From the 1960s to the early '80s many people exited traditional and mainline denominational churches because their needs were not being met, and they were hungry for the deeper things of God. As a result, para-church organizations were raised up and played a key role in the training and discipleship of new converts. Bible schools were established to equip pastors and leaders. I was a part of that move of God.
Many of those pastors and churches that were raised up during that time, however, have now become as structured, rigid and set on their own agendas as the churches they formerly exited.
I see a trend today that is attempting to reverse this process and avoid another mass exodus from our churches by using methods and developing programs that will either keep current members from exiting our churches, or draw new people into them (that is what spurned the seeker-friendly church philosophy). Usually this is done by planning various events or offering new and exciting programs that attempt to produce a quality in the church from the outside in. And this is not the pattern of the New Testament.
The Lord gave me a word a few years ago that further magnifies this truth: "Let the fruit grow the ministry and not the ministry grow the fruit." He went on to use the example of the woman at the well who had an encounter with Jesus that led to an entire Samaritan city being impacted with the gospel (John 4:28-30, 39-42). The fruit of that woman's testimony produced greater ministry among the men of that city. The effectual working of God's power in her heart activated her to works of service and to testify of Jesus.
It is amazing what the effectual working of the power of God does in a human heart! This power is what energizes God's people and activates the zeal of God in them. I believe the greatest miracle is when a heart is touched by God and set on fire as the woman at the well was. Revival starts with one life—one heart—radical change and—boom—a city can be touched.
So precious are those who are on fire for Jesus in this day of gross darkness. They are the hope of the church and the world. When the saints are spiritually healthy, vibrant and full of zeal it brings light and glory into a church and a city.
This is the pattern we see throughout the gospels and the New Testament. The key to this fruit in Jesus' own life and ministry lay in the revelation, power and compassion He walked in as a result of His fellowship with the Father. All fruit grows and flows from within that fellowship. True Spirit-filled fellowship and prayer is what initially makes tremendous power available (Jam. 5:16). The fruit of this power is souls being touched for God.
We cannot produce a quality in the church from the outside in as is common in the church world today when we start a ministry or a program, embalm it with some sort of structure and then try and breathe spiritual life into it that will produce fruit. The New Testament pattern is to find out where the Holy Spirit is already moving, and where spiritual life is already flowing, and follow that. Then build just enough structure to facilitate that life. That way if the operation of the Spirit of God changes or fruit is no longer forthcoming, there is so little structure established that things can easily be shut down or changed to facilitate a new way or a new flow of life.
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