Rising to the Challenge

Rising to the Challenge

By necessity every level of leadership in any organization, including the church, must give diligent attention to methods and management. Systems are developed to allow these to be delivered and appropriated in every situation. These systems are there to provide order and create a path that moves the organization along in a prescribed manner.  We call it administration. It’s a good idea and even one ordained in Scripture.

Successful organizations will always be supported by pillars of absolutes. These are non-negotiable tenets. They are set in stone.  Everyone in the organization knows what they are and has a firm commitment to them. These absolutes establish the very reason for the life of the organization.

Along with the absolutes will be other moving parts allowing the organization to adjust to situations and events. These moving parts are the systems mentioned in the first paragraph of this article. They can be adjusted and modified to accommodate the present need. They are not set in stone. They should always be seen as tools.

When you understand an organization must be grounded by absolutes supported by systems, you can say that organization must be steadfast yet flexible. It must be firmly established on a solid foundation while agile enough to adapt to the changing climate it is called to address. It must be entrenched in its purpose but not in its methods.

These facts cannot be ignored by the church of the 21st century. We have to be careful to remain true to the foundational absolutes upon which we have been built. We must also continually hone the delivery systems necessary to keep us effective in these constantly changing times.

What are the absolutes for the church? Some may put together a long list but I believe they could all be combined into two areas – the Word of God and what I like to call the love mandate.

The Word of God. When time is no more, the Word of God will still be.  It is God-breathed and infallible. It has stood the test of time and remains as relevant today as when it was written. It is the litmus test for all questions and disputes. Nothing man says or does can supersede it. Church doctrine and practice must begin and end with the Word. It is THE absolute for the church.

The Love Mandate. The purpose and mission of everything the church is and does must be driven by one thing – love. Our time with God in prayer and worship is inspired by love. Our service is motivated by what motived Him – love. The words of our Lord, Himself, capture the importance and priority of love:

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”  (Mark 12:30-31)

These foundational principles cannot be considered optional or elective. They are not affected by culture or opinion. They are always absolute for every church everywhere.

The great challenge for the contemporary church is ensuring its systems are adequate to deliver the message and keep it in a position for mass effectiveness. The assumption our methods of operation do not need adjustment is the assumption that was made by many formerly successful, yet now non-existent, businesses and churches. We must not die because of system failure.

Here are some facts to consider:

  • Absolutes are sacred; systems are not.
  • Absolutes are why we exist; systems are tools to accomplish the mission.
  • Healthy organizations will continually adjust/tweak/change systems.
  • There is great danger when we choose to worship at the altar of our systems.

The present challenges facing the church are no match for our message. As a matter of fact, our message is the answer to these challenges! Now, as never before, the world needs to hear what we have been preaching for years – there is hope and help in Jesus! He will bring us through this storm victoriously!

The present challenges, however, are testing our systems. Our delivery methods are under attack. If we ignore this and assume that once the storm subsides we will return to business as usual, we could find ourselves in a very bad place. But if we are willing to be placed on God’s potter’s wheel and submit to a time of remolding and retooling, we can be positioned for greatness. Instead of this being the beginning of the end, it can be the beginning of our best days!

The following questions need to be asked by any church desiring to have a place and be strong in these times:

  • What has God called your church to be and do?
  • Do your present methods/structure place you in a position to accomplish this?
  • If not, what needs to happen for you to align with His plan?

The tasks may feel daunting but God will help us. I am encouraged by something that happened to Nehemiah when he found himself in need of the Lord’s help. Nehemiah 7:5 (MEV) says, “So my God put an idea in my mind…”  I believe if we will pray and listen, God will speak. He will instruct and lead us to fresh and innovative methods that will glorify Him and increase our harvest. 

I am not blind to the obstacles we face – they are real and must not be ignored. At the same time, I am confidently mindful of the promise of Jesus that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church. I’m not giving up; I will rise to the challenge by adjusting my sail and move in the direction the wind of the Spirit is blowing. I’m thankful for my past but it pales in comparison to where He is leading me. I really believe this is our time and the best is yet to come!

