THE HOLY SPIRIT MOVING IN YOUR CHARISMATIC AND PENTECOSTAL CHURCH?

 

By Paul Christensen, Takanini, Auckland, New Zealand

 

We have never really had a revival in New Zealand that would match the powerful revivals that we have heard about happening overseas.   We have never had a move of God which could even compare slightly with the Argentine revival, Brownsville, Indonesia.   Nor have we ever seen the signs and wonders that have been reported from crusades in Africa and other third world countries.  Why is this, I wonder?

It is not for the want of believing and trying.   In Auckland, there are Charismatic and Pentecostal churches all over the city preaching healing and deliverance, and some are claiming results, possibly in excess of what is really going on.  Two ministries (Weston Carryer and Bill Subritzky) are reporting genuine healings, which have been documented and confirmed by medical professionals.  But the significant factor about these healings is that they have taken place in the context of evangelism, and it has been noticed that the preaching of these two men have been simply Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

But these healings have not been replicated in the large number of Charismatic churches in the country.  There is plenty of preaching and teaching about signs and wonders and divine healing, and a lot of promises made, but the results are few and far between.  This is a great mystery because the commission that Jesus gave to every believer is that they have the authority to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead.  Jesus is not lying, or giving us a false commission here, so why are we not seeing the results on the scale that we should be seeing them?  You would think that for the amount of preaching and teaching that is happening Sunday after Sunday, we would be seeing far greater results.

I believe that if the churches were getting the results they claim are available, we should be reading about them in our local newspapers.  The healings would be that newsworthy.  It happened in the early church.  When Peter and John (Acts 3) healed the lame man at the Gate Beautiful, the news went out all over the countryside and thousands of people came to be healed through the ministry of the Apostles.  As a result of that one healing, 5000 men, not counting women and children accepted Christ as their Saviour.  Just one healing brought a major revival, which resulted in the religious and civil authorities taking notice, even though they reacted with persecution of Christian believers to the point when the Christians got together and prayed down the power of God until the place where they prayed was shaken and they received a new boldness to preach the Gospel with signs and wonders following.

John G Lake and Maria Woodsworth-Etter were ordinary people, but when they preached the Gospel, the signs and wonders that followed their ministries were nothing like were seen before or since.  With Mrs Woodsworth-Etter, people were slain in the Spirit (Christians and unbeliever alike) over a 20 mile radius of her tent meetings.  When these people regained consciousness, they got up and received Christ as Saviour.   Not like what we see in our contemporary churches where people fall down and get up unchanged, looking forward to next Sunday when they can fall down again while getting their blessing "fix" for the week.

I am not skeptical of the healing ministry.  I firmly believe that Jesus is able and willing to heal sick people, and will honour the faith of those who sincerely believe in Him.  But, as John Wimber found out, Jesus may delay supernatural results until He sees that the person ministering means business with God and is not just a flash in the pan.  John Wimber had to wait 11 months, praying for hundreds of people, before results started to happen.

We do not have to wait for any special conditions or environment for God to heal the sick.  If the person ministering has enough faith, and the other person has enough faith to receive the ministry, there is enough faith for healing to take place.  We don't need a special method either.  Whatever you believe works for you will achieve the results, if Jesus decides to vindicate your ministry with instant, supernatural healing.

So why are so many churches making claims and promises concerning healing, and yet nothing is happening.  Why are the same sick people coming up for prayer Sunday after Sunday, and crusade after crusade, and yet not being healed?

I believe that I know some of the main reasons why Jesus is not honouring the ministry of most, if not all the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches (in New Zealand, at least).  It has to do with the structure and governance of these churches.

The main style of church governance in New Zealand churches is built on the pyramid style of leadership.  In traditional churches, the local church is presided over by a minister or priest, who is under the authority of a bishop or regional presbytery, or some other regional or national overseer who sets the policy of how the church should function.  In most cases, the Holy Spirit is not consulted and the policies and programmes are set by man dominated committees, bishops, moderators, cardinals, etc.

In Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, most of which are autonomous, there is also a pyramid leadership structure where there is a man at the top exercising total authority over the whole organisation.  Under him are sub-leaders who have teams of housegroup leaders under them, and these housegroup leaders have authority of the members that attend.  The ordinary believer would be unable to have personal contact with the "senior pastor" without having to go up the "chain of command".  He first has to consult with his housegroup leader, who then consults with the leader of the housegroup leaders, who then takes the request further up the line.  Often the communication breaks down, and the housegroup leader may take it upon himself to handle the request himself, and God help the believer if he decides not to accept the housegroup leader's decision.  Believers are often labelled as rebellious against authority because they choose not to accept the views of a housegroup leader who may actually be a novice, having less experience in the Christian faith than the believer himself!

