Arthur Wallis, a British “elder statesman” in the Kingdom wrote a fascinating foreword to a book by Frank Bartleman called Another wave rolls in: (formerly) What really happened at “Azuza Street?” The book describes from a first-hand perspective, the events at Azusa Street–the beginning of the Pentecostal Movement. In this foreword, Arthur described how the life of the early church quickly degenerated and was nearly extinguished during the Dark Ages. But then God began recovering waves of truth.
- In the 15th century, the Bible was put into the hands of ordinary people (Wycliffe and Tyndale).
- In the Reformation, through people like Luther and Calvin, the truth that salvation is by faith and not by works was recovered.
- In the 17th century, the Congregational Movement recovered the truth of the autonomy of the local church, and the Baptists also stood on this ground while adding baptism by immersion.
- In the 18th century God raised up Wesley and Whitfield. The Methodist movement emphasized salvation by faith as a work of the Holy Spirit, holiness, and the fact that neither ordained preachers nor sacred buildings were necessary to preach the Gospel.
- In the 19th century, the Brethren taught that the Bible is sufficient for running the church and the priesthood of all believers. The Salvation Army looked at the social implications of the Gospel. The deeper life movement recovered the potential of a victorious Christian life through union with Christ’s death and resurrection.
- In the 20th century, the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements characterized the church.
Each of these waves of recovery built upon the previous wave, like a tide coming into the shore. The waves may break and recede, but the tide itself moves inexorably forward.
What will be the waves of the 21st century? It’s too early to answer that fully, but I believe that one of the waves is this: that God wants his people to be led by the Spirit.
- His ordinary people will engage with him in the harvest, following the Holy Spirit as he leads them on mission with God to make disciples. It’s no longer the DL Moody’s, John Wesley’s or Billy Graham’s, extraordinarily effective though they have been, but all of us–“an army of Billy Graham’s” that will usher in the final harvest.
- Church, too, will be in the hands of ordinary people, and therefore will become simpler and more organic, again following the Spirit’s leading. This won’t be limited to house/simple/organic church, but will increasingly be recognized across the denominations.
What other waves do you see?
25 replies on “Another wave rolls in”
Filicity – It’s always helpful to be reminded of church history. Thanks! And I agree that Spirit-led witness and decentralization will continue to emerge.
In addition, I sense a fresh wave of understanding and fruitfulness regarding how the Body of Christ in designed by God to function. Specifically, Ephesians 4:11 gifts (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, Teachers) will inform new paradigms for discerning both personal calling and corporate mission. Whereas before our gift differences led to polarization, they will now be appreciated as unifying assets.
James. I agree and think it will be very interesting to watch this unfold. Up until now, most people have thought of apostles and prophets as those with a business card with their title on. This new wave of servants will be those who are truly foundational–often unseen and trodden on but yet essential to what God is building.
Felicity – Brilliant insight. Thank you.
Yes and yes, Felicity and Paul. Great stuff!
1 – Led by the Spirit
2 – The gifts as unifying assets
My contribution is
3 – Growing in holiness
I think we’re going to see a people who are not only set apart to serve the Lord, but increasingly KNOW that they’re set apart to serve him. This is what it means to be a priesthood. If we are also characterised by obedience to the King (1 – Led by the Spirit) then we will be a royal priesthood, a holy nation!
Chris, amen! I pray it may be so
I meet many who have left the churches and who have also developed a dislike for labels or brands such as Baptist or Pentecostal, as well as defined creeds or theological positions. I wonder if the next gen christians will identify more with fruit rather than gifts and character qualities rather than accomplishments.
The many youth in our circles certainly have little use for official-ism, ordination or experts, and they go far out of their way to develop egalitarian community.
Wow, Greg! A living temple, built by Christ. Can we call that
4 – One body attitudes
or can you think of a more accurate short description? This is related to 2 – The gifts as unifying assets. Anyone else feel this is getting rather exciting?
Greg, this would be an amazing “next wave” and a fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer in John 17. May it be so!
I don’t want to hog this discussion, yet here I am again. Just to say I’ve posted something on my own blog that may be related – http://jesus.scilla.org.uk/2012/08/renewing-temple.html
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it and how, if at all, it fits with Felicity’s article and the other comments here.
I highly recommend this post on Chris’s blog. A powerful picture of what Jesus is doing
Thank You for sharing this Felicity.
That’s a really interesting observation. But I would also have to note that all of the above mentioned denominations and people mixed truth with the clergy/laity divide. None of them managed to truly leave that behind. Could it be that no matter how the institutional church improves in terms of taking up greater freedom for the people of God and recovering the more organic nature of the church the clergy/laity problem will still exist and therefore the institutional church will continue to be a poor reflection on what the Ekklesia is supposed to look like?
One problem we face (and it may be a more serious problem than we realise) is that we’re pretty good as spotting issues with other people and groups, but not nearly so good at spotting our own faults.
All forms of church so far are poor reflections on what the Ekklesia is supposed to look like, apart from anything else because we are still not one church! Every division, small or great, is a disfigurement on the face of the bride.
Every fragment of church needs to improve, and by accepting one another warts and all, and keeping our eyes on Jesus and letting him take charge, we may eventually attain our goal.
The only certainty is that we can’t do it on our own. We need one another and we need Jesus. But don’t give up hope, Jesus can do what we cannot.
