Join me in the theater of the imagination.
A cohort of ragtag men and women, disciples of Jesus Christ, who at best, were social pariahs and at worst, enemies of the state, sat in a room with only their testimonies of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. In fact, all they had in common was Jesus. They sat there awaiting the promise of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would empower them to fulfill the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations. The Holy Spirit would give them the power to be witnesses to Him around the world!
They waited and the promise was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit poured out on them on the day of Pentecost. A miracle was performed that day. The disciples, who anxiously waited for the Holy Spirit, began to speak with fiery fervor and people of other nations heard them and understood them in their native tongues! Something had happened. Something was different. Everything changed.
It was a movement. Thousands were coming to faith, every day. They had meals together in their own homes. They shared each other’s resources with radical generosity, enjoying life together. They were a family, a community on a mission, anxiously awaiting the manifestation of the sons of God and anticipating the coming of the Kingdom of God. These people lived their lives so radically – so differently that the scriptures tell us they were known as members of “the way,” they were the ekklesia, the Body of Christ, affectionately known as the Church.
The church grew with exponential vigor, where everyday Christians, while in exile, became the creative minority, bringing gospel influence everywhere they were and worked. Through the vocations of every day, Holy Spirit-filled believers (carpenters, maidservants, doctors, lawyers, merchants politicians – normal people like you and me), people were healed, fed and cared for. The gospel of the Kingdom was proclaimed and demonstrated. It was a movement that lasted over three generations; a movement that captured the cultural consciousness of the pious Jews and the political attention of the Roman Empire.
But this is not imagination. It is all true. Historical scholarship corroborates scriptural testimony. The influence of the Church – these Christ-followers — threatened the Roman establishment. As a consequence, the Roman Empire adopted the Christian faith and institutionalized the movement by making Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire.
The Church moved from homes and markets to temples when pagan temples were transformed into catholic basilicas. The art of the oratory, pioneered by the Greeks and cultivated by the Roman elites, gave rise to the Christian sermon, which became the central element of the expression of Christian worship. Church became a place you go to rather than a place you are sent from. This shift consequently diverted the focus from the Great Commission of going and making disciples to the worship performance and Sunday experience. People preferred to come and hear a word than to go and make disciples. In short, the idea of church and going to church became about us – it became individualistic rather than collective reorientation and a reminder of who we were, who we belonged to, and what we’ve been called to go and DO.
Fast forward. Almost two thousand years later and very little has changed, the Church has progressively moved into a seeker-sensitive, come-to-Church-on-Sunday expression that focuses on cookie-cutter experiences and not lifestyle transformation and city renewal. The result? Passive, disempowered Christians who need a word and a set of worship songs every Sunday but never really grow or make a gospel impact in their spheres of influence. A lot of “church” and no revival. A lot of professional Christians and celebrity-like preachers and not a lot of called, equipped and sent Christ-followers.
But there’s hope. We have a promise from Jesus Himself. The first time the word “church” is recorded in the scripture it came with a promise. At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus told Peter, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This is the promise! This is the plan. It’s the only plan. There is no plan B.
The Church is His Body. It is His Church, a spiritual house being built by living stones. The Church will not fail. Because God cannot fail. I am reminded that times of distress and tribulation birth revival movements. It moves us from apathy to urgency. It draws us away from our pulpits and back to our prayer closets, away from our titles and back to our calling. Yearning for something new, the Church United has collectively prayed, with an urgent spirit, for revival. The Lord has answered. Church, amid this crisis, the time is now! Pastors, He’s calling us out into the marvelous light. Members, He’s calling you into the field.
Our answer will be yes! His Kingdom come. His will be done, in South Florida, as it is in heaven.
Dr. Isaac Petit Frere is pastor of The Font in Fort Lauderdale and a member of the Church United Leadership Team. To learn more about Church United, visit churchunited.city