Chapter Five - The Energy Crisis In Our Churches
There was a lady who lived on the outskirts of a small town. She lived all by herself; and, though living in the present time, she lived many years prior to this time with respect to conveniences in her home, for there was no energy there; that is, no electricity. From time to time, a friend from the city would come to visit her; and, on one occasion, the friend talked to her about the possibility of getting some electricity into her home. She had lived years and years with the old way; and there's nothing wrong with the old way, except that there is a newer, more convenient way, her friend tried to tell her. The reason her friend brought up the subject was that, on this occasion when the friend came to visit her, she saw some power lines which she had never seen before.
Perhaps the wind had blown many of the leaves away, or she had walked in a different direction, but she saw power lines which were going to a neighbor's, who lived some four or five miles up the mountain. And so she asked her friend, "Why don't you latch onto this power so that you can have electricity?" Well, she decided she would think about it; and when her friend came back several days later, she had decided that she would indeed take advantage of the electricity which was available. 'Thy she hadn't done it before, she really didn't know. But now she did. And, after making proper arrangements, within several weeks, she was very happy, for her whole life had been changed O Now she had more time to do things by using the available power. Everything was different!
I think that there is in America, and particularly in the American Church, an energy crisis. The advice given to us in the present energy crisis which we are hearing about, which tells us to do many things such as drawing the drapes and turning down the thermostat, is all very well. But I think in the. Church we ought to do just the opposite. I think we need to open up the drapes. I do not think we ought to turn the thermostat down, but I think we need to turn our inside thermostat up.
Now, the reason why the American Church doesn't latch onto the power could possibly be the same reason why the lady did not latch onto the power. First, she said there was an expense involved. There was a cost which she would have to bear. The second reason was that she really didn't know how to use electricity. Well, rnay1 what we are suffering from is that we don't really know how to use the power that is available to us. Because I think we would all agree that the American Church is not operating at peak efficiency. Our wattage is quite low. It is so easy to turn it up, but we do not.
Now, when Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 28, "Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the commands I have given you, and know I am with you always, yes to the end of time," those men believed it. They accepted it. They took it at face value.
Today we read the verse of Scripture, and we change it to fit our own needs O When Jesus says for you to go and make disciples and baptize, and teach, He says, if you do all these things, "I'll be with you.'
Now the early disciples had no energy crisis. They just took seriously these words from our Lord, and why not? They came from their master. And since that time, other people have taken them seriously, and they have passed them on. The Church has realized from time to time, at least, that if we are to have a greater missionary, evangelistic zeal, the Holy Spirit of God has to come with His power. It belongs as a blessing of the Church, But when the Church has lost this, then God has moved on.
Let's note in passing, in the great moments of the past; for example, the first half of the first century, Jerusalem was the center of it all. In the second half of the first century, Antioch and Syria and other strong centers like Ephesus and Alexandria were the places where God was moving and working. From A.D, 33. until the close of the sixth century, He was in Constantinople. In Rome it was from AD 6. to around 1050. It was in France during the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. In the 16th century, God was moving in a very mighty way in Germany, with Luther taking a strong hold, as he did in 1517, During the period of the colonization development, it was in England; but the age of skepticism came, and religion was paralyzed. Evangelistic zeal was chilled, soul-winning fervor was killed, and God moved on During the first half of the nineteenth century He was in New England in the great revival of the United States of America around 1800.
But then, as someone has said, "The educational institutions were saved from the grip of infidelity and were transformed into mighty evangelistic agencies. The crime wave was wiped out, Liquor was brought into disrepute. The home life was saved. Prosperity was ushered in, the Churches were immeasurably strengthened. Foreign mission movement in America had started, and we were in the midst of revival as never before, But, at that time, Unitarianism swept across the Churches, denying the deity of Jesus, denying the inspiration of the Scriptures, Materialism absorbed our interests, and evangelistic effort was chilled. And then God moved on."
Some said He was only in the South for many years, I doubt that, But nevertheless, He was moving in various areas around our country as His Spirit moved, But the point to which I am building up is this question: "Is God even in America right now with His power??
You say, "Oh, my. Of course He is." And you can cite personal incidents which would be valid for you, but I'm doubting now if this great movement of God's power is even in America. When I read of great revivals that are sweeping other countries and areas, I wonder if we, the people of America, have not fallen so deeply into our sins that, maybe God is moving on. This is why we have the energy crisis, at least. How long we will have the energy crisis depends upon how you, yourself, will conserve.