Follow the Instructions

As I write this article the rain is pouring down outside my window.  I can see and hear it, but I am perfectly dry and safe inside my residence.  The elements outside are not pleasant right now but I am safely sheltered from the storm in my nice warm home.

This reminds me of another storm that raged many years ago for the Children of Israel.  For 400 years they were slaves in Egypt.  The last many years of their enslavement was marked by cruel treatment administered by Pharaoh the king.  The Israelites cried for mercy but it seemed there would be none.  But in fact, God had heard their prayers and a plan for their exodus was in place.

Moses, the leader of the people, was directed by God to appear before Pharaoh and demand they be set free.  The king’s heart was hardened and in spite of great plagues sent by God upon the land, he refused to let Israel go.  But the most severe of all plagues is about to be unleashed – the death of the firstborn in every family.

God instructed Moses to call for preparation on the part of the Children of Israel for this last plague.  They would be exempted from the impending devastation only if they carefully followed the instructions.  A great storm is about to ravage Egypt but a means of escape will be provided the people of God.

The instructions called for a lamb to be killed and its blood applied to the door posts and over each door of every home of the Children of Israel.  As the death angel moves across the country on this stormy night, he will pass over every residence where the blood is applied.  They were also instructed to cook and eat the lamb; they were to be fully dressed with their staff in hand and they were to request valuable gifts from the Egyptians.

These instructions seemed strange to the people I’m sure, but they followed them completely.  The night of the last plague comes and a great cry arises from all over Egypt.  Death prevailed throughout the country but all was well in Goshen where the Children of Israel lived.  Pharaoh has had enough – he orders the people of God to quickly leave his country.  Freedom and victory come to the Israelites!

Our world is presently in the midst of a great storm.  Most of us have never lived through anything like this pandemic before.  There is much panic and fear throughout our society.  No one knows when this thing will end and what the world will look like when its over.  But deep in my spirit I hear the voice of God saying, “I’ve got a plan.  Just follow my instructions.”

All my life I’ve been hearing about a great revival coming to America.  We’ve seen times of stirring we thought might lead to this awakening but our hearts long to see more.  Could it be this crisis is the event that will propel the Church to the promised outpouring of the Spirit, and could it be the events happening all around the world will lead masses of people to call on the Lord?  I honestly feel and fervently pray the answer to these questions is yes!  But there’s a catch…we must follow the instructions.

The blood must be applied.  God is not looking for slick professionals who know more than anyone else; He’s looking for the blood.  He is not looking for programs and methods guaranteed to bring astounding results; He’s looking for the blood.  He’s not looking for large bank accounts, plush sanctuaries or the latest greatest anything; He is looking for people who have no greater claim than they once were lost but now they’re found, and the blood of Jesus covers their sins.  We are saved by the blood; kept by the blood and made overcomers by the blood of the Lamb!

Jesus must be at the center of all we do.  The Children of Israel were told the lamb must be completely eaten; nothing was to be wasted.  I believe He is saying to us today, “Jesus must receive our full attention and allegiance.  Nothing or no one can be more important.”  That night in Egypt, nothing mattered more than the lamb.  The same must be true today.

Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a time of much ego-centered and personality-driven ministry.  Men have become the face of ministry and many in the church identify more with that man than they do with our Lord. It must be clearly understood, however, revival will come through Jesus, not through celebrated men.  Now is the time to declare, “I must decrease that He might increase.”

We must be fully dressed and ready to move quickly.  Some will miss this coming revival because they have not made preparation.  Some are asleep while others are living in the past.  Some are listening to the wrong voices and have become encumbered with devices that attach them more to the world than the Spirit.  Some are leaning on the arm of the flesh convinced their way is the right way.  All of this must stop right now!

We will only be prepared when we immerse ourselves in the Word, worship and prayer.  When our hearts are fully tuned to the Holy Spirit we will receive our marching orders and ministry assignments.  We will be anointed and empowered beyond our wildest imagination.  The weak will become strong.  The church will become THE CHURCH.  Revival will sweep across the land.

