(adapted from New Wine Skins) By Nate Krupp, Preparing The Way, Publishers, Salem, OR, USA
A fresh breeze is blowing. In this hour, God is calling and leading His Church back to the humility, simplicity, and mutuality of the Early Church as seen in the New Testament. He is saying, “For 1,700 years you have done it your way. Now you are going to do it My way.” We are now in the midst of the early days of a sovereign, very radical, new move of God that will result in true, New Testament Christianity and the final fulfillment of the Great Commission. This new move of God is characterized by the following:
1. From serving God to knowing God.
Most of us have known about and served God for years. Now He is calling us to truly and deeply know Him and supremely love Him and Him alone. True fruit will be produced naturally as we intimately know and love Him.
2. From a Gospel of “easy-believism” to the Gospel of the Kingdom.
In the 1960’s people were encouraged to “accept Christ.” This often resulted in shallow conversions, people who were not truly converted.Today, God is calling His servants to preach “the Gospel of the Kingdom” which requires us to call men to repent (turn from sin) and to make Jesus their Lord or King, the Sovereign ruler of their lives.
3. From the efforts of man to the works of God.
The days of putting out a sign, starting some programs, and conducting services to do God’s work are over! We must learn to “do God’s work in God’s way.” We need to wait upon Him; learn to know His voice; get our direction from Him alone; and obey promptly and totally. We must pay the price for revival. We must give ourselves to united, intensive, extraordinary prayer and warfare. We need to believe God to confirm His Word with signs and wonders. We need to implore God to teachus to do His work His way – and be ready to make drastic changes as He does just that. Then the fruit will be produced by Him – and He will get all of the glory.
4. From insecure, wounded people to people made whole by Jesus Christ.
Most of us have had traumatic experiences and have received deep woundings from other people. The word “salvation” means soundness, deliverance, wholeness. Jesus wants to heal us and set us free – body, soul, and spirit – to live a life of total victory. He is today raising up an army of such people – made whole by Him in every way – to live an abundant life that brings glory to God.
5. From being told by man what to do to learning to hear God’s voice and doing what He tells you to do.
For too long we have gotten our revelation and guidance from others. God wants us to grow up, learn how to hear His voice (John10:3-5), and get our understanding of truth and direction from Him. And yet, of course, we need to do that in an attitude of submission towards all.
6. From clergy-dominated services and programs to mutually-participating communities of believers.
We are used to attending “a church” and participating in “a service” led by “the minister, clergy, or pastor.” But such is not the case in Scripture. The Early Christians, for three hundred years, gathered in their homes to experience “koinonia,” to share their lives with each other (Acts 2:42-47). They gathered together to build up one another by that which each one shared with the group (1 Corinthians14:26, Ephesians 4:15-16, Hebrews 10:23-25). The moving ofGod’s Spirit in supernatural expression and power was an important aspect of these gatherings (1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14).
Today we have developed a spectator Christianity where a few (the “clergy”) perform and the many (the “laymen”) observe. Many of our Sunday morning services are nothing but a religious “production.” We have made idols out of the Sunday morning service, the pastor, the building, pulpit, choir, platform, etc. We need to repent and return to the humility, simplicity, and mutual participation of the Early Church.
The indication that the time is ripe for this transition can be seen in many churches today where godly people (“laymen”) who have been deep in the Word for twenty years, and have gifts and ministries that God has given them, are getting “bored” with being spoon-fed. They are eager to do some sharing themselves. God has been teaching them much, taking them deeper in understanding the Word, intercession, etc. Yet,when the Body of Christ gathers together, there often is little or no opportunity to share.
7. From one-man leadership to team, servant leadership.
The early Christians worked in teams: Jesus sent the twelve and seventy out in pairs; Paul always had associates (Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, Priscilla and Aquila, etc.) working with him; the churches were led by a group called elders (Acts 14:23, 20:17-32, 1Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Peter 5:1-5).