You would be surprised at how often this happens in most of our prominent Charismatic churches!

Church politics are very powerful in our churches.  Often the "senior pastor" has gained his position through political maneuvering, rather than being appointed by the Holy Spirit.  Often good men who are approved by the Holy Spirit are edged out through the intense competition to achieve the "top spot".  It is because good men are reluctant to push themselves forward and therefore are trampled in the rush for power.  There are many reports and testimonies of men and women suffering this sort of thing in our churches.  The number of good men and women who have reported as being "slammed" by their church leadership because they have listened to the voice of God and suggested what the Holy Spirit may be wanting to say to the leadership.

I was a member of a Charismatic church in the 1970s and early 1980s that started with a board of elders governing the church.  While it had that structure, the church worked well, and grew to over 400 people.  But some personalities started to push for pre-eminence, and some good men were quietly pushed out.  Then the concept of "senior pastor" came into being, and that person started setting the policy and dictating to the others.  No longer were decisions made by consensus of the eldership.  Decisions were often made by the "senior pastor" and the eldership informed after the decisions were made.  Any elder who objected was accused of having a spiritual problem, and sometimes the arguments between the"senior pastor" and the other elders happened in congregational meetings.  Also, decisions concerning the issues affecting a congregation member made by one elder, were countermanded by the "senior pastor", and there were some shameful public demonstrations where individual believers were disciplined in public meetings.

Eventually, that church "fell on its side".  A "senior pastor" left the church to form his own church, where he remained at the top of the pyramid for many years.  The remainder of the church split into two parts, with one elder taking 50 of the congregation away to form his own church.  What was left formed a new church, which, according to recent reports, has a "senior pastor" leading the church, with any elders functioning as his "assistants" rather than governing elders in their own right.

There is the well-known case of a prominent Charismatic church in Auckland, lead by a "senior pastor" who had a international reputation.  This church grew very large and had a good reputation right around the country.  Then after a few years, it was reported that the great man had deserted his wife and had run off with his secretary.  This caused that church to disintegrate in a short period of time.

I believe that these stories have been repeated in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches all over the world.

I believe that any church that has a pyramid structure of different levels of authority, with a "senor pastor" at the top, governing the church, accountable to no-one, cannot have the Holy Spirit working powerfully in it.  All the faith in the world, or sound doctrinal preaching will not cause the Holy Spirit to vindicate the ministry of that church while it has that structure.

Why?  Because the New Testament does not recognise it.  It is simple as that.

If we look closely at the book of Timothy, we see that Paul instructed Timothy to ordain elders in the churches.  Paul himself appointed elders in the churches where he had jurisdiction.  Nowhere in the New Testament are there any reference to say that Paul or Timothy ordained a pastoral overseer to govern the churches.  Governance of churches was put in the hands of a group of elders, having equal status, able to teach sound doctrine, and all able to be shepherds and pastors of the "flock".

The concept of "senior elder", "senior overseer", or "senior pastor" did not exist until the end of the Second Century AD.   Paul himself disapproved of anyone who tried to exercise "pre-eminence" and would not deal with anyone who thought he was "somebody".  He even had reservations about the Apostles in Jerusalem when he visited there for the first time.  He said that they "seemed to be pillars in the church".  Of course, when he got to know them, he recognised that they were truly Apostles of the Lord.  But their Apostleship was not an authoritarian role.  They recognised that every believer is a king and priest for God, and that their "senior pastor" was Christ Himself, and no other was to take His place.   Paul referred to other ministries as "fellow labourers" in the Lord.

Therefore, according to the New Testament, there is only one "senior shepherd", that He is Jesus Himself.  The New Testament speaks of "when our Chief Shepherd will appear", showing clearly that there was only one senior overseer in the early Church, and that Person was Jesus, and no other.  Anyone else trying to exercise authority as a "senior shepherd" was seen as a usurper trying to subvert the role of our Saviour as our Chief Pastor and Mediator before God.

The concept of "clergy" and "laity" is not recognised in the New Testament at all.  Elders were appointed on the basis of their maturity in the Lord and their ability to teach sound doctrine and to be role models for younger believers.  The clergy came into being because of the heresies that were occurring in the early church after the Second Century, and the need for men properly trained in sound doctrine became apparent.  In the early stages, this was a role in the eldership, but as the Church became more formalised, the trained elder became the "head" elder, and finally became the Roman Catholic priest.  Then there needed to have an overseer of the priests, and so regional Bishops were appointed.  Before that Bishops were another term for local church elders.  They did not have a pre-eminent role over regions, as is now existing in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.  Of course, once the Bishop of Rome took the overall pre-eminence and excommunicated the Bishop of Constantinople, the Western Church became totally formalised as the Roman Catholic Church.  By this time, much of the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit had faded away.  Of course, that is expected when men take the authority away from the Holy Spirit and put themselves into His place.

