I dream of a Church aflame, purged by the Spirit and purging the society around them, sloughing off the drag of materialism, and singeing the fakers that flutter in imitation of her glory.
I celebrate the progress of “evangelical Christianity,” yet I weep for the lack of holiness. I weep for the repeated surveys (at least in the U.S.) that declare that evangelical Christians live exactly like the non-believers around them, and I pray we will not export that kind of empty profession of Christianity to the rest of the world.
I dream of a Church separate enough from sinners to call the entire world to holiness—holy living—trusting a Holy Christ, indwelt by a Holy Spirit, and impelled by a holy mission! The world around us deserves a personal demonstration, a visible incarnation of the grace of God. Over a hundred years ago, Daniel Steele wrote, “A Brahmin recently said to a Christian, ‘I have found you out. You are not as good as your book. If you Christians were as good as your book, you would in five years conquer India for Christ.’” I pray with Steele, “Come, Holy Spirit, and so cleanse and fill us that we may be as good as our book!” .
I dream of the Church falling neither into legalism nor into “cheap grace” , but taking seriously the authority of the Word of God over every facet of life. I pray for a Church conscious of its need to be forgiven and confident in the assurance of salvation. I pray for a Church personally alive and in direct contact with God!
I dream of a Church resistant to lukewarmness and the status quo, a Church energetic in reaching both far and near, both upward and downward in society.
I dream of contextualization without compromise. Solid Biblical truth anointed by the Spirit and meaningfully communicated to others will repel most errors. Charles Spurgeon quipped, “I never yet saw a fly alight on a hot [stove] plate” . We must remain fervently faithful to Biblical truth while stretching every nerve to be culturally in touch.
I dream of a Church that avoids the turf wars, the kingdom building, and the human arrogance of personal empires!
I dream of the whole Church, evangelizing the world as a spreading fire, united enough to fellowship and not duplicate each other’s work, yet committed enough not to lose the distinctives of each group. May God grant to each the courage to “creatively enunciate those biblical themes that may be missing in other Christian communities” yet “graciously understand the theological perspectives of other Christly believers.” All the while, let us “humbly pursue a practical theology of loving holiness and of holy living” .
I share the passion of John Wesley who cried out, “Give me a hundred men, who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I will shake the world; and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; and such alone will overthrow the kingdom of Satan and build up the kingdom of God on earth” . Wesley got his hundred men and they shook the world of their day! One century later, General William Booth sent his corporals and his lassies to invade the nations, and the Salvation Army was able to clean out the hell-holes and change the course of cities and nations. It can be done!
I dream of a Spirit-filled Church, fire-baptized and intelligently strategizing to reach the whole world. The Spirit without strategy is not enough . And strategy without the Spirit is certainly not enough! God grant us the whole Church, preaching the whole Gospel to the whole world!
- Apologies to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Daniel Steele, Gospel of the Comforter (Milton, Massachusetts, 1897; Reprinted at Rochester, PA: Schmul, 1960), p.290, “The Holy Spirit: The Conservator of Orthodoxy.”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship (Originally printed, 1939, Reprinted at New York, NY: Macmillan, 1968).
- Daniel Steele, Gospel of the Comforter, p. 275.
- Gilbert Stafford in Charles Carter, ed., A Contemporary Wesleyan Theology 2 vols, (Grand Rapids, MI: Francis Asbury, Zondervan, 1983), I:40.
- Daniel Steele, Gospel of the Comforter, p.289.
- Dale Yocum, Armies of God (Salem,OH: Schmul, 1987), pp. 90-93.