If you haven’t noticed, the world is not beating a path to the doors of our churches—especially here in the United States. The number of churches closing their doors and consolidating is staggering. Income is declining and pastors are being forced to find personal income streams in order to meet their personal or family needs. Volunteerism is down in the church and many responsibilities are now being combined or eliminated. The number of people giving up on regular church attendance or being involved with church program life is dropping tremendously. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the church. I love the church. Jesus died for the church. It’s just that I believe that the church is going to look different, act different and be different. This new church reformation will change the world. Some churches are catching on to what God is building and they are “reforming” in ways to come into agreement with what the Holy Spirit is doing today.
Around the world, in many different cultures, the “church” is growing in places religious leaders can barely imagine. People are being saved, healed, delivered and changed. This emerging church doesn’t look at all like it has looked here in the United States over the past several generations, but it is definitely making its presence known. And, where it is manifesting, earthly governments and others still estranged from God are trying their best to control that which is not controllable. Why? Two Reasons:
1. Because we are in a new season in God. The transition from what I call the Institutional Age of the Church is giving way to the Kingdom Age of the Church. All 5 office gifts to the church (apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher, evangelist: Eph. 4:11-12 have now been restored and activated, and the equipping of the saints to full maturity in Christ is under way. This is a good thing!
2. In this new season of the Kingdom Age of the Church, God is going to do the building by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is not going to be built on the wisdom and knowledge of man. It will do things that to the carnal mind seem foolish. The church is reforming, and it is going to be reformed in the model taught and exampled by Jesus Himself and the first generation of believers under the leadership of the Apostles. The church Jesus called to “go ye therefore” is beginning to awaken.
Men have done their best to grow the church. Men have done their best to control the church. But, Scripture clearly tells us building the church is not going to come by the hands of men. Ps 127:1 says “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.” (NASB) Matt 16:18 Jesus speaking says, “…and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven”;…”(NASB) Finally, Rev 11:15 declares “…there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” (NASB)
What Jesus envisioned for the church was not a building or a program or an event. The Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus preached was a people, moving in the power of God, loving, evangelizing, and teaching those who would receive. A people who lived life only for the glory of God by loving intentionally, meeting felt needs, sharing from what they had, and living Jesus’ prayers of “Let thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, and Father as you and I are one, let them be one.
The word translated in Scripture as church 79 times is “Ekklesia.” It means “a called out assembly and in the vernacular of today and terms of what we are seeing today, this “called out assembly” would be defined as those believers who are called out of the world and into His marvelous light to demonstrate the powers of the Kingdom of God in a way that will impact and change the kingdoms (or cultures) of this world. 1st Corinthians gives us the clearest picture of what the Ekklesia honored. Their gatherings and outreaches included 1.)fellowship, 2.)praise and worship, 3.)honoring Jesus command of communion, and 4.)equipping of the believers to exercise their spiritual gifts as empowered by the Holy Spirit. In approximately 70 years, without the conveniences of computers, internet, telephones or television, the Ekklesia touched the entire known world of that time period.
In closing, let me summarize by saying the church of this new season will be characterized by intentional love, fellowship, small group gatherings with occasional times of coming together, prayer, evangelization, and equipping of the saints. It is not going to be centered on a building, protocols and processes, programs, events, legal requirements and traditions. It is going to be centered on Jesus, and giving glory and honor to God who has given us life so we can be in an operational covenant relationship with him and one another. Father, let thy Kingdom come and let your church reflect your glory.