HARD QUESTIONS FOR THE CHURCH IN THE COMING CRISIS

The Holy Spirit continues to minister fresh revelation to our hearts as we seek Jesus. There is an ache and a hunger inside of us for a newer and simpler expression of Christ in our lives. In many ways, as some of you have also done, from the time of our new birth, we’ve had to leave the many traditions, structures, and systems of men to discover and re-discover Jesus. For us, the profession of ministry no longer has the appeal it had years ago, having been replaced by a purer desire to simply build His kingdom in a Christ-centered way in the context of God-ordained relationships, being rooted and established in Him alone.

Our heavenly Father is preparing His family and His army for that which is to come on the earth. “…As you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). In light of the coming gross darkness that is increasing on the earth, we believe the glory of the Lord will also increase that much more. In the days ahead the true Church will look vastly different than it does right now. We are longing for His glory and the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21) and praying earnestly: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

My wife and I feel like we’ve been going through a process of metamorphism of late. You could say that our personal constitution is being radically altered. We’re asking heart-searching questions that we were once afraid to ask. These questions may disturb some who have grown comfortable in their controlled habitats and predictable environs, but they beckon to be asked and answered.

This current journey began with one question and then many that subsequently followed. How did 3,000 new converts on the day of Pentecost move from their conversion to continuing steadfastly in their new found faith – from Acts 2:41 to Acts 2:42? Without buildings, without budgets, without paid staff, and without a head pastor how was the early Church able to function and disciple a harvest of 3,000 new people? Not 30; not even 300; but 3,000! Then two chapters later another 5,000 men were added to their company (Acts 4:4).

What if churches today lost their buildings could they still function as churches? If there was war, or a great crisis, or severe persecution against the Church, as there could very well be in the very near future of America, could they still function as a church? Would churches be able to continue meeting as a spiritual family and a body in fellowship, teaching, worship, and prayer and taking care of one another without a large facility? Would the believers throughout a city or region stay connected? Are our connections based on a physical facility or simply on relationship with the Lord and with each other? Or would the loss of a building mean the essential loss of the church?

What if a large church today lost its budget, or paid staff, or senior pastor? Would there still be shepherds to care for the sheep? Or would there be hirelings looking for professional “ministry” elsewhere?

What if a church lost its denominational affiliation, would it cease to exist? Or if a non-denominational church dropped their seeker-friendly philosophy or in-vogue style of doing church, or their various programs that attract people, would they still exist as a church? How much of our dependence have we placed on these things? And perhaps the biggest question upon which hangs all other questions is this: Without any of these things could the Church still have its identity in Jesus alone?

These are not easy questions, but here is the bottom line. How much of Christ do we have in our lives, our relationships, our churches, and our ministries? After all has been said and done, after we strip away all the props that are holding up these modern churches, how much of the Church’s identity and character is found in Jesus alone?

My point is not to be critical of any existing church or ministry. I have no axe to grind or bone to pick. There are many good churches doing wonderful things for the Lord and we are grateful for that. We should never criticize another man’s labors, but instead rejoice wherever Christ is proclaimed.

On the other hand, churches should be living extensions of Christ Himself, but too often they are extensions of pop culture, denominational traditions, or the leader’s personality. In these cases, they depend more on their own ability to keep the church going. In doing so, we are declaring that helpful things such as buildings and budgets become more necessary and essential to function than the workings of the Spirit of God and His people.

I am not saying that all the amenities aforementioned here are not helpful and useful, but if a church cannot exist without them then I would say that you have an inflexible wineskin that cannot contain the likely probability of an expanding national crisis and the anticipated outpouring of the Spirit’s richly condensed wine.

Let’s be honest. Many of our churches today have either become museums or monuments that celebrate the past, or Fortune 500-styled corporations that can too easily exert themselves without the power of the Holy Spirit. Peripheral factors have become so deeply engrained in our methodology that we cannot fathom doing church without them. We cannot even imagine Jesus doing His work without these amenities. It makes me wonder whether many of our churches today are really Christ-centered or consumer driven? I’m afraid we’ve substituted catering to people’s felt needs over catering to God’s demands. Keeping people happy has become essential, but the demands of Jesus have become optional.

Personally I believe we have begun to see a revolution of sorts in the Church. God is moving in an unprecedented way across the globe, but it is happening below the radar of the traditional church in a very quiet manner. Out of a deep spiritual dissatisfaction and a great hunger for God true followers of Jesus are leaving traditional church systems at an alarming rate across denominational and non-denominational lines. Many are not happy with their spiritual lives. The problem is not really their church, but it’s just “church” in general.