Today we have borrowed our organizational patterns from Roman Catholicism, the military, an the corporate world, and have developed religious hierarchies, where men rule over men, in contradiction to Matthew 20:25-28, 23:8-12, and 1 Peter 5:3. And most of these religious systems have perpetuated one-man leadership, i.e., “the pastor of the local church” or the president or director of the para-church organization. This generally leads to domination, manipulation, autocratic rule, and personal failure. We have developed charismatic leaders who entertain and who use God’s people and finances to fulfill the leader’s dreams rather than servant-coaches who serve-coach-release the people of God to fulfill their various dreams.
Today God is loudly calling His Church back to the simple patterns of the Early Church where those in leadership walk in humility (1 Peter 5:5-6), work in teams, are submitted to one another (Ephesians 5:21), are servants (Matthew 20:25-28), and are coaches, releasing all others into ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).
8. From being “meeting” oriented to being “relationship” oriented.
The standard often used for evaluating how committed one is as a Christian has often been how regularly he attends the standard meetings of the church, i.e., Sunday School, Sunday a.m. service, Sunday p.m., and Wednesday p.m.
God doesn’t care how many meetings we attend – or don’t attend! He is concerned about relationships. He is concerned that you have a committed, growing relationship with Him; He is concerned that your relationship with all others is without sin; He is concerned that you have a deep, committed, growing, wholesome relationship with a small group of fellow Christians; and He is concerned that you develop natural, loving relationships with several unsaved friends in hopes of seeing them come to Christ.
Let’s get off of this “meeting kick” and start developing relationships. Let’s make sure that we are “without offense toward God and men” (Acts24:16). Let’s put a priority on one-to-one and small group time together. Let’s restructure our church services to be times of building relationships with God and with one another. (There should be time during the service to share with one another and pray for one another as stated in James 5:16.) Meetings and programs come and go – only God-ordained, committed relationships last. We must give priority to relationships.
9. From gathering in church buildings to gathering in homes.
Jesus never erected any buildings and He never said anything to His disciples about erecting buildings. He taught that true worship has nothing to do with a place (John 4:20-24); and that His Kingdom is within us (Luke 17:21).
The Early Christians gathered in their homes (Acts 2:46, 5:42,11:12-14, 12:12, 16: 40, Romans 16:5,16:2; 1 Corinthians 16:19,Colossians 4:14, Philemon 2). The Jewish Christians in Jerusalem went to the Temple. But after it was destroyed there is no record of Christians in erusalem, or anywhere else, having any desire to erect “church” buildings.
For three hundred years the Christian Church was home-centered: just believers coming together in their homes to worship (Acts 13:2) and praise God (Acts 2:47), pray (Acts 12:5), read the Scriptures (1 Timothy4:13), encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25), sing (Ephesians 5:19,Colossians 3:16), listen to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42), have a meal together (Acts 2:46), have the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:22), etc. When the group grew too large for one home, one could assume they simply began to meet in two. What a simple way to expand: no expensive building programs, fund-raising, or facilities to maintain. Think of the money saved that was used to fulfill the Great Commission and to minister to the poor.
Today God is restoring these simple home-centered meetings to His Church. In the Soviet Union, China, and other “closed” nations, secret house-churches are the way of life for most of the Christians. In many pioneer mission situations, the converts are won in their homes through door-to-door evangelism or home Bible study groups. The young believers are then discipled in home-centered meetings. In some places a “church” building is eventually erected, but in other places the times of coming together are kept in the homes. In large, crowded cities, like Hong Kong and Singapore, many of the churches are house-churches. There is, in fact, a growing house-church movement world-wide. Even in suburban North America, one of the most popular Christian activities is home-meetings, during the week or on Sunday evening. God is leading His Church more and more back to the home. We will see this trend continue to accelerate world-wide. In fact, we could see the church buildings closing quite quickly in many nations through a change in non-profit tax laws, an energy crisis, a political upheaval, an economic collapse, war, or end-time persecution. This writer believes that Jesus will find His Church primarily meeting in homes when He returns.