So this is what is happening in most Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.  We have pastors ruling churches, dictating to their congregations what they believe the Holy Spirit is saying, and no-one else gets a chance to say anything different.  If any "rank and file" believer hears the voice of God and shares it with the leadership, it is either ignored or resisted, and the believer is often censured and disciplined.  I recently heard a story where there was a lady in a meeting weeping, and one of the regular female believers went over and comforted her, praying for her.  It was reported to the pastor, who then stopped the public meeting and rebuked her from the pulpit!  He harshly informed the congregation members that it is the pastor's role to minister to people and that she was totally out of order. What shameful conduct from a person who calls himself a man of God!

So we are getting a good, clear picture why the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit in most of our Pentecostal and Charismatic churches is minimal.  The Holy Spirit will always honour the faith of genuine, humble, believing Christians, and this usually happens in private home meetings where everyone is equal to each other and all are looking to Jesus to minister to them.

But in the public meetings, the Holy Spirit is usurped by the opinions of men who think they are someone and because they are in a senior position in the church, have the right to dominate the spiritual ministry of that church.  They are the performers up the front who do all the prophesying, overruling anyone else who has the courage to speak the word of God in prophecy, and who appoint those who are in unity with their policies to assist him in ministry.  Often the Holy Spirit is not consulted in these things, even though the appearance of seeking the mind of the Spirit is made.  Often the prayers for the Spirit's guidance are hypocritical and false, because the pastor and his cohorts have already decided what they want to do and they are wanting the Holy Spirit to put His seal on their plans.  Something the Holy Spirit will not do.

Let me say this again:  The Holy Spirit will only work in supernatural power where Jesus Christ is undisputed Lord of all.  He will not work where a man or group of men usurp the Holy Spirit and set up an authoritarian structure of governance in a church.   In short, I will say assertively that the Holy Spirit is not working in churches with a pyramid structure of governance.  Every decision and activity is done through man's wisdom and in the flesh.  I will go as far to say that in extreme authoritarian structures, the church is ruled by a demonic religious spirit and any guidance that these leaders is getting is a counterfeit of the Holy Spirit.  Instead of the voice of the Holy Spirit, it is a lying religious demon whom they are hearing and obeying.

What a tragedy, that church leaders think they are being led by the Holy Spirit, when in fact they are being guided by demons who have come into the leadership structure of the church through authoritarianism.   The demonic authoritarian spirit often takes hold of housegroup leaders, and they rule their members and will not allow anyone to question their decisions.  What happens in such authority structures is that if a member brings up an issue or questions the judgment of a housegroup leader or pastor, the member is viewed as having the problem and is disciplined accordingly.

No wonder we have hurt, bitter, "Ex Charismatics and Pentecostals" around today.  They have honestly wanted to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and were slammed by authoritarian leaders, and as a result demons of discouragement, and bitterness have been able to enter in.

What can we do about it?   It is going to be a monumental job to  bring our churches back into a place where the Holy Spirit can work freely in them.  What has to happen is that the pyramid structure has to be totally abandoned, and those proud leaders be brought to repentance and humility before God. If they continue in spiritual pride, they need to be "fired" from their positions and replaced by a group of humble men and women of God who will form themselves into an eldership after the New Testament pattern.  These elders need to make it their business to equip the saints to find their calling and to stir up their gifts.

I believe that the present move of the Holy Spirit is toward member ministry.  He will not work with pastors overseeing and ruling congregations, unless those pastors are humble men and women of God who see themselves as a member of an eldership all of whom have equal status in their role of shepherding the congregation.

Now what I am saying is not to adopt the discipleship/shepherding doctrine that was put forward by Bob Mumford and Ern Baxter in the 1980s.  This was a totally false doctrine that has caused much division and harm in the Church.  There are still echoes of that doctrine in many Charismatic churches, and the lying demons that are still operating in their promotion of the doctrine need to be cast out of those churches that are still working under that doctrine.

Every believer has a spiritual ministry in the church as the Holy Spirit gives gifts to each of them.  The Holy Spirit knows each believer, the level of their faith, and their spiritual abilities.  He gives gifts accordingly that make each believer the most useful in the church.   All believers are able to prophesy, and when all believers do prophesy, then unbelievers coming in are convicted of their sin as the thoughts and intents of their hearts are made manifest.  Others are given the gift of healing, of miracles, discerning of spirits, words of knowledge and wisdom, of faith, of tongues and interpretation.  In this way 1 Corinthians 14:26 is made real in the Sunday services.  In that environment, the Holy Spirit can move in signs and wonders,  vindicating the ministry of that church.