Even though we’ve been in ministry for many years we’ve sensed the same thing. There is a larger process of work God is doing in His people. He is bringing focus to Jesus and His kingdom. From all walks of life and church spectrums people are searching for something more, but most of them don’t quite know what that is.

Recently in prayer the Lord showed Carolyn and I two church worlds – a top and an underground one. The top had many limitations governed by the systems and structures of men, but the underground church was full of people hungry for the presence of God, relationship with one another, and training and discipleship in the ways of the Spirit.

In addition to some direction and instructions the Lord gave us, He also issued a strong warning not to be critical of other men’s labors, especially those within the traditional system, but to judge the fruit only.

Be much in prayer, beloved for everything that can be shaken will be shaken in this hour. May the Lord grant us much grace and wisdom for the times.

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24 thoughts on “HARD QUESTIONS FOR THE CHURCH IN THE COMING CRISIS

  1. Amen Bert! This is exactly what our experience and heart has been and we need each other all the more to explore this promised land together (Christ!) in all His riches and glory and to display Him apart from the conditioned forms people are accustomed too so that truly God’s kingdom can be proclaimed not just from the pulpit but from our front porches and everywhere the people of God are salted in the earth.

  2. The Church was started with a house group movement, and God is taking it back to its roots, the biggest house Church movement in the world is in China and just look how that has grown

  3. Your words spoke to my heart, Bert. Apparently, I am one of the “underground,” as I consider my church to be online. Thank you for saying what many of us have been feeling, doing and saying for a while.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Susan! Remember this: The online experience can be beneficial, but there is nothing like face to face in person. We grow more spiritually and learn to love one another by assembling together and living in community. Blessings to you!

  4. I think a good many of those questions are answered when we simply take Galatians 4:25-26 (and the many parallels like it) at face value. The thing that revolves around buildings, programs, services, and budgets might call itself “church”, but it is not my mother. It is only a system – an institution of religion at best. Stepping out from that system to attempt a life lived where our hearts truly desire to have people around us daily (or at least frequently) results in a smashing of all of our petty questions. Even the questions of sanctification are easily answered, considering that if you’re daily in fellowship with the believers, it’s kind of hard to spend hours on end secluded where there is temptation and possibility of gross immorality. The Church itself, is a perpetuation of the very thing that Israel was told to be from the texts of Deuteronomy and the prophets, which is ironic because most people think that the Church starts in Acts 2.
    I hope that maybe this stirs some thoughts?
    Grace and peace in Christ, with longing for the day of His appearing when we shall walk together in Zion.

  5. Another wonderful article from Bert Farias. As a born again christian I left the catholic church over a year ago due to spiritual starvation and I believe there was a massive revival in my heart moving closer to God and a massive increase in faith. My focus on Jesus now is so overwhelming so much so Im having difficulty
    convincing my wife and other family members. I particularly enjoyed your description or analogy with the underground church over the traditional ones. I describe it as the remnant church.I am now in waiting hoping to do the work of God.

    Amen Bert.

  6. We started out in each other’s houses, leaving the traditional church because of starvation, ( spiritually). Started in pastors living room, outgrew that, went to her basement, outgrew that, bought a building renovated that, outgrew that and now in our present building, not fancy but functional. In this small community we have survived many rumors that were meant to put us under, family members that still think we’ve “lost” it and this year we will be 25 years old. You bet we can go without things, ( if we have to)! When you have Jesus, Father, andtheHoly Spirit you have everything you need and then some! Going from glory to glory, praising Jesus all the way, great things He has done!

  7. So good to hear someone what has been happening to me for the last few years. It is our relationship with Jesus that will hold us and keep us and nothing else. You have expressed my concerns for the mega churches precisely that whilst there is much good preaching and many converts, my fear is that when persecution comes they will not be able to stand. Reading the Word of God seems to have become secondary to hearing what the preacher is saying. Pray always for the saints that when persecution does come, and it will, that we will have such a close relationship with Jesus that we will become the light, the shekinah glory that shows Jesus and we fade into the background.
    I love your messages and believe that there are many who are also in touch and realistically are in the underground.
    Thank you so much and may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ continue to keep you by the power of His Spirit.

