The Master's Decree: 20 Centuries Later
Updated: May 18
Twenty years ago, I had the privilege of attending a banquet in LiVorno, Italy. Not speaking Italian, I asked Gianni (a family member who invited us) what the affair was all about. He answered, "Seeking answers for Church growth and how to reach the youth". I replied, "We have the same challenge in the Protestant Church". He got excited and stood to his feet to address the very high level officials in the Roman Catholic Church attending the event. and proclaimed, "Domenico wants to speak!" I slowly stood up wondering what I could contribute to this assembly of church dignitaries. God suddenly brought to remembrance a story I felt compelled to share.
"We in the Protestant Church look back to Martin Luther, Wesley, and other Godly men who led the Reformation. We attempt to follow in their footsteps much like, I imagine, you look to the Apostles and Early Church Fathers. But, I believe our greatest guidance is to be found in a return to the Upper Room. There, one hundred and twenty followers of Christ ceased their labors of the flesh to unite in prayer and wait for the Holy Spirit to fall upon them. Through the Spirit's empowerment, they each learned where to go and what to say and do to build Christ's everlasting Kingdom. Is that not our need right now? Holy Spirit led directives and anointing to increase the Church? And, following Jesus' example, shouldn't we utilize the highest technology of our day to get our message out? When Jesus rowed off shore and spoke to the 5000 gathered on the amphitheater shaped hillside, He knew the moisture of the air would amplify His voice and clearly carry His message to all. That is how the Church began to grow; it is how it will thrive in our day. As we pray and wait for the power of the Holy Spirit to come upon us, we will hear a call to action from the Lord much like the first believers did. And like Jesus, we must embrace the technological tools before us as gifts for reaching our generation with the Gospel. If we fail to seek that Upper Room experience with the Holy Spirit or to use the vast media resources available to multiply our ministry efforts beyond the church walls, ten years from now, we will be very old men asking ourselves the same questions as today." When I finished my remarks, a thunderous ovation ensued. Wow! That was an experience I'll never forget.
The Upper Room was graduation for the disciples. They began as unlearned men and women; but after three years of spending time with Jesus - listening, learning , and observing - they would now put their knowledge to action by the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They were equipped to exercise their Master's Decree. Moreover, they would scribe the text of the New Testament with Words given by the Holy Spirit to guide new disciples throughout the world until this day. They would teach new converts what they learned first-hand from Jesus. They would teach new followers to daily pray the Disciples (Lord's) Prayer. They taught new followers how to worship God in this manner: "Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name"... And they did as he commanded, "thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven". We know they prayed each day; "give us this day our daily bread " and Lord, "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil". They confessed their belief in salvation "by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony, they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death". Two thousand years later we can follow the same model. Earnestly, in humility, we come before God in praise and worship. Through prayer each day, we place ourselves in His hands and surrender to His plan. We voice our trust in Him to provide and protect us. And, as we meditate on His Word, we are assured He will bring us His prosperity and success. (Joshua 1:8)
The world as we knew it came to an abrupt stop as the deadly Covid-19 virus began to spread globally. Contrasting with the greatest economy the world has known, the expansion of materialism beyond imagination, and the commercial pride of man at its zenith, we are now fearful, diminished masses who have lost their liberty and are commanded by politicians to be confined to our homes. Stores and factories are shut: some never to open again. No amount of entertainment softens the blow of daily death tolls. And, lost liberty and state control stings the soul. The year 2020 is the year the world was brought to its knees. It is a reckoning... a warning... about how the judgement of God can happen in an instant: that at His rebuke everything is shaken that can be.
Wake up Church! Wake up Church leadership! While you have debated church growth strategies and attended endless seminars on being seeker-friendly, your church building has been replaced by Zoom, Skype, and Facebook. And, take to heart the days we are living in: reports of record numbers of people watching online-services and receiving Christ is an eye-opener. Some may never attend a physical church service when things settle. That argues a need for an Upper Room experience and the Holy Spirit's leading like nothing before. Looking back to our roots, we know the first church building was built in the 3rd century. How did the Church body grow without being seeker-friendly and amused with the arts or without a cafe in the lobby? It was built by the word of the testimonies of those who KNEW Jesus intimately and by demonstration and power: the gifts of the Holy Spirit! Wake up pastors. Pray, teach the Word, and boldly call people to get empowered by the Holy Spirit to reach their generation. Get yourself and your flock ready for the harvest. "The Times They Are A-Changin"!
We have the same opportunity the disciples had: to talk with God each day and share His grace and salvation with those He puts before us. As Mary told the wedding servers, "Whatever He says, do it." That command is for us as well. It is easier than you might think. The next time someone says, "Have a nice day", answer them with, "and you have a wonderful life; and if I don't see you again, I'll see you in Heaven." If they say "yes you will", then ask them to look you up when they get there. If they pause, inform them that "it's free to get in. All you need to know is the user name and password. Want to know them?" If you have a smile on your face, they usually say "yes". That's your chance to share the Gospel: "The user name is Jesus; and the password is the cross". Then smile, and trust God to direct you from there!
Get in the fight for souls brothers and sisters. Remember, you live forever! You will never die; but we have only this brief opportunity to be faithful to our calling. Whatever He says to you, "DO IT"!
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