Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite. This little rhyme dates back to the 1700’s during colonial times. It is commonly believed when it was first used it was more than a simple rhyme but had meaning to the people of that day. Obviously, today it is something repeated to our children in fun. What began centuries ago as instruction is now a lighthearted saying with no significance at all.
Throughout the history of our nation there have been many things believed to be important but now we look back and wonder what in the world were they thinking. Things like segregation and refusing voting rights to women were part of the fabric of this country for generations but we now view these as scars and blemishes on our history. These were once the law of the land but now the mere thought of them is repulsive to us.
Church history is not exempt from these head scratchers. We have preached and practiced many things that seemed sacred at the time but, today, we know they were man’s ideas and not God’s. These situations make me extremely grateful for the grace of God and our ability to learn and grow. We should always be anchored to the Word of God but always willing to walk in its light as it shines on our path.
Just as sure as there are elements of our past that were given prominence in the church when they should not have been, I believe there are areas, today, that should be given high priority but because of many different reasons aren’t getting it. Some things time and culture should not change. These are the areas that have brought us to our current existence and will need to be present if our influence continues.
This, by no means, is intended to be an exhaustive list. These are just the elements I hear God speaking to me about. I consider these to be “can’t live without” and “protect at all costs” components of the 21-century church.
Ministry of the Holy Spirit. Much can be achieved through creativity and strategy, but a serious mistake is made when we assume these can take the place of the Holy Spirit. As a matter of fact, it should be made perfectly clear the church can only function as Christ’s Body on this earth when it leans heavy on the Spirit. The church is a spiritual body; therefore, it must never try to accomplish in the flesh what was begun in the Sprit.
Unfortunately, many modern believers are weak and many churches are being overwhelmed because carnality has become the order of the day. My definition for carnality is spiritual business being done in the flesh. Decisions are being made based on what feels good and fits our narrative. This always leads to frustration and defeat. The only remedy is an admission of total need for the Holy Spirit’s work in all we do.
The Holy Spirt is moving right now in the hearts of His children – prompting and nudging us toward His will. We must listen and respond.
The Holy Spirit is moving right now in the life of His church – orchestrating and positioning us toward our greatest harvest. We must be sensitive and submit.
I am firmly convinced the present circumstances of our world – even though meant by the enemy for our harm – are serving as a catalyst to propel us to a season of increase and Kingdom expansion. No generation has had an opportunity like this to impact the entire globe. The Holy Spirit of the book of Acts is stirring the ashes of our hearts reviving a flame that many thought was long gone. Something unprecedented is on the brink of happening.
We cannot let the time get by us! We cannot miss this opportunity! Our prayer must be, “O, God, we need you as never before. Fill us with your Holy Spirit and anoint us to be your people in this world.” Rest assured; this is a prayer He will answer.
The Preached Word. Preaching is God’s idea. I Corinthians 1:21 says, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.” It is not just religious ritual; it is a chief tool of God to communicate His message. Preaching is important.
Styles vary. Some preachers are more polished and articulate than others. But at the end of the day, it is not the style or the ability of the preacher that matters most; it is the anointed Word of God that comes from a chosen servant of the Lord.
We, preachers, must humbly recognize the awesome responsibility that accompanies the job. When we step behind the pulpit we are representing God and speaking for Him. We must not bring reproach on Him through half-hearted sermon preparation and validating our pet peeves with “thus saith the Lord.” We must approach our task with a sense of reverence and awe for the God who has called us. We carry a heavy weight.
I must confess in my own ministry, there have been times when other responsibilities took most of my attention. These situations have moved sermon preparation to the back burner causing my preaching to suffer. This has never been an intentional decision for me, but it has happened more times than I want to admit. Lately, I have felt deep conviction in this area. I have been reminded my call from God was to preach. These other things – some very important – have resulted from my vocational activities or other life involvements. I know I cannot stop life from happening, but I must be intentional in protecting my call.
As a preacher of the Gospel I must:
- Hear from God if I am going to speak for God.
- Be thoroughly prepared to deliver a Word from God.
- Recognize His Word is powerful; I am just the messenger.
- Never allow my methods to hinder His message.
- Be grateful to God for counting me worthy, placing me in ministry.
This world needs preachers set on fire by the Holy Spirit. These must be men and women of God who are not simply looking for a position but are overwhelmed with passion for the work of God. They are willing to pay the price – make the sacrifice – do whatever it takes – to take the Gospel to the world. The are consumed by the call. I want to be counted in that number.
Corporate Worship. Something divine takes place when the people of God come together in worship. We were made for community and this is never more obvious than when we sit together in His presence. It is almost like a foretaste of Heaven when the church worships as one.
Our enemy, the devil, knows the importance of corporate worship. He has witnessed many times the fresh anointing and fierce faith that comes to believers in this holy setting. This is why he attacks this time so ferociously. He knows if he can distract and divert our attention to anything else, he can prevent us from experiencing a lifechanging encounter with the Holy Spirit.
Today, corporate worship in many churches is not living up to its potential. The problem is two-fold: leaders who want to showcase their talent and worshippers who refuse to participate. Both of these issues are detrimental to the health of a church and damaging to the plan God has for individuals attending that service. The subject is controversial but too important to ignore.
Worship leaders must understand this fundamental premise – their job is to lead worship. This implies 1.) they are a worshipper and 2.) their goal is to bring others into the same experience. They are not entertainers. They are not concert producers. They set the table and help to create an environment where hungry seekers can experience the presence of God up close and personal. They are not the only one responsible for this experience, but they are the leader.
The individual in the pew has a key role to play in this time of worship. He/she is not a consumer. He/she is not a critic. The attitude must be that of the Psalmist who said, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise…” (Psalm 100:4) There is no need to wait until the music reaches the right speed or the song being sung is one of the favorites. The awareness of a great God who is worthy of our highest praise should be enough to take the person from spectator to participant.
When the actions and attitude of the leader on the stage and the person in the pew unite to truly worship a mighty God, beautiful things happen. This common goal overrides style preferences and brings Heaven and earth together in the room. Selfish hearts will never know this, but pure worshippers will come to church expecting it.
At the beginning of April, I had an unusual dream. I dreamed after the corona virus quarantine ended, churches were allowed to reestablish worship times in their sanctuaries. Churches all over the country were filled with worshippers happy to be back together. That Sunday morning, the people seemed to sing with a fresh passion. Throughout the United States – in many different denominations – people worshiped with new fervor. As the people poured out their worship and praise to God, something spectacular happened – the Holy Spirit, like on the Day of Pentecost, was poured out and multitudes of believers were baptized in the Spirit. This spiritual outpouring ignited a mighty revival of miracles, sinners being converted, and the Gospel being spread in unprecedented fashion all over the world.
I woke up from this dream with a sense of excitement I had not felt in a long time. It seemed clear to me God was up to something – even during this unsettling season – and His plan was about to come into focus. I also felt the need to check my heart as it related to my worship. I did not want to allow my preferences, attitude or demeanor to keep me from being part of what God was doing in this world. I did not want this revival to happen without me!
The challenges facing the church, today, are immense. Everyday there seems to be a new hurdle to overcome and a new set of concerns leadership must address. There is no joy for me in saying this, but we might as well get ready – it is not going to get easier. Great victory will always demand a high price. Fruitful ministry will always have its detractors. This is why priorities must be established and a solid foundation built. It is just a fact, in an age of change, some things cannot change.
Simply put, some things are just sacred.