What might the American Church be learning from this? None of us live to our selves, and none of us will die to ourselves. To do justice and to love mercy and to follow by walking humbly with our God is what the Lord requires.
I think the energy crisis could be solved so easily if we would just do it. I'm told, for example, that in the New England states, there lie in the ground, many seeds of tropical plants which have been brought there by birds, by the elements, etc. And I'm told that, if, in the New England states, it suddenly became very warm for a considerable period of time, these tropical plants would just take over the New England states O That is because they are there now in seed form, and all they need is a little bit of warmth so that they can begin germinating and growing. I think the American Church is this way. We have lain in wait too long for God's Spirit.
The Churches in America are tempted Lo think, "We can do it ourselves; we need not concern ourselves to asic God." Everything seems to be good. Why, we have our skills, we have our abi1ities. I think that the danger is that we might think we are smart enough to save ourselves. And our most destroying, our deadliest sin is that of prides When each group says, "We're right;" "I'm right;" "You're right;" I think one might discover he is most wrong when he claims to be most right.
Well, we have a long way to go in our Churches before we can reach the desire of Jesus when He said, "I desire that they all may be one" But it we could just realize that we have a part in the energy crisis in the American Church, I think some changes would occur.
First of All, The Power of God
I discovered in the King James version of the Bible that there are 257 times that the word, "power," is used, with 19 other phrases in which it is connected. As I started studying the word, "power," which occurs in many of the books of the Bible, I discovered that when I read the word, "power," in this book, and the word, "power," in that book, and the word, "power," in the other book, it is not always the same original word meaning, "power" For example, there are seventeen Hebrew words that mean "power," and there are six Greek words that mean "power," That is to say, just in passing, that if these writers used different words from the other writers for the same word of "power,' there must be a diversity of power that is available, and we are just not availing ourselves of this power.
In I Chronicles 29:11, the word is, "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty, but Thou art exalted as head above all." "Thine is the power" Power is one of His attributes,, God has spoken once, the Bible says "And twice have I heard that this 'Power belongs to God.
It is expressed with His finger (Ex. 8:19; Ps, 8:3)5 expressed with His hand (Ex. 9:3, 15; Isa. 48:13); with His voice (Ps, 68:33); with His arm (Isa. 52:1.); and with the thunder (Job 26:14).
And we, as saints today, should exhibit God's power more than we doe, Saints long for exhibition of God's power. Listen to Psalm 63:1, 2: ". God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see Thy power and Thy glory, so as I have seen Thee in the Sanctuary."
We can be made confident in it and strengthened by it (Eph. 6:10, Col. l:ll This power of God should be acknowledged, pleaded in prayer--somewhat feared, and magnified.
Second, The Power of Jesus
Well, in His working of miracles, His word was with power. He gave His disciples power; He said, "1 give you power." The multitudes marveled and glorified God Who had given such power. And so Jesus had this power, and there was no energy crisis.
His Word was with power. Matthew 9:8, "Multitudes marveled and glorified God Who had given such power. It was this same Jesus Who gave His disciples power. (Luke 9:1; 1O:19)
Three, The Holy Spirit
This is our subject, the Holy Spirit. The life of the Church falls under the guidance and under the work of the Holy Spirit. The Church is the habitation of the Spirit of God, and we are missing the energy in operation when we fail to acknowledge the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit does so many things. For example, we are told in God's Word that it is through the mighty signs and wonders by the power of the Spirit. (Romans 15:l9) Miracles and wonders are happening today. It is the Spirit of God that makes the Gospel effective. Paul said, "My speech was in the demonstration of the Spirit and in the Power." (I Cor. 2:4)
I think when we overlook God's power that extends to every area and every detail of this Church and to your life and to your home, then we miss out on all the power.
We have many circles of concern O But with all these circles there is one fixed center in which all the other circles converge, in one way or another. For example, there are diversities of administration, but one administrator, the Holy Spirit There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, the same central point. With so many circles of concern and activity, there is one fixed center. While there are diversities of administration, it is determined by one administrator-- the Holy Spirit. There are "varieties of gifts," but the same Spirit.
