Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ready For The Next Reformation?

Dear Friends,

“THE CHURCH IS DYING!” scream the headlines. Secular publications are quoting statistics and touting the demise of Christianity in our Nation. Atheists are smirking over the recent Newsweek cover story, “The End of Christian America.” A commentary, “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” went viral after being picked up by a religious news agency. Even church growth “experts” have jumped on the bandwagon of doom because hand-wringing and hysteria sell books and pack seminars with worried church leaders.

Every shout of hyperbole contains a quiet nugget of truth and when we look closely at the mountain we do see the molehill. In the last four years, six million adults have left the American Catholic Church as decades of child abuse were revealed. The mainline churches (Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal) are reportedly stuck or in a state of decline. Some losses are particularly disturbing. As a result of changing church doctrine to better reflect the worldview of current secular culture, the progressive Episcopal church lost well over a million members. Once the largest church in America, the Episcopal Church will cease to exist by 2026 unless their rate of decline is halted. The liberal Lutheran denomination has been tagged as the fastest declining church in America with a loss of over 600,000 after changing their church doctrine. It too is expected to cease to exist in less than two decades. A church consultant characterized the demise of some denominations by saying, “The more progressive and liberal they become, the greater the rate of decline.” While that has so far proven to be true, it only looks at one piece of the story. It’s like taking the statistic that 2.5 million people die each year in America and the headlines screaming “AMERICA IS DYING!” That’ll sell newspapers but it’s just not true.

The truth is that the church in America is not dying at all. It's alive and well. It's just become more.. well.. (close your ears, Baptists) more Pentecostal. The Pentecostal movement has experienced explosive growth in our Nation and in the world today and 27% of all Christians are Pentecostal. The Pope laments that in Latin America one-third of the people have left the Catholic Church in recent years. What is not said is that nearly all of those once-Catholics left to seek a personal relationship with God and became Pentecostals. What's going on here? 

In America, those in mainline congregations have traditionally labeled Pentecostals as excessive, fanatical heretics. And many  thousands of those finger-pointers are now filling Pentecostal churches, coming into the presence of God for the first time in worship, and seeing their lives changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Are we seeing a Spirit-led breakthrough in America? 

A sociologist has written, “With an estimated 500 million followers, Pentecostalism is more analogous to the rising of Protestantism in Christianity than the birth of a new denomination. It's an example of the restructuring of Christianity.” The sociologist explains: “The Pentecostal worldview holds that ours is a world of miracles and mystery, where healings, prophecy and divine serendipity are woven into the fabric of everyday life.”

The reason for this explosive growth of Pentecostalism is that its adherents have the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the same spiritual power that Jesus gave those first 120 men and women disciples. Acts 1:4-5; Acts 1:8. It’s impossible to be filled with the Holy Spirit and then go back to sleep in your pew! Statistics show that denominations heavily populated by nominal Christians are in a state of decline. The Pentecostal church grows because nominal Christians tend to not join churches where one’s spiritual growth is expected and is an imperative. And, Pentecostalism is not led by the Spirit of God to change the historic church to reflect current culture but to lead a lost culture back to God's Word. The Pentecostal church is growing because there is no such thing as a “Progressive Pentecostal” or a “Nominal Pentecostal.”

All denominations that de-emphasize the personhood of the Holy Spirit and the supernatural work of God are in a decline. The Pentecostal church emphasizes Spirit-filled living and engagement with the world. Our worship takes us into the presence of God and we want everyone to have that same opportunity to fully experience the Holy Spirit in their lives. The Pentecostal has had his/her life changed by the Holy Spirit and thinks that everyone should have what God has to offer. The Pentecostal is not asleep in their faith, they are passionate about their faith. That’s why the church is alive and well. And, that’s why the Pentecostal movement may be Christianity’s next reformation!

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