I love reading the stories of the Reformation, the Puritans, the Great Awakenings, the Revivals. I also love learning about the lives of great figures in church history, missionaries, evangelists, pioneer Pentecostalists, the great preachers and the great social reformers.
It is all wonderful and inspiring yet I am delighted to be alive today and not in another age. I believe I am born for such a time as this, and so are you!
In the UK God has been restoring things to His church over many years. Each new phase is being built on what God did in earlier periods of church history. There is a whole spectrum of things that I would call ‘a New Testament quality of church life’ which we take for granted. Other generations fought the hard battles but now we must hold their ground and push forward from it – stand on their shoulders and reach higher.
Here is a selection of the clear Biblical priorities that I think have been restored and are, therefore, more possible to live in the good of today than in some earlier generations:
- The Bible is readily available for people to read and understand in their own language. From the very start ordinary people were meant to hear or read the truth in the Bible as it is – hear it, understand it, believe it, obey it!
- The church is people not buildings or institutions. The church is like a body, a family, a community within the wider community.
- A lot of the activity of the church takes place house to house and in the marketplace.
- The gifts of the Holy Spirit are all operating today and are essential for the church to fulfill the great commission Jesus gave us.
- The leadership gifts stated in Ephesians 4 v 11 all operate today and play a key role in equipping and releasing the church for her works of service.
- The church is on constant mission. In each generation Christians are called to be witnesses to Jesus in their equivalent of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.
- The church is called to ‘make disciples’ not just converts. Christians are best thought of as ‘disciples of Jesus Christ’.
- The church is meant to be non-religious in the sense that it avoids the trappings associated with most religions e.g. specially built temples, rituals, institutions, priesthood etc.
- The new covenant era Jesus inaugurated is an era characterised by worship in Spirit and in Truth. Worship isn’t tied to geography or form, and every member of the body of Christ is involved.
- Powerful works of the Holy Spirit are an expected part of evangelism and church experience.
- The Church is always moving forward towards that last great Day. There will be constant change and multiplication e.g. church planting. There will be a regular experience of people turning to Christ and of conflict with the world i.e. it is abnormal when neither of these things are happening!
- Whilst keeping her distinct and dynamic qualities the Church expects to impact the culture around her.
The ways God works with us will have some differences from how He worked in previous generations. Just as there is a difference between Esther’s story, Daniel’s story and Nehemiah’s story, so our story will not be the same as those who have gone before us. But my constant prayer is: “In my day and generation – build your church, Lord! Help me to fulfill to the full your purpose for my part in this process.”