  8. How much of the Church’s identity and character is found in Jesus alone you ask? The true church will always have their identity and lives hid in Christ. Acquainted with many foreign missionaries it is plain they exist IN HIM.They know Him. I’m thinking of one who oversees 300 churches in India. Christian converts in this difficult area, are discipled, sent out , and many killed for their faith, fresh in the faith and young in Christ. Touched by the Holy Spirit they have what many never receive sitting in pews for entire lifetimes…True Faith and obedience to God and His Holy Word. One of the deepest questions we may need to ask ourselves in this hour is if what we call church is really Christ’s true church, or just one of more than over 40,000 Christian denominational organizations that call themselves the church? No time like the present to ask ourselves what we believe and what we are serving. Are we serving man made systems or God?
    May we all be blessed to serve the Living God in Spirit and in Truth.
    http://www.drandmrsthey.com

  9. Hello Brother Bert,
    Your blogs are so timely and speak truths that few acknowledge today. It reminded me of a symbolic dream the Lord gave me about ten years ago while seeking Him for direction in ministry. In the dream, I was driving in my car (a church-owned vehicle at the time) and I saw a young minister I knew walking on the sidewalk. I tried to signal to give him a ride, but he didn’t respond to my offer. The next moment in the dream, I was out of the car walking along side of him on the side walk.

    I asked the Lord what it meant: the young minister symbolized the Holy Spirit and the car I was in represented the church. Then the Lord said, “Out of the box.” I responded, “Lord, I know what the expression ‘out of the box’ means . . . is that what You mean or is the church the box?” The Lord responded, “They’re the same thing.” What a revelation! I believe the Lord was saying that when the Holy Spirit moves in ways that are “out of the box”, it will also be outside of the church.

    It’s not hard to believe that the Holy Spirit can’t move as He wills in most churches, but what an indictment! It grieved me and at the same time, I was happy that in the dream I was walking with Holy Spirit. Lest you misunderstand, I still attend church, but God doesn’t want to be kept in a box and if the church has become the box that confines Him, then He’s not getting in it to go for a ride with us. It’s still and always will be “Come follow Me”! God doesn’t need the “box” to be God; in fact, it would seem today that He can’t be God and still be in most churches.

    I believe churches that have developed Small Groups (SGs) were led by the Lord to do so to prepare us for the days ahead as you have mentioned in your blog. However, most SGs are meant to get people “plugged-in” and it’s usually around a secular theme—managing your finances, a sporting activity, a craft, cooking classes, etc. They are not primarily centered around a Bible study or prayer. I know, because once upon a time, I developed those SGs.

    I long for the days when home groups are like the one I attended years ago. We worshiped, read the Word, prayed, laid hands on people, and let the gifts of the Spirit flow. We waited to see what God would do and what words would come forth. We learned the ways of the Holy Spirit by doing. We kept it what it was meant to be. We looked forward to it every week like Jesus was going to show up—and He did! Many spirit-filled churches today have robbed the Body of Christ of dynamic encounters with a living God because they have drifted off course. They have become as dry and lifeless as the churches we left years ago in order to experience more of God.

    I believe we have not seen “revival” because it is already ours, here and now! Can you imagine how the church would explode if we just had Holy Ghost-led SGs and let God be God? Believers today are so hungry for this kind of reality! How would the climate of any town or city be transformed if its resident-Christians were moving in the Spirit like this on a regular basis? How much better off would every church be if its people were learning the ways of Holy Spirit in a demonstrable way in the fabric of their own lives. And, how dynamic would church services be when they all got together under the corporate anointing?! That’s revival! This would draw more “seekers” than anything else a church could cook up! If seekers want God, give them the most dynamic, off the chart, power-packed, awe-inspiring, life-transforming, divine encounter you’ve got to give! That’s right, we’ve got to get it first! When we water down the message, we give the world a “hybrid” Jesus that doesn’t reproduce! And in the process, we get dull. Only iron sharpens iron.

    I agree, don’t criticize another’s work. Just lifting up a standard would expose the darkness. But we, the American church, are fighting for our very lives. We are preparing for war and need to identify mixture and flee from it. No more excuses, no more compromise, no more modeling churches that grow a mile wide and an inch deep; there’s no more time! I believe many, many Christians are anguished by the “lukewarmness” of their churches. Where are the leaders in the Body of Christ with Holy Spirit boldness? To hunger and thirst for righteousness is the picture of a believer on a quest for God much like a survivor hunts for food, makes shelter and combs an island for life-saving water. The sun is soon to go down and the survival experience will take a dramatic turn. The need for shelter, food and water intensifies because night fall is a game changer. One has to fight the temptation to give up or give in to the desperation and the lethargy of this hour. Survival has always been mental and spiritual, and we have to push past the inclination to give in to fatigue. Night fall is coming. We must press in. This question begs to be asked, “If not now, when?!”

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