10 A thief has only one thing in mind—he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect —life in its fullness until you overflow! (John 10:10 TPT)
Have you ever in your life received more than what you asked for or expected to receive? A couple years ago my one neighbour was moving. He had asked me if I wanted to purchase any of his stuff. I don’t think it was an attempt to off load his junk on me before skipping town. In fact, he had some good stuff that I was interested in. I did tell him that I was interested in his BBQ, painters ladder, and some of his garage storage containers. What I ended up getting was a whole lot more!
When it came time for me to claim what I spoke for, ‘Greg’ ended up giving me more than I expected to receive. One such item was a gazebo! All that needed to be done was swallow my ‘pride’, accept this gift, and move it into my yard. My family is thankful that I overcame the challenge and accepted what was offered to me.
Lately, I have been reading through and thinking about the early believers as depicted in the book of Acts. Within this book, Luke gives us a glimpse into the Greco-Roman world and what ‘living for Jesus’ looked like among a multi-faith, urban driven culture. The more I think about the believers early days, the more I begin to see similarities to today. Especially in the area of challenges, and there were many.
One of the challenges the early church faced was excessive conservatism. In Acts 6:11-15 we read that the Hellenists (Greek speaking Jews) and their leader Stephen were advocating that God was essentially on the move. Stephen believed in and shared that the Temple of God was no longer a building, but God actually ‘temples’ inside of His people (the body of Christ). Stephen also believed that Jesus was not merely a Jewish Messiah, but the risen, reigning Son of Man who now exercises world dominion (imagery from Daniel 7). You can read through Acts 7 to see all of what Stephen was saying. All in all, Stephen was communicating a faith that contradicted many of the established customs handed down from Moses. This enraged the religious crowd and infuriated the church leadership.
Today, the people of God can face the same challenges by becoming addicted to a particular building, a particular way of doing things, or a pattern of worship laid down long ago in a book somewhere by someone we’ve never met. Too often worship services can become ‘status quo’ where the order of service become the ‘be all and end all’. For many, this is good enough and highly desirable. Worship services that become predictable can often slip into ‘stale’ mode quickly. But this is often pleasing to the conservatism mindset which views the past to be its hero.
A major problem emerges when excessive conservatism is allowed to oppose every new advance. When this happens, a church (or anything) can become bogged down in debate over secondary issues while the primary purpose is often forgotten about and abandoned. Within the church, secondary issues like carpet, chairs, colour and choruses often become the focus while the primary issue of worship and the gospel is often ignored. This can lead to a church becoming more of a ‘Pharisee-party’ where secondary issues or ‘Christ-and’ issues take centre stage. I will talk more about that next time.
Like Stephen, when facing such constricting conservatism, remember to: stay wise (6:10), stay shining (6:15), stay full of the Spirit (7:55), and stay forgiving (7:60). In the end, it is God who will either open minds or not. Our role is to be His faithful empowered witness til the end of our time.
Today, when faced with mindless conservatism on secondary issues, I find it helpful to remember and explain that the God we serve is always on the move. He IS (not was) the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He IS the God who is making all things new (Rev. 21:5). He IS the God of Creation and New Creation. In other words, God is moving to accomplish His purposes and mission on earth through humanity; our past is not our future; and there is creative work to be done in partnership with God’s Spirit now!
At our church we are experiencing the movement of God in refreshing ways. Many people are encountering God through dreams, visions, salvations, healings, signs and wonders. We believe that “times of refreshing” are indeed happening because of the presence of God among us. We are seeing The Spirit lead people to accept Jesus as Lord. We are witnessing the power of His Kingdom here on earth as in heaven. We are tangibly seeing the goodness of God.
During our worship services I feel thankful, excited, humbled, and nervous all at the same time. That is because God is moving and I do not always know what He will do!Knowing what He has done, and what He has spoken helps. Having a trusted leadership team that is hungry and spiritually-mature is also needed. We have those at our church as well.
In your context, I encourage you to push past life-less forms of dead tradition and ancient practices of religion that are void of God’s Presence. Really, what is the point? If what you are doing is not connecting you with the Maker of the Universe and your Farther in Heaven, then change it up. Ask The Spirit to refresh your worship times or guide you to a vibrant faith community where you can worship, grow and serve. God is on the move, and He may be waiting for you to connect with Him in deeper ways so that your reality and world will be made new. He has something good to give you and it is way better than a gazebo.