In 1986, while serving as an Air Force Reserve chaplain with the Pentecostal Church of God, I founded a small Pentecostal Church of God congregation in Anaheim, California, called Cornerstone Community Church. I started it in my apartment with a cell group. When we grew to about 12 people, we moved to an office space in Euclid Plaza on Euclid Street and quickly grew to about 30 people.
A number of unchurched people, many of them smokers, made up the small congregation. I sowed the seed and trusted God to bring the increase, both spiritually and numerically. I was self-supported both as a Reserve chaplain and a schoolteacher in Los Angeles Unified School District. It was hard work, but the impact on the lives of individuals through salvation and baptisms at Huntington Beach made it rewarding.
One father of a small family who attended was a backslidden Jew named Fred, who silently came to Christ while I was speaking during one of my home meetings. He was a Vietnam veteran and a printer by trade. I routinely made pastoral visits to him and his wife in their apartment because two of their teenagers attended our congregation before Fred came to Christ. During our visits, I did not realize it, but he wanted a verbal fight and would often try to bait me into arguments on a variety of issues dealing with religion, politics, social issues, the military and especially problems facing the church. After coming to Christ, he admitted that he tried baiting me into arguments.
I usually agreed with his points of view, or, because I saw no point in arguing, I would find at least one aspect of his viewpoints on which I could agree with him. That defused any possible argumentation. I displayed an agreeable spirit. That won him over, he later said. Having an agreeable spirit builds up the body of Christ.
After Fred came to Christ in my living room, he matured quickly in the faith and eventually became my assistant pastor after we moved into an office space and went public with our services. I had evangelized and discipled him successfully by the power of the Holy Spirit. I preached on Sunday mornings, and Fred preached on Sunday evenings in our rented office space where we moved our small congregation by November 1986.
In January of 1987, two months after moving into our office space, God gave me three prophetic dreams. The dreams were about the same thing. Two of them were vague, but the third dream elaborated on the previous two in detail, confirming what the Holy Spirit was showing me.
In the first dream, I saw a number of Christians in America in a concentration camp that was just for Christians. The Christians were caged in with a chain-link fence. I saw it only briefly before the scene flickered out. In the second dream, days later, I saw the same thing with not much more detail. It simply confirmed the first dream. In the third dream, I saw the scene vividly and experienced what happened. I was with a number of Christians trapped inside a large area, caged in with a chain-link fence and barbed wire on top of the fence. Armed guards, which I believe were military soldiers, had weapons pointed at us. They began shooting at us to kill us. We immediately tried to barricade ourselves behind various obstacles. Some were killed, but many of us survived.
Suddenly, we were filled with boldness and as a group we ran toward the far-left corner of the encampment to try to climb over. We failed. We could not get over the fence. Then we made a mad dash to the far-right corner. We climbed over and successfully escaped to freedom. As soon as we climbed over the fence, we noticed how blue the sky was. The air was so fresh. It was such a sunny day. But then we saw black helicopters flying overhead. The pilots were trying to find us. We scrambled to hide, but there was a foreboding sense that we were caught and that there was no escape due to the vast technology the government had to track us. At that point, the dream ended. The scene had closed.
Jesus said, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days, 'the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.' Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other" (Matt. 24:29-31).
I would like to encourage you to be ready for the return of Jesus, but to prepare to suffer for your faith should Jesus wait longer. Christians of other nations have already suffered exactly what I saw in my dreams. Christians in America have already been imprisoned for their faith. Some have been killed. Churches have been burned down. Jesus has waited for more unbelievers to repent and be baptized.
But be encouraged, for Jesus said in the revelation He gave to John the Beloved, "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tried, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10).
I believe that pastors who have not already done so should organize their congregations into cell groups of 12 people or less to meet regularly in homes or other secret places. Then if, or when, public worship places are shut down permanently by the United States government or by various state governments, the infrastructure is already organized and established to continue meeting for the proclamation of God's Word, building up of our faith and breaking bread together. Believers who are not part of any congregation should consider organizing themselves into small cell groups. There is spiritual strength in unity.
No matter what comes, the victory belongs to us who are in Christ! Hold fast, brothers and sisters.
James F. Linzey, M.Div., studied church growth under C. Peter Wagner and signs & wonders under John Wimber at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the chief editor of the Modern English Version Bible and is ordained as a Southern Baptist Convention minister.
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