I would say having read the above that we are always wanting to keep everything nice and polite amongst christian groups and we are always hearing about improving ourselves, accepting one another’s differences, not looking critically at others etc. That may be all well and good, but the point is and i have been through many kinds of organized christianity up until now that in the end until some of us join together in our cities, towns, villages and be the church without any denominations, legalistic rules and regulations that don’t bring life. Just that we would do simple church together like in Acts. Otherwise we will do our good works, do our social caring through big organizations who are apparently the experts and forget that maybe none of us have been willing to take in an orphan, care for the true widows and fatherless. We had better decide together to be the simple church in our city or town with our fellow believers. Most will not dare to go this way unless the Holy Spirit does a deep calling to the depths of our hearts. I say this as a most imperfect believer and i need this deep calling more and more in me but i want to be like those believers in Acts. God has not changed and his perfect architectural plans put down then have not changed or become obsolete over time. What they did then we need to do now. Lets look for those ones who want to live this way and start. If you are in Cebu and reading this and want to do this come and join. Blessings
Thank you for this beautiful picture of where I believe the Lord is taking the church–where all our man-made barriers come down and we, together and united, live out our calling to be Jesus’ body in our cities.
I hope you’ll get some take up on your ‘come and join’ offer.
Small, organic meetings at home is very much where I’m at, and have been almost all my life. But several years ago I found I also have a part to play in a home group belonging to a larger organisation with the usual Sunday service format and leadership structure. Although I’m not part of that, I am part of the home group and have been made very welcome. I’ve even been invited to share some of my rather untraditional thinking with them and that has been wonderful.
I hope persecution won’t be necessary, though only the Lord knows. But I do sense the need to follow Jesus into places where others of his children may see and do things differently.
We need to be obedient. Sometimes that might take us aside to do things the way the early believers did. Sometimes it might take us into places that are quite different from that.
Have your way with us, Lord. Pour out your Spirit who blows wherever he wishes. Teach us to follow. Heal our divisions.
Amen! I wonder what it will take to bring us to this place. Only a move of the Holy Spirit can do it, but will it take persecution as well? I often think of Richard Wurmbrand’s description of life in a Russian concentration camp, where the dividing walls between Christians came down and there was an incredible unity. I’d like to think we can pray it into being instead.
I’m with you on us being good at spotting issues with other people and not nearly so good at spotting our own faults.
But I do think it is not quite fair to say that there is no Ekklesia as it is supposed to be today. As Arthur Wallis described in his foreword to the book Felicity had mentioned, the church fell into darkness quite early on. However, there have always been fragments of the church that have held onto the headship of Christ and that the scriptures give us a description of the Ekklesia. Many of them are known as the dissenters, and prior to the 15th century were mostly persecuted by the institutional church of their day. After the 15th century they were either persecuted or institutionalised themselves. ‘Housechurch’ is not a new phenomena.
Perhaps because I simply said ‘what the Ekklesia is supposed to look like’, which can be taken numerous ways, I should explain a bit more about what I take that to mean:
1. The first Ekklesia existed before time began. It was the Godhead of Father, Son and Spirit living in community together, sharing their life with each other. In a sense, all Christians who have ever lived or are still to live were there too. Sounds outlandish? Probably ;), but Ephesians 1:4 says that we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.
2. The second Ekklesia started after Jesus was baptised and took disciples to Himself: 12 men and 5 – 8 women. It was a community with Him as the centre. He shared His life with them. They did life together. And as John said: They beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
3. The third Ekklesia started after Jesus rose from the dead, ascended to heaven and then sent His Spirit to dwell within His followers. It was a community that did life together with Jesus as the Head and Leader of their gatherings. It was a community centred on Him. It’s life was (or rather is) Jesus. It’s DNA is Jesus.
It is this Ekklesia that we can be a part of now as well. We are holy because of what Christ did on the cross, we are filled with the Spirit because of what Christ did on the cross, we care for the poor because Jesus lives within us and cares for the poor, we preach the gospel because Jesus lives within us and preaches Himself through us, etc.etc.
IMHO the clergy/laity divide is the main problem in us not seeing the Ekklesia express herself. We don’t so much need to add truths, no matter how true they are and how much freedom in Christ they bring, but rather we need to subtract the clergy/laity divide and allow Jesus to fill the void it leaves.
But I’m also totally with you that we can and must learn from each other. The reality is that Jesus simply cannot be institutionalised, no matter how hard we try, and so His grace and truth shine to a degree in all denominations.
I love this reply, David. It comes from the heart and it comes from above.
Thanks for writing!
David, these are some deep truths that you bring out here and I love the way you bring everything back to the cross. Have you come across “The Pilgrim Church” by Broadbent? He describes how the true church has always existed in pockets outside of the institution. Right from when it was founded there has always been a remnant church that held true to the original pattern. I also agree with you about the problems of clergy/laity. It’s why in my original post I talked about a move of God in this century being where people listen to God and do what he says. We need to see Jesus as head of his church in every facet of her being.
David, what you say is true. I’m firmly convinced that in this current move of the Spirit, the church is being put back into the hands of ordinary people, much like in the Reformation, the Bible was put back into the hands of ordinary people. How that will work out within the institutional church remains to be seen, but truth tends to permeate across the board. I think, for example, of the truths of Pentecostalism, and how there are now people who believe in a baptism of the Holy Spirit within every denomination. So maybe many legacy churches will be willing to change. For example, in our city, one of the mega-churches (Austin Stone) is encouraging and unconditionally releasing their people to start organic churches in their communities. Called missional communities, they are simple churches led by ordinary people reaching out into their communities.
Thanks for sharing this, Felicity, I am really excited by it!
Thanks Felicity! The orality movement is a strong trend in which God’s Word is internalized and shared in open, relational environments ranging from personal coaching to small groups.
Mark, that’s so true. And I believe the orality movement will take root in this country too where, although literacy isn’t usually a problem, many choose to be oral learners.
How amazing to be so encouraged in these last days! God’s still working and won’t stop until His own good time. So be ready and be faithful!