Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.Revelation 3:2
In the middle of a dinner conversation with friends recently, one commented that “we don’t need the church, we are the church”. Some could choose to argue with not needing the church, but knowing that he knew all the standard reasons why it is important not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25), I understood where he was coming from and chose not to argue. His statement stayed with me, however, and I continued to think about it over the days that followed.
Being a firm supporter of the seven mountains strategy to disciple the nations, it is easy for me to see that church in the United States, as it stands now, needs an awakening. Before 2020 I likely would not have seen the urgency, even though “church as usual” somehow felt sometimes as if I was beating my head against a wall. While the breadth of the church was certainly impressive, the depth of those of us who make up the church can often and alarmingly appear far too superficial, as if we require impressive buildings, flashy programs, trendy coffee bars, enthusiastic greeters and parking attendants in order to satisfy our need and keep us from running to the church gathering down the street.
It was during the events of 2020, however, I became convinced that church could and should not possibly go back to this “business as usual” style once all was said and done. Surely then we would begin to notice that the days were dark like never before, and we needed to be on the alert for what all would begin happening for the first time on a global level (and indeed had already began). Satan is on a fast track to setting the stage for the appearance of the antichrist. Not only are the masks coming off individually, revealing the core character behind the label, sheep nations and goat nations are also making themselves known. It is a picture type of the wheat and the tares maturing together.
It was feeling like church didn’t change after the initial lock-downs, however, appearing for the most part to just picked up right where it left off. Combine this with the events surrounding and since the time of the presidential election and you have me convinced that not only does the church in the United States look asleep, it looks catatonic! While memes to humble ourselves and turn from our wickedness literally flooded social media, the pulpit appeared silent.
Between the many sermons both my husband and I tapped into, along with several family and friends across the country we spoke with, it became apparent that church leadership as a whole wasn’t saying much about what was going on within the country, or how any of it may directly impact the church, or what we as a church needed to be praying over or taking action either for or against. After further speaking with people on an individual level, a few were alarmed as we were, but most (to borrow from a meme I once saw posted) felt that to take any action at this point would be similar to “rearranging the chairs on the titanic”.
Whoa boy, I thought, this is not the time for the church to appear powerless and/or comfortable. We talk a good game but if there are truly as many born-again-by-the-blood-repentant-sold-out believers as those who claim to be, then where are they? And let’s face it, if there are, then our community, our city, our state, our nation, this world would look drastically different! Obviously the current strategy is not having the kind of impact desired. Are we trying to interpret new revelations through old wine skins? Rest assured, the power of the Holy Spirit in the early church that turned this world upside down is still there, just waiting for us to engage with our whole-hearts and press in to a deeper, more intimate connection with Him.
But in looking around I can see that as a whole, we have become far too comfortable with the status quo. Do we fear the loss of our tax exempt status so much that we feel the need to enforce the so-called separation of church and state and buy into the idea that the pulpit is not the right place to discuss government or politics because it doesn’t send the right message and is too controversial, scaring people away? Compromise is such a slippery slope, and ground is lost in such small increments that we don’t notice in the immediate. It is only looking back over time that we see how much is truly gone. I agree with our founding father, John Adams, when he said “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”. How can we then believe that government affairs need to be separate, taboo, not spoken – or that “church” can only happen within the confines of a building?
The truth is that we are called to be salt and light, and to push back the powers of darkness on every level. God’s kingdom is wherever we are! We have walked away from the great commission to make disciples of nations, losing ground continually to Satan for him to do with as he pleases – and believe me, he is much better at discipling the nations than we are!
I saw the year 2020 as a window of grace, an opportunity to “be still and know”, and an invitation given to the church by our Lord Jesus Christ to wake up and strengthen the things which remain (Rev 3:2), and prepare for the dark days that lay ahead of us. Instead we have gone back to a focus on the buildings and programs I mentioned earlier, buying into “guerilla marketing” strategies. We need the guerilla (war fighter), but to say the strategy for the great harvest lies in the brilliance of a marketing campaign designed to bring those from without, IN, and expect the discipling to take place only once IN, is to misdirect the command for the church to go OUT, and to disciple the nations – in the marketplaces (the world systems) – to be loud and bold – the voice of influence within all the spheres of our society.
Lance Wallnau once said that reformation takes place from the top down, revival takes place from the ground up, and when the two meet you have a great awakening. I have thought about that often, as I believe now more than ever that reformation within the church in the United States is necessary, and it IS coming.
The first great reformation of the church was, in the fullness of its time, so critical! I believe this upcoming season of reformation is just as critical. Over the centuries that followed Martin Luther’s reformation, the church became more and more sectarian and divided. God used that division for His purposes, however, in that each of those splits and denominations which held fast to the core beliefs of Christianity (or sometimes referenced to as the Nicene Creed) carried with them a facet of Jesus that was unique.
Think of it in terms of a husband and wife. Each on their own are independent, unique, and beautiful. But when the two become one, over time they each discover that there are certain aspects of the other that, when combined, can only be accomplished together. Unity is like the feeling you get when you are riding a motorcycle and move together as one . Two or more believers coming into agreement as one accomplish far more than they ever would have by remaining separate, because now God is in their midst working to accomplish His purposes through them. It is a beautiful picture of love and grace, preferring one another and building a life of unity together.
So yes, we for sure both are the church and need the church (one another), and Just like that precious stone, we are about to discover that each of those facets combined together make for a much more glorious, flawless, and beautiful whole – across the whole body, not just within each sect or at an individual level. But there can be no doubt that a shaking is coming! In the end the church will look drastically different than it does now as pastors everywhere begin to realize they themselves were lids to their own God-given ministries, and they begin to step out of the way of the Holy Spirit. Only what is of the Kingdom will remain.
Much like the way the Lord kept streamlining the men under Gideon’s command until they went from thousands down to a mere 300, we too are being streamlined into a united bride, passionate and ready to partner with our bridegroom whenever, wherever (no labels needed)! When the world sees that we offer real hope, real change, and real power in Christ as He is lifted up among us, they will be drawn to Him. As Dutch Sheets put it so well:
“I believe the coming outpouring of Holy Spirit will be the greatest “presence movement” in history. It will not be built on or revolve around gifts, preaching, personalities, methods, programs, buildings, innovation, sensationalism, and hype. It will center around relationship with a person. And billions of people around the world will find what they have been looking for”.Dutch Sheets