We have different works according to the same Spirit--gifts of faith in the same Spirit, gifts of healing in one Spirit, miracles, prophecies, tongues, interpretations, but all of these work in and with the same Spirit. And whether the authority arid rule of the Holy Spirit are recognized or ignored will determine the unity of the Church and the effectiveness of the Church.
Now you say, "What does this have to do with me? I have my job. I pray. I work in the Church. This is for somebody else." But iš it really? I think it has to do with each one of us. If we would desire, for example, to find the clue that leads to the great apostasy that has, even now, covered a great deal of our world, we would find that it is in the ignoring of the leading of the rule and the authority of the Holy Spirit O We talk about God. 11e talk so much about Jesus. But we ignore the Holy Spirit.
"And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.1' Luke 24:49. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8.
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." II Tim. 1:7
Four, What About the Holy Spirit In the General Life of the Church?
It makes up the members; and we, as members, must be filled with, charged by, and powered in, the Spirit. It is like, for example, having a burglar alarm in your home. You have all of your doors and windows attached to it. It is operated by batteries. But if, by mistake, you leave the switch on for any period of time, it won't work as it should work. You could open the window, and it wouldn't sound the alarm. You wouldn't have to rewire; you wouldn't have to polish the bell. You would have to go to the source of the power, the batteries, and re-charge them. And this is where the Churches are missing out.
This is what the Church doesn't realize. The incoming of the Spirit into the heart of the believer makes him a Christian, gives him sonship, gives him heirship to God. Now, it's the in dwelling of the Spirit that gives power to the Church, and you are part of the Church, and you can't separate the two. The indwelling of the Spirit gives power to you arid your section of the Church. And this is why you are a Sanctuary.
Now, the Church is not another organization. Let me repeat. The Community Church is not listed among the organizations of King City. As a matter of fact, a religious organization need not be a Church, because it is possible to have a religious organization filled with religious motives and purposes without its being a Church . One who has been redeemed has been brought into the fellowship of God; hence he is a member of the universal Church. That is the Church--the redeemed who have come together.
Now, organization is secondary. Maybe this is why we are feeling the energy crisis in our Churches O We have placed the emphasis upon organization instead of on the Spirit. I don't mean to minimize organization. It is very essential to operate the machinery of the Church; and we at Community Church pride our selves on smooth operational programs . Our Church machinery is well-oiled and works very well. We have consolidated committees; we have consolidated boards. Organizationally speaking, we have it made in our Church. We have good machinery, but we must not let the machinery take the place of the Spirit And when it does, we have the energy crisis. That is what has happened in the American Church, I feel.
You see, we have a part in this, individually. When the Spirit brings you and me into fellowship with Jesus, then the function of the Spirit is to inspire us in our worship of God. It inspires the singing O It inspires the teaching, and the whole total aspect of the worship for every Christian. But this is when the Spirit comes and fills the Church. I think, sometimes, that the Spirit of God is not filling our Churches as it should.
I went into a Church several years ago while I was on vacation; and when I left, I said, "Lord, I have been in the Church of the Holy Refrigerator," I walked in. I was not greeted. I sat down. I participated as I could. I felt nothing. I said, "It must be me.u When I left, I had my hand greeted by only one person, and that was because he bumped into me at the door as I was walking out. And I thought to myself as I went home, "Is this the fellowship of the redeemed?" Well, I am sure it was. But I think the crisis of energy had hit that Church so hard that the Spirit of God couldn't work because they were doing it. "We're doing it," we say, and we're not doing it.
The Church that makes out its program of worship without reference to the Holy Spirit forgets what worship is and what it's for. Oftentimes, worship is looked upon as the means of entertainment or pleasing the people, rather than being looked upon as pleasing and adoring Jesus as Lord, and building up the body of the Church. I think a woe should go to the Church in which the aesthetic and the entertaining take the place of the worship and the spiritual part of the worship.You can have the aesthetic, and you can have the entertainment if they are kept in the proper perspective, but the Spirit of God must be allowed to serve its end.
But I think the Spirit is in the visible crisis here, The Church cannot function as a Church apart from the Spirit. Let me repeat. The Church cannot function as a Church without the Spirit's being in it.
Now, my following statement may be new to you and give new insight to some. The function of the Church is not the same function as that of a Christian. The function of the Church is not the same thing as the function of a Christian. The function of a Christian is to make disciples. Pass it on. Look what God has done for me Pass it on. Are you a Christian? The function of the Church is to worship.
