, pray, take the sacraments, give, and listen to someone expound on the inspired Word. But too many in my generation for too long “went” to church, did those wonderfully enjoyable and edifying things—but we had very little impact on the society around us.

That is because what was lacking in our church-system was the Savior.

We were generally good moral people—but we did not as a rule show the good news of Jesus the Christ to be something powerful. Some churches did do community projects and that was good—I suppose. Unfortunately, our motive was often to increase our attendance on Sundays rather than to forcefully advance the Kingdom of Yeshua. What we failed to do was to truly be the living body of Christ on a daily basis.

First, realize that the “clergy/laity” distinction that is common in our church systems is weak biblically. While the truth of a group of believers possessing differing gifts is found in the Word (see 1 Cor. 12:12-31 for a discussion of this) the New Testament ecclesia is devoid of a priestly rank structure such as existed under the Old Law.

Instead, there were a level of individuals sometimes appointed for special service to others (such as feeding widows, an example found in Acts 6 and the position described in 1 Tim. 3) called deacons which in the Greek literally just means “servant.” It is really just a descriptor, not a position or title. I do appreciate the way my faith community says it, as I have served as a deacon for quite a few years, they will say, “Steve is one of our deacons.” I.e., Steve is just a servant. I’m not Deacon Moore. This is no glory to me other than the honor of being allowed to love others through serving.

The other level up is called by a number of names such as pastor, elder, overseer, bishop, or shepherd. Of all of those descriptors, I perceive that pastor (with a small “p”) and shepherd are most accurate and give us the proper vision. These men (along with their wives, as the two have been one for a long time) have all the glory of shepherds during Bible times.

Which is pretty much none.

Shepherds were not generally members of high society. The literal sheep-keeping job was often (and often still is) given to young children, sometimes those who are not thought of very well (such as little David in the Old Testament). The shepherd or pastor doesn’t own the sheep but importantly watches over them to protect, feed, and help with normal functions (since sheep scare easily and are not terribly smart). It’s a dirty, cold, tiring, and often thankless job.

1 Tim. 3 describes some of the general experience needed to be an elder/overseer/pastor—notice that it is just general some life experience in leading a family. The “pastor” is not necessarily the guy up front speaking, but he is the one who knows the sheep of the flock he has been entrusted to shepherd.

That is, he knows them well enough to speak into their lives. This can be a huge problem in large churches—and what I have generally observed even in my own church family is that the elders are more managerial rather than shepherds. This is the “system” problem—what the early church looked like was varied. In my observation of some of the elders I have served under too many of them have barely known me (or anyone else) and deal with issues by directing the preacher to talk about them or by arranging a Bible class to deal with the problem topic.

This assumes that sin or problems in following Yeshua are a symptom of a lack of knowledge.

Sometimes that is the problem—but it should be noted that it may be more reflective of a weak relationship with our Lord, and that relationship is something best learned by a close relationship with a mature believer.

In other words, the shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know the voice of their shepherd and trust him. All of this discussion about the deacon and pastor roles is just to emphasize that the church of our Lord Jesus has very little formal structure and practically no titled positions. We as humans can prayerfully assign roles and titles—but in so doing we must be careful not to quench the Holy Spirit in the life of each believer in becoming their unique and active part of the body of Christ.

The body is not a system—but it is a relationship-based gathering of individuals united in Christ. We come to know each other, build each other up, and discipling happens not just through motivational or knowledge-based preaching/classes but also through walking with Christ with other believers.

Most of our good in systems-focused churches doing has been limited by what I term the “expert mentality.” Some preacher, pastor, or deacon would initiate, coordinate, and gather bodies to do a good work to show the love of Christ.

That’s okay, but imagine what could have happened if everyone in the church believed in the power of God working through them and fellow believers every minute of every day. What if each follower of Jesus was fully convicted that their Lord could do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,” walked out into whatever place God had placed them everyday and joined God in his work?

What if every schoolteacher, lawyer, auto mechanic, mom, dad, and neighbor saw that were they were in a special role of being the feet, hands, and heart of Jesus in every situation. What if believers banded together and did things that the unchurched nonbeliever would marvel at—somehow sensing that what was happening was only possible through supernatural power?

And what impact would it have had if my generation had lived that vibrant and vigorous faith in front of younger generations? What if the young people around such believers saw in those ahead of them a faith that compelled a person to love others dramatically and to step into impossible situations with peace and assurance that our Lord would show up?

To Those of My Generation

What can I say? I am still learning.

In the book Superhero I told of a younger guy who started a ministry where we seek out people who need help with just about anything and then we pull together people from any church or the unchurched to come together and help.

I not only joined this group, I am now a Board Member and Project Leader.

At the end of one project I was giving a friend a ride back to his car (limited parking at the site) and he commented on how remarkable my friend who started all of this was.

I agreed by saying, “You know, my wife and I have been talking for years about how God’s people need to get out and domore. Mike (the founder of The Daily Good project) agreed except he just said, ‘Well, let’s actually do something!”

What a novel idea—but it is biblical. Paul reminded the believers in Corinth that “…the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” (1 Cor. 4:19)

At some point, if you have just been a “word” person or a “worship attender”—you need to take a step of faith and start living as a member of the body of Christ.

Just to be clear—when you first start out it feels a bit like you are free-falling off of a cliff. You will likely perceive that you are unsure if you can handle what it is God has showed you to do—and that is good. For that is how we learn that he is there.

Further, if it fails, he teaches us that failure is not final. Anything attempted for the glory of God that is righteous is rewarded. Our Creator understands that we sometimes do not get his plans right—but he loves the heart that strives.

For the Younger Generation

Just know that I love and admire you and hear this:

Lead the way!

It is generally considered true from the rabbinical traditions that most of Jesus’ early followers, especially those we know as Apostles, were teens when selected. Peter was likely the oldest and was possibly north of 25-years-old. To my younger brothers and sisters just know that you have the energy and desire to make a difference for the God who gave you life—do so wisely. Do not fall for the faux-wisdom of this world but instead seek to know the heart of our awesome God through spending time with him in his word—and go to an older zealous believer or two and ask them if they will share their faith journey with you. In other words, become a disciple to a rabbi.

That’s enough for now, tune in to Part III for a discussion about how to engage in spiritual formation on a daily basis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *