Allow me for a moment to challenge your perspective, your concept, your understanding of the word “church.”
For most people, “church” has come to mean a building, a denomination, or a program. I believe God has something else, something greater in mind when He uses the word.
A while back God began to speak to me about changes that the church needed to make if His followers were to make a significant difference in the world around us.
As my understanding of those changes developed, the Holy Spirit brought a truth to my heart that I didn’t fully comprehend: He illuminated this statement: “The door to the future is in the past.” Immediately I thought of the church of the Book of the Acts. That’s what we often refer to when we talk about a true, New Testament church. We examine Acts 2:42-47 to discover the ingredients of that church and try to apply them to our own experience and then wonder what we’re doing wrong when we don’t see three thousand or five thousand people born into the Kingdom in our meetings.
Part of the reason we can’t find the success we seek is that we tend to look for patterns to follow. We want systems and programs, concise equations whereby if we do “A” “B” and “C,” we will get “D.” There are church groups that instruct leaders to “Develop a first class children’s program, find talented musicians and preach no more than fifteen minutes on positive subjects and your church will grow.”
Unfortunately and all too often, our definition of “growth” differs greatly from God’s meaning. God cannot be reduced to a formula or a recipe. If the church is truly His church, it follows that “church” cannot be reduced to simple, repeatable formulae. Church historians know this: What worked for one generation didn’t work for the next generation. Look at the record of the church: Each generation was required to find God for themselves and to discover His direction and to hear His voice for themselves and for their unique generation.
As I contemplated that statement – “The door to your future is in the past” I asked God for understanding. He said, “Go back to Genesis.” I turned to Genesis chapter one and read,
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (Gen. 1:1-3).
Allow a brief commentary: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” All that exists around us, every law and principle that provides the material and spiritual to exist were created by God. Man had nothing to do with any law, principle, truth or reality that enables the physical world to function. All things, everything existent was made by God without the assistance and before the existence, even of man.
“The earth was without form and void . . .” In order for God to “rebirth” or “restore” His church, we must come to a place of complete and total reliance upon Him. Any idea we have, any vision or concept of what the church is must issue directly from God and not from our own experience, education, or from our own minds or souls.
God must be the solitary source of direction, counsel, instruction and illumination if His church will indeed be the church Jesus said He would build. We must offer ourselves to Him “without form and void.” This is critical for us to understand: “without form,” and “void.” Empty of our ideas, empty of our theories and models, without any preconceived concept of what the church must look like, where it will meet, when it will meet, how it will meet. These are all assumptions and notions that we received, were handed down to us by former generations. It’s the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality that so often conflicts with the purposes and direction of a mysterious and creative God.
We have seldom emptied ourselves of ourselves, choosing rather to fill ourselves with ideas, schemes, plans and efforts that have only failed, disappointed and discouraged.
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters . . .” It is the illumination and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that gives life. We have relied on supposedly “tried and true” methodologies; we have learned from the examples of previous generations; we have absorbed the teaching of college and seminary professors but we have so seldom emptied ourselves of ourselves, regarded all our earthly understanding and learning as “dung” and with the Apostle Paul declare “this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Then God said, Let there be light; and there was light. “Then God said…” it is up to the Father and His timetable to determine the “Then” moment of time when we will understand the nature, the structure and even the purposes of His church, this “New Wineskin” of which Jesus spoke.
We cannot determine the timing of any eternal thing; we can only move when heaven’s timepiece chimes. “Then God said, “Let there be light . . .” Only when God reveals the light are we able to see. There is no artificial light source; no earthly beacon can shed light on and uncover what cannot otherwise be seen. Until God turns on the light, there is darkness in the house. But when God speaks, light appears; understanding comes; comprehension is made easy.
God does not cooperate with pseudo-church forms, the unsanctified bastions of religion and the ungodly mixing of the fleshly with the spiritual.
We are moving into a new, unexplored realm of experience in Jesus and in the church. God is not finished with the church, but He is finishing with His cooperation with pseudo-church, the unsanctified bastions of religion and the mixing of the fleshly with the spiritual. He is not only demanding, He is enabling a generation to “come out from among them and be separate” and to inhabit and comprise “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
This is the church that is emerging from the counsels of heaven; this is the church of the Latter Rain, the Temple more glorious, the church of the living God against whom the gates of hell cannot not prevail.
God is calling out His people; a committed remnant that desire more than a religious atmosphere and high, holy-sounding rhetoric. God is assembling an army of warriors who will storm hell’s gates and prevail against all of the enemy’s schemes. Heaven is sounding the trumpet call for volunteers to join that army and become the church that will stand faultless around His throne, a Bride adorned for her Groom, Jesus.
The doorway to the future is in our past, all the way back to the beginning, the Genesis of it all.