I believe the best days for the church are still ahead of us. Not only is the church going to become the pure and spotless bride that Scripture predicts, but the harvest of souls that the church will see in the coming years will be greater than any hour of history*.
So I’m the last guy who wants to persuade Christians to stop praying for revival and for lost souls to come to Christ. I believe we need to pray more, not less, and boldly ask the Lord for an awakening both here in the West and around the globe.
But I think we should stop and think about what we are asking for Jesus for when we pray. Awakening in the church and a harvest of souls is not a bad thing. But the reality of the situation is I don’t think we’re ready for the kind of awakening we’re praying and dreaming about, let alone the one He desires to give. This question gets to the heart of the matter:
What will we do once it arrives?
And I mean that seriously. Most of the church currently is seeing little true conversion happening. So we’re not used to discipling brand new believers who’ve never known Christ. We have a tough time with the one or two a year that typically come in. But what happens when the number of new believers in your church is equal to the number of established believers in your church? Or what happens if the number of new believers in your church is double that of the size of your current congregation so that “mature” believers are outnumbered two to one?
This isn’t just an issue of capacity (meaning do we have enough room in the building?), but how do we teach them to follow Jesus? How do we deal with casting out demons and dealing with their issues they bring to the body? How do the believers in the church deal with the strain that so many new believers places on the body?
Perhaps a story from the life of Jesus can help illustrate this. In Luke 5, some of the disciples were out fishing and Jesus used their boat to preach to a crowd that had gathered. Unfortunately, the catch of fish the night had not been that great. They had caught nothing. Jesus instructed Peter to cast his nets on the other side of the boat. Peter was in disbelief and even told Jesus that it wouldn’t work, but reluctantly followed Jesus’ command.
When the disciples cast their nets onto the other side of the boat, the catch of fish was so incredibly large that their nets began to tear. Peter gets appropriately freaked out and even asks Jesus to leave! This was a supernatural sign to Peter. But Jesus tells Peter “Don’t be afraid Peter. From now on you’ll be a fisher of men.” This last prediction of Jesus tells me this was more than just a sign to show Peter who Jesus was, but a sign to show Peter the kind of ministry he was to have.
I believe we are entering into days where the harvest of unbelievers will be great. But the nets (the church, at least in general, in the West), is not prepared for those days. We, like Peter, expect to catch something, but not nearly as much as Jesus will bring, and so we bring nets that can’t handle the catch. And it puts us in danger of losing the harvest.
Are you praying for revival for the church and awakening among the lost? Good! But we as the church need to prepare in faith for the days ahead. What will happen when it truly comes? Are we ready? Or does how we disciple, meet, and do mission need to change so our nets don’t break on that day? I believe it does.
We’ll talk more about that over the next couple of days…
*I believe this both from a biblical prophecy standpoint and from a sheer demographics standpoint. More people will be alive on the planet in this century than than any other.
Today’s post features my good friend Bryan Hamilton. Bryan is part of our house church and has recently been instrumental in getting an LTG started. For those who don’t know him, Bryan has a very unique perspective on life and loves to photoshop himself (and others) in unusual situations. Bryan blogs regularly on Facebook about Jesus, his personal journey into spiritual maturity, and the difficulties the church will face as we enter the end of the age. You can request to be Bryan’s friend and read more here.
Recently I was listening to Misty Edwards on the live feed singing about the love of the Jesus for us. It got me thinking, what does the love of Jesus look like? This a pretty basic question that many beyond count have tried to answer.
I think that the most common expression of Jesus’ love that my friends and I know is retreating into the love of Jesus. It is a wonderful thing to be able to retreat into the gentle mercy that Jesus showed to the woman caught in the midst of adultery, the prodigal son, and the woman with the alabaster jar. Over the last four years this is the type of love I have been learning—laying on the chest of Jesus. We must learn to cry, be angry, and pour out sins before the Father.
The Lord is building trust and confidence in our relationships with Him. I see a whole company of people learning and growing in the love of Jesus. As we do, we are beginning to grow and mature into adults. We have become very skilled at accepting people in their weakness with compassion and mercy. Jesus was fully able to show love beyond compassion and mercy. There are other forms of love that were hard parts of Jesus’ personality, His leadership and His ministry that we have failed to mature in. Let us to continue to grow in the love of Jesus until we look like Him.