10. From looking inward to looking outward.
It is easy for all of us to become involved in our own lives and forget others. But Jesus said we were to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39) and that we will be judged in respect to our ministering to others (Matthew 25:31-46). The Bible further exhorts us to not look out just for our own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). Too often we have been too concerned about our own needs, and have become a “bless me” club. Too often the Church has been too concerned about its own continued existence rather than about the great needs in the world and the fulfilling of Christ’s Great Commission. The Church has taken a defensive posture, functioned as a hospital, and attempted to care for all of the believer’s needs and wants. It is time to take the offensive, begin to function as an army, and go out to evangelize the world, trample on the devil, and take this world back from him and deliver it to Jesus. God is looking for soldiers! God is calling His Church afresh to be deeply involved in:
a. evangelism – taking the Gospel to every person in your nation and seeing multitudes brought to Christ.
b. missions – seeing the Gospel taken cross-culturally to the yet unreached 12,000 unreached people groups.
c. social justice – seeing the oppressed of earth – the refugees, the homeless, the poor, the disadvantaged, the minorities, the oppressed, the disfranchised – have a chance to live productive, wholesome lives.
d. all of society under Lordship of Christ – seeing every segment of society – the home, the schools, government, banking, business and industry, the media, the arts, sports, etc. – called to return to a Biblical foundation and brought under the rulership of the living Lord Jesus Christ.
11. From big, expensive programs of evangelism to the simple, Spirit-led witness of “the little people”
When we have given ourselves to the evangelization of the world, we have often thought in terms of some big, expensive program. But, increasingly, God is emphasizing that the world will be evangelized by the simple, Spirit-led witness of every day people who love Jesus with all of their hearts – sharing Him by life and word everywhere they go.
12. From the subjugation of women to a release of women as equal partners in the Kingdom of God.
The Church through the centuries has been one of the entities that has restricted women in their role at home, in society, and in the church. Much of this has been based on an erroneous interpretation of 1Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15. But, little-by-little, that has been changing since about 1850. And based upon a look at all of Scripture, women are increasingly being released to be fully and freely led by God’s Spirit to manage their home (Titus 2:5), to be fully involved in the life and ministry of the Church (Acts 2:17-18), and to pursue and attain all that God may have for her in the business and professional world. When Jesus returns He will find His women fully released and ministering under the leadership and anointing of His Spirit (Acts 2:17-18).
13. From financial “sloppiness” and cover-up to financial integrity, accountability, and disclosure.
The Body of Christ and the world recently have seen a major example of financial mismanagement, cover-up, and fraud. There are many other examples of “sloppiness.” Christians, of all people, should be people of utmost financial integrity. The following should never take place: the pastor setting his own salary, the congregation not knowing how much is received in the offering, the pastor’s wife keeping the books, etc. There should be a full disclosure of how much comes in and how it is spent. Salaries and major expenditures should be determined by a group appointed by the congregation.
14. From denominations to “the church of a city”.
There exists today over 20,000 denominations and many more Christian organizations. All of these groups have come into being as a part of spiritual awakenings, the restoration of truth and practice, or to meet a particular need, and all have been used by God.
In the New Testament we find that all of the believers in a given city were identified as “the church in (that city),” i.e., “the church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1), “the church in Ephesus” (Revelation 2:1), etc. They were identified as one church even though they met in many various homes throughout the city.
Today God is restoring this aspect to His Church. Increasingly, believers in a given city are seeing themselves as the church in that city. In a growing number of places the leaders of all the various groups are coming together on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) to share and pray and to begin to function as the elders of that one, city-wide church. This will continue and accelerate. As it does, denominational and organizational distinctions will become less and less clear as each receives from the other and all flow into functioning as the Body ofChrist, or “church of (that city).” (In all of this we are talking about heart unity of true believers, not organizational unity of the apostate church.)
15. From being related to one another organizationally to being related to one another in the Kingdom of God.
It use to be that one related to others primarily on the basis of similar organizational connections, i.e., Baptist, Methodist, Campus Crusade, etc. But that is drastically changing. God is bonding people of various backgrounds and affiliations together for His own purposes. We need to be open to these divine connections, allow these relationships to develop as the Spirit leads, and be used by God as He would choose.