The Missing Power in the Local Churches – Part 3
“The story goes that a public sinner was excommunicated and forbidden entry to the church. He took his woes to God. ‘They won’t let me in, Lord, because I am a sinner.’ ‘What are you complaining about?’ said God. ‘They won’t let Me in either’” Brennan Manning
The parable of the prodigal son as told in Luke 15 was taught by Jesus to exemplify someone who wants to live an independent life. The “Do what you please” kind of life is far away from the Father’s standards and could be summarized in one word, independence.
The Father was talking, teaching, advising, and counseling, but the son did not want to hear any of it. Going away from the Father means living an independent life. The prodigal son lived a dissolute life, spending the Father’s wealth on unnecessary things.
Many churches today are prodigal churches. They may not publicly declare that they do not want to live under the Father’s rules, but they do not listen to the Father’s instructions on how to lead His church and how to make disciples. They live an independent church life and spend God’s money dissolutely on unnecessary things.
One day, the prodigal son finally came to his senses and said, “I will go back to my Father, and from now on, I will listen to His instructions.” When he did, his life became full again; he was no longer lost and no longer living an independent life.
Shouldn’t we come to our senses, go back to the Father, and start listening to His instructions regarding His church? It is time to stop doing things that are not in line with the Father’s guidance, and start focusing on developing a deep relationship with the Holy Spirit.
The prodigal son got tired of living an independent life, so he ran back to the Father’s arms. He was ready to live a life dependent on God again. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of leading the church without listening to the Holy Spirit’s direction. It is time to run back to God’s arms, and listen to His voice regarding His church.
His church, His guidelines
When I was a teenager, I went to work in an accounting firm. I was excited to have my first real job! I had been working here and there be- fore, but now I had a girlfriend and I decided it was time to get more serious about work. On my first day on the job, the firm manager gave me instructions about the work I was supposed to do. He quickly told me a little bit about everything while simultaneously talking to other people. After his overview about what I had to do, he left me to do the job by myself. In all honesty, I was still completely clueless about what my job description really was! Because his guidelines were unclear, I had no idea what to do after completing my initial assignment. Sometimes the man- ager was not in the office, and no one could tell me what I was supposed to be doing next.
During my time on that job, I tried my best. Sometimes I did well. At other times, it was a disaster! I kept working hard and diligently, but I was never quite sure how the job was supposed to be done in the first place.
When you work in a company or organization and you are told exactly what your job description is, you feel confident while doing your work because you understand the expectations. You have a manual or guidelines outlining exactly what you should do to achieve success in your workplace. Successful companies even have a supervisor who will help employees do a better job. However, if the employees choose to ignore the system that has been put in place to help them succeed, they will fail.
This is how most churches operate today. They have the manual, the Bible. They have the supervisor, the Holy Spirit. But when the Bible instructions are taken lightly, and the Holy Spirit is not present in our ministry, the results will always be pathetic. Even worse, many times we substitute our manual (the Bible) with other manuals on how to create a relevant ministry. We substitute the Holy Spirit’s guidance with our own knowledge, egocentric attitudes, and shallow vision, masking it with prayer and saying that this is God’s will for the ministry we are involved in.
God has already left specific guidelines for us in the Bible. He has also left the Comforter who will guide us to work according to His will. He has a clear, vibrant, pure plan for His church and we are putting it aside to follow our own guidelines. Don’t you think it is time to come back to the roots of God’s plan? Shouldn’t we, leaders of His church, be following the blueprint of the greatest leader of all? How remarkable the ministry of our churches would be if only we decided to follow God’s guidelines!
Jesus’ Instructions for Building His Church
Jesus gave clear instructions on how to build His church: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
In this verse of Acts, Jesus is, undoubtedly, presenting the guidelines for the success of His church. To become an effective witness for the Kingdom of God we have to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s that simple!
The disciples were not sent to preach relying on their own power or on their own knowledge. They were not invited to make disciples by using their own strategies or by getting involved in politics. The disciples were sent into the world shielded with the armor of the Holy Spirit’s power. Jesus had promised them that the Helper would come. When the moment came, they were ready to receive Him! The Holy Spirit did not promise to follow the disciples’ plans, but to guide them, to give them wisdom, discernment, and encouragement as they went around the world sharing God’s message of Salvation through Jesus Christ.
The reason the Bride of Christ is in trouble is because we are not following God’s instructions. The Holy Spirit is the Helper that was sent to instruct us, and His powerful instructions are available to every believer who is willing to listen to Him.
The disciples revolutionized the world during their lifetime using not even one tenth of the resources that we have available to us today. They did not have printed material, flyers, technology, microphones, or even a stage or chairs! Don’t you think that it’s about time we stop with the excuses and start putting our trust in the Holy Spirit’s instructions?
Cymbala states that “We can blame tough neighborhoods, postmodern thinking, and immoral entertainment all we want. But when has the environment not been difficult for the gospel? Think of what the early church faced in hostile Jerusalem and the pagan Roman Empire. Yet they received power from on high and did exploits for God instead of just talking to themselves. Their preaching and witnessing had a dimension of supernatural ability that we are sadly lacking today.”1
1 Cymbala, Jim (2011-01-04). Fresh Power (p.31). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
This power that has been promised by Jesus is already here! It is time to claim it before we go out and shake the world in His name! “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6). I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to be a part of this elite group that turns the world upside down. And to do that, I need to be connected to the Source of power—the Holy Spirit.
I grew up hearing my church say, “The Holy Spirit will be poured out in the last days.” Beautiful message! But since I was a toddler I’ve been waiting for the last days to come, and I’ve gotten tired of hearing that. If you take a few minutes to look around or take a peek at the news, it won’t take you long to realize that these are the last days! The last days are not in the future anymore, they are our present! And I’m still waiting for the days when my church will be full of power. Now is the time to receive it! We need to be still in God’s presence with a repentant heart incessantly claiming the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Churches that have the power of the Holy Spirit don’t die. They turn entire cities upside down.
* This article is an excerpt from Paulo Macena’s book “The Missing Power” published by the General Conference Ministerial Department.