Now, while there may be, and certainly are, a variety of ways in which to worship, we must make no mistake as to the undergirding force in our worship; and that is a dependency upon the Spirit of God. That is why I am saying that, in America, we are suffering from the energy crisis because we have separated our worship from God's Spirit. The Spirit must release the springs of prayer and praise if it is going to be genuine worship. Now the woman who, at great cost, got the electricity. into her home, I'm told, used that electricity. She would turn it on at night, and she would see how to light her lamps, and then she would turn it off. And she continued the drudgery of trimming the wicks, pouring the smelly oil and lighting those lamps. Many continue to serve the Lord in weakness and weariness. They just switch off. The Spirit is not in control in our Churches as it should be.
Five, The Spirit of God Is in Control In The Government Of The Church And In The Preaching Of God's Word
We have preached the Gospel with the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven, The true preacher does not simply use the Spirit; he is used by the Spirit. He speaks as one moving in the element and atmosphere of the Holy Spirit. That is why from the pulpits of many Churches there is not ringing clear as a trumpet the sound of God, Paul said, "Take heed unto yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Ghost has made you bishops, to feed the Church of God."
Clearly, in the beginning, the pastors of the Church were given God's Spirit. Clearly today, when a person feels God's call, he has his obligation to work and move in the Spirit, so that, in a worship service, he can be that instrument through which God speaks and uses him.
Six, The Holy Spirit In Prayer Life
This is indeed important. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:18); "Praying in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 20). In Romans it says, "In like manner the Spirit helpeth our infirmities for we know not what to pray for as we ought, But the Spirit maketh intercession for us." There are so many Scriptures to which I could refer you, telling how the Spirit is actively engaged, or should be. The same is true with our singing. It is an element of worship. It is an element in which the relationship to the Spirit should be strongly emphasized. Spiritual singing is what God has told us to do--not Church music. I'm sorry, Choir, but there is a difference in some Churches between Church music which has been elevated to an ordinance and spiritual singing.
Seven, The Holy Spirit and Singing
The Scripture says, "Be filled with the Spirit," Well, we usually stop right there. But if we would read on, we would read, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms end hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making a melody in your hearts to the Lord." Now, quite simply: when a group sings, if that group is going to be endowed with God's Spirit, it must be made up of regenerated people. And yet there ere some Churches, and I have known them personally, who have said, "We want to bring in people from the Metropolitan Opera and the concert hail to sit in our choir with our people, so that we can have beautiful music," And when that has occurred, this is not what God has said in His Word. The gift of God in music cannot be purchased with money. And the service of song has been divinely given to the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Now, the feature of worship is that it is mutual, and the same thing is true with music. We in Churches are blessed by having people who are appointed to lead the service, when they themselves are under the divine leadership of the Spirit. But the Church cannot make the mistake of which I have known, and I have reference to two Churches in particular which hired somebody who was not a Christian and who advocated many other principles, to come in and lead the choir in singing. And that Church is not very effective' today. While that may not be the only reason, it is just the point that I am making. The Scripture says that the Spirit of God must be in all aspects of our worship; otherwise, serious peril can come to the community of God.
Let me state simply this. There is an energy crisis. You can take a person and place him on a stool with glass legs, and you can charge him with energy with electricity, and, I am told, he would not be harmed. But let someone go near that person and just start to reach out, and, I'm told, fire would come out toward the person and make him want to jump back just a little bit. If you, then, would have your soul charged with the fire of God so that those who come close to you would feel some of this mysterious influence proceeding out of you, then you must draw nigh to God. You must draw nigh to the source of energy, and you must shut out the cold world that steals the flame of fire away. You must go to your closet. You must get your fire. You must get your "baptism," if this is what you would like to call it.
And we will be talking next about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. You must align yourself with God in order to get the energy, and then you will not labor in your own strength, but you will go on in demonstration of the Spirit and with power. Is there an energy crisis in the American Church? I say, "Yes, unquestionably yes, but we at Community Church are going to do something about it." May we pray:
"Our Heavenly Father, there is so much for the asking, and yet we are content just to be the way we are. And how sad it is, how sad it is to walk when we can ride, how sad it is to ride when we can fly! How sad it is for an individual to read simple, simple ABC books when he could read so deeply into the Word of God. We ask, Our Father, that You would bless us as we do something about the energy crisis.
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