“No man putteth a piece of new cloth to an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:16-17).
Old order churches, stuck in models that are no longer effective, will be challenged in the days ahead. That’s because the apostolic reformation is sweeping churches across the globe, demanding leaders take another look at their ministry structures.
I will never forget when the Holy Spirit began to deal with me about the one-man-only structure of my local church some years ago. I took a team of believers to Nicaragua to hold a series of open-air evangelistic crusades. During the first night, there was an earthquake in a small village nearby that devastated the area and killed several people.
The next morning our team visited the village to view the horrible devastation released from nature’s travail. There were people sitting on piles of rubble that once sheltered their families. We met hopelessness face-to-face as we walked the dusty trails praying for sobbing mothers and sobered fathers.
It was obvious we needed to move our crusade team to that village. That night we cranked up the generator that would power our sound system and limited lighting. We started with praise and worship and people began to gather. That night we ministered the love of Jesus and hope to the people.
DELIVERED FROM THE NORM
Toward the end of the preaching, I remember the Holy Spirit saying to me, “Don’t pray for these people by yourself. Pray for your team members, then release them to lay hands on the people and pray.” To release a team of lay ministers into the crowd was something new to me. I had never seen it done before. The norm was for the preacher to minister the Word, then pray for the people himself.
I obeyed the Holy Spirit and watched the glory of God fall in the camp. There were hundreds of people weeping under the power of the Holy Spirit. You could see mourning turn to joy. It was a remarkable sight to watch the Holy Spirit anoint our entire team. Later that night the team members were overjoyed and full of excitement. They had experienced God use them in a mighty way. They had enjoyed a level of anointing they would never forget.
That event ushered in a restructuring of our local church and a full embrace of the apostolic movement. I have discovered those who carry a reforming spirit are the forerunners of this movement. They are not satisfied with dead religious form, marketed hype, or church as usual. This group wants to make their lives count for something. They are actively pursuing God, intent on impacting their generation for Jesus. They ask the same question as that brave young warrior who would become Israel’s second king: “Is there not a cause?” This movement is empowered by people with destiny and dominion in their hearts.
We live in a time of great change. We are passing from one spiritual movement to another. There are more people praying today than ever before in the history of the Church. This intensified prayer is birthing a shaking throughout God’s house. What worked before is not working anymore. Is it possible that old ways are no longer working because the Holy Spirit is redirecting the Church? In the last several years a new focus has come to the fore. New words are resounding from church to church. New words like order, reformation, restructure, equipping, sending, teams, holiness, dominion and Spirit-led living.
We must be careful that we don’t miss our time of visitation and exchange God’s fresh direction for vain religious patterns. There is such a temptation to turn our ear away from the Holy Spirit and look at what seems right in our own sight, like overflowing sanctuaries and jam-packed stadium events. But “noses and nickels” don’t validate the Holy Spirit’s involvement. Filled seats don’t equate to God’s approval. We simply can’t afford to follow blind leaders who are compromising for numbers.
Some Gospel preachers are blending in merchandising, marketed hype, and a watered-down humanistic message that promises, “You’re all right, I’m all right.” Others are comfortable with the status quo. Still, others try to make the local church as comfortable as possible for sinners by avoiding the potential offense of the Gospel of repentance, all this while our young people are assaulted with temptations to pursue alternate and perverse lifestyles. We see a rise in homosexuality, sexual debauchery, drug addictions and an all out move toward secularism devoid of God.
FROM HYPE TO SUBSTANCE
The apostolic reformation is taking us back to basics, like getting people saved and filled with the Holy Ghost. How is it that we have learned to build churches without getting people born again? Where is that pattern in the Bible? The apostolic reformation is declaring a renewed focus on evangelism. This, too, is challenging ineffective ministry structures that try to bless people without changing them. Motivational messages might fill churches but they won't change lives. The Holy Spirit is not just trying to make us better people. He's trying to make us new people.
We need to get out of the religious hype and into the substance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That Gospel changes the hearts of people. The anointing is not polished showmanship. Again, it is the Word of God we are called to preach, not motivational messages filled with psychological wheeling intent on blessing people without changing people. The Gospel of Christ challenges and changes hearts. If the gospel you are hearing doesn’t speak to the heart then it's not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The reformation is underway. We are experiencing its beginning. “What’s different about this movement and how can it be identified” you ask? If the apostolic reformation is different from any other movement we have seen in recent history then it would be a Gospel that challenges the “heart of man” to get involved with the Holy Spirit in building the Church of Jesus Christ. It also carries an emphasis on the priesthood and kingship of every believer to do what God has called them to do. Yes, exciting change is upon us.
This change, however, makes leaders take a look at the steps necessary to release new reformers into ministry. When I say ministry, I am not talking about standing behind a pulpit on Sunday morning and preaching to a congregation. We don't need everybody to hold a microphone and preach. What we need are believers intent on taking dominion with their unique callings and gifts.
The pre-apostolic pattern of ministry had one pastor, selected by a pulpit committee, and hired by the congregation. He was responsible for meeting the spiritual needs of those attending the local church. But we have learned that God didn't call one man (the overburdened pastor) to do all the work of ministry. Scripture declares that God set in the church some apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11).
What are we to be equipped for? Is it preaching the Gospel, teaching Sunday school, prophesying, praying for people, or taking dominion? Perhaps it's all these things. The apostolic reformation has demonstrated the power of equipping every believer for the work of ministry both inside the local church and outside. We have witnessed the effectiveness of teamwork and the apostolic dimension of sent-ones into the harvest fields of the world. We have learned that God has a heart for the nations and that He wants us involved in the exciting world of international evangelism and discipleship.
FROM SPECTATORS TO PARTICIPANTS
Once again, challenges are coming. Challenges bring about a shaking that causes us to reevaluate our lives, our ministries, what we are doing and the direction we are going. God is shaking His house. Order is on the way. Resistance is futile.
I will never forget the next Sunday back in America after the Nicaragua crusades. There I was preaching in our local church and looking at the excited faces of those who had been with me on the mission field. Then it struck me like a bolt of lighting. I had nothing for them to do but listen to me preach. Oh sure, there were Sunday school classes, conferences, and seminars planned throughout the year, but there was no structure in place for them to minister to others. The Holy Spirit taught me to equip the people for active involvement. That required me to take a close look at an old structure that blessed people but didn't equip them for the work of the ministry.
Thank God, he introduced us to the apostolic revolution and provided some solutions. Since then we have made many structural changes in our local church, including a concentration on developing leaders, building various ministry teams, adding small groups led by sons and daughters of the house, and activating evangelistic teams that minister weekly throughout the city. We don’t have it all yet, but we embrace the challenges to ineffective ministry structures and purpose in our hearts to follow the Holy Spirit. I encourage everyone reading this article to do the same. Change is not always easy, but staying on the cutting edge of what God is doing in His Church is the only way to live.
(c) Jonas Clark
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