1. Jesus was able to confront and correct others without a judgmental or religious spirit. Jesus exhorted Peter for hearing that He was the Christ. Then He rebuked Peter calling Him Satan because he had on his mind the things of man and not the things of God. Peter had enough trust with Jesus to know His heart—that He was not actually calling him Satan, but showing him he had his mind on the wrong thing. Until we can develop that level of trust with Jesus and each other we will not be able to walk in the ministry of confrontation which we need to keep each other out of deception. We will not be able to be one in Spirit and truth as Jesus wanted.
2. Jesus was able to walk in righteous zeal without crushing the weak and insecure. Jesus cleared the temple with a whip and displayed passion for His Father’s ways. I hear many preachers walk in zeal and make statements that in my weak faith really torque up my heart. Jesus could display zeal in such a way as to challenge the right people and protect the right people. Until we can do that the ministry of Jesus will be diminished in us, because the world will see the same old judgmental church it has always seen, and dismiss it.
3. Jesus was able to speak hard truths, offend the religious, and be okay with it. Jesus was unapologetic about the reality of Hell and the judgment to come. He spoke the truth because it was the highest form of love. Jesus also went out of His way to offend the religious. He provoked them by picking wheat and healing on the Sabbath. He pronounces woes on them, and He pronounced woes on those who didn’t except Him. We hide in fear behind God’s love and compassion because we don’t want to reject people. Until we can walk hand in hand with Jesus in this ministry the Gospel will not go forth in power as it meant to.
4. Jesus was able to father His disciples with a spirit of excellence and be okay when most people walked away when it was too hard. The parable of the soils had four different soils. When the seeds were thrown on the soils, three out of the four soils did not bear good fruit. When we are sent out into the harvest field we need to be okay with three fourths of the soils we sow into not bearing fruit. Jesus was okay with it. We give up because it is too hard, soured with bitterness because of failure. Until we are willing to labor without looking at the harvest as an entitlement we will not be able to face the harshness of the field. Jesus bought the whole field to get the jewel—we have to as well.
5. Jesus was able to suffer for His Father and not come out a wounded, emotional wreck. How was it that Jesus was able to bear the sins of the world and not need a psychologist and medication? How is it that Paul was able to endure stoning and lashes and rejoice? We are a spoiled and pampered people that need to feel good all the time. Until we are willing to lay down our pampered flesh we will not be able to labor in the fields for God’s harvest.
I would encourage us to look at all of the life of Jesus. There is so much more to the Christian walk than what we have. Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father, so let us endeavor to grow up into all aspects of His personality. It is okay to retreat into the love of Jesus, we need it. Understand that it is a retreat, though, it is not a victory. If we are always retreating we will never win the battles we need to win. If we don’t move past retreating into the love of Jesus as a people we will never grow into adults in the Spirit. The hard parts of Jesus’ personality, His leadership and His ministry are all a part of the field. Let us finally purchase the whole field and be okay with it, it is well worth it.
Bryan will be visiting the blog throughout the day to answer any questions and respond to comments.
Tonight I was on the phone with one of my good friends from Kansas City that I haven’t had a chance to chat with in a while. I was describing some of the wins we are experiencing and some of the challenges that are occurring at the same time. After two or three minutes, my friend gently broke into the conversation and challenged me. “You know what you should be spending your time doing right now is developing leaders for your third and fourth house church right now, right?”
I was dumbfounded (for a couple of reasons). I was shocked by how quickly he saw straight into the heart of some of the problems I’ve been facing. But more than that, I was shocked at how obvious what he was saying was and how clearly I had missed that fact. It seems that in preparing a church for the harvest, I had totally neglected leadership development in our midst.
But the conversation gets right to the heart of a problem that I believe we face in the West. Our ability to reach further into the harvest depends significantly on our ability to raise up new, harvest-minded leaders in our midst. We think finding the harvest is our biggest issue. We often forget that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
Join me today in praying that God would raise up workers for His harvest here and where you are.