We should expect great increase.  This revival will not be for our gratification; it is coming for His Kingdom to be increased.  As the Gospel goes forth and Jesus is lifted up, He will be drawing men, women, boys and girls to Him.  The harvest is coming in!  (And I say this by the Spirit, “get ready; the harvest is coming!”)

I truly believe at the same time of this ingathering of souls, God is going to bless His people and make them a testimony to the world.  Those who delight themselves in Him will receive the desires of their heart.  It is the Father’s pleasure to give the Kingdom to His children.  His children will have everything they need to do what He has called them to do.

I’m watching the storm clouds roll over us and, I must admit, at times I feel afraid.  But it is in these moments of fear I am gently reminded I am safe in the arms of Jesus.  He is with me and He has a plan.  His plan will not bring harm to me but it places me right in the middle of what He wants to do in this world in these last days.  He has brought me to the Kingdom for this time.  He has purposely chosen me to participate in a great revealing of His power and glory.  I’m honored to be His son and servant.  I’m determined to stick close, listen good and follow His instructions.  

But the Church Prayed

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost set in motion a tidal wave of evangelism and miraculous manifestation of the power of God throughout the world.  Believers were filled with boldness and proclaimed the message of Jesus with signs following.  The infant Church was off to a blazing start. This magnificent beginning did not happen, however, without intense opposition.  Persecution of the followers of Jesus became the order of the day.

An example of this persecution is found in Acts 12.  King Herod killed James and because this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter.  Peter was placed in prison with the plan to present him to the angry and threatened populous after Passover.  It seems there is an all-out attack against the leadership of the Church.

The Church of Jesus Christ did not have any political clout.  They were, by no means, the majority.  Their ability to maneuver through these attacks in the legal system or even public opinion did not exist.  They did, however, have a source of power that the world could not counteract.  Verse 5 of Acts 12 tells us the church prayed.

This constant prayer offered to God by the Church brought divine intervention.  Peter was miraculously delivered from prison!  This would be only one of many times help would come through prayer.

Throughout history the people of God have encountered great challenges but when they prayed God moved on their behalf.

In the Old Testament

Israel was surrounded and attacked by enemy nations…but they prayed and God delivered them.

God’s people came under the authority of wicked kings and governments who brought idols and all kinds of perversion to the forefront…but they prayed and God intervened.

They faced times of famine and pestilence…but they prayed and God provided and protected.

They failed God and turned away from Him…but they prayed and repented and God restored them.

They followed God’s direction and built a tabernacle in which He would dwell…and as they prayed fire fell from Heaven and the presence of God went with them.

In the New Testament

The Church faced immense persecution…but they prayed and God sustained them.

They faced times of great need…but they prayed and God miraculously provided.

They faced times of controversy and question…but they prayed and God gave wisdom and direction.

They faced times of sickness – even death…but they prayed and God healed and restored life.

They had times of intense hunger for God…and they prayed and God sent revival. (Once even praying until the place shook where they were!)

There are many examples in our lifetime of great challenge and attack on various fronts, but we are still here because we prayed.  Prayer has been, both, a defensive and offensive weapon that has never failed to produce victory.  Praying people have always overcome.

Today, we find ourselves in uncharted water.  Our battles are more intense and our enemy seems more sophisticated.  Some have lost hope and assumed our best days are behind us.  Like those captured by the Babylonians in Psalm 137, they are convinced the song of the Lord will never be sung again.  It’s over.

But, I see an army rising up that refuses to take the defeatist approach.  They recognize this may be a season of great trial but it is also a season to be the people of God.  Just as other generations have faced tests, this is their test and its only a test!  They will not depend on their abilities or strengths.  They will not be moved by what others are doing.  They will find victory where it has always been found.  They will pray.

Every believer can be part of this praying army.  No circumstance or situation will be a match for these who are committed to prayer.  Like those before us, our story will be marked by an enemy assault but it will also tell of powerful conquest…because the church prayed.