If no supernatural acts of the Holy Spirit are happening in your church, then the leaders of your church are not providing the proper environment for the Holy Spirit to move freely.  Usually, there are underlying issues and factors inhibiting the Holy Spirit which He can see that no-one else can see.  It is because God looks beneath the outward appearance to people's hearts.  Often, when there is no evidence of the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit in a church it is because there are hidden problems in the leadership.

For example:  I was setting up a Prophetic Equipping Day at a church, and I initially intended to invite the pastor to be part of the teaching team.  I had a slight check in my spirit, and also the founder and director of the ministry I work with emailed me to be careful of anyone I invite to make sure that they abide by the policies and aims of the ministry.  So I did not invite that pastor to contribute, although we used his church as the venue.  For some reason that pastor did not come to the meeting, nor did he promote the meeting to his congregation.   What I did not know was that the particular pastor had to stand down temporarily because of some serious issues in his life, and that some of the leaders were adopting authoritarian attitudes toward some in the congregation who were bringing up issues for attention.   So, because the Holy Spirit could see below the surface in that church, He gave a inner warning to the Director and me to take special care of who should be part of the ministry team.

I believe that the New Testament was inspired by the Holy Spirit to provide guidance for the Church to set up an environment and a governance structure that would enable Him to work freely and powerfully in it.  While the Church retained the structure which He set out in Acts, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus, then signs and wonders were common, with people getting healed and delivered of demons.  When the church departed from that structure, the supernatural faded away, although there were isolated events where the Holy Spirit honoured the faith and piety of individual men of God who recognised His voice and obeyed His instructions to them.

I believe that the time for praying for revival is over.  When God wanted Moses to take action at the shores of the Red Sea, and Moses got on his knees to pray, God asked him, "Why are you here praying? Get up and do what I tell you."  As Moses got up and obeyed the instructions of the Lord, the great miracle of the parting of the Red Sea happened.  Praying for God to do something is not what the Holy Spirit wants us to do. If all the Protestant Reformers did was to pray (and their prayers were very powerful with God), then we would still be in bondage to the Roman Catholic Church to this day.  It was when they got out of their prayer rooms, and started to take decisive action, that the enemies of the Reformation were driven back.   When Paul went into Corinth and Ephesus, he did not just pray that God would do the work, although he did wait before God until He heard what the Holy Spirit wanted him to do, he went forward and started casting demons out of people, getting people healed, and preaching the Gospel.  It was through what Paul did that established the very strong churches in those cities.

The Apostle John went into the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus and cast the demon out, and the pagan altar was split in several places and half the temple fell down.  That was the supernatural power of God responding to John obeying the voice of the Spirit.   Although when Smith Wigglesworth prayed there was such an intensity of the presence of the Holy Spirit with him that others could not stand to stay in the room with him, the miracles of healing and deliverance happened when he activated his faith and did what the Holy Spirit told him to do.   Therefore, if we want to see the Holy Spirit have his way in our Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, we need to wait before God until we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit telling us what to do, and then go and do it, having the courage and boldness to stand up to the proud "Pharisee" leaders who are dominating these churches, and declare the Word of God to them and call for their repentance and obedience to the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

We need to break free of the intimidation of these disobedient, authoritarian leaders, and use the gifts of prophecy, discernment of spirits, words of wisdom and knowledge to make the Word of God clear to them.  We will be persecuted for it, no doubt, as Jesus and the Apostles were persecuted by the religious leaders of their day.  Every reformer and man of God who changed their generation for God were opposed and persecuted by the religious leaders of their time.  John Wesley was thrown out of the Anglican Church[ Charles Finney was spoken against and opposed by the leaders of his denomination all the years of his ministry; The early Pentecostals were opposed, thrown out of their churches because of their discovery of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and His gifts;  The leaders of the Brownsville revival were ridiculed and spoken against; and every genuine believer who has ever questioned the teaching of his or her pastor or leader as the result of hearing the voice of the Spirit has been "slammed", disciplined, and often driven from his or her church because the leader was too proud and arrogant to hear what the Spirit might have been saying through that believer.

We are in a battle.  Religious spirits are attacking our churches, and in most churches have made serious inroads to the point where the Holy Spirit has been driven out, or is confined to a corner with His hands tied.  Of course, we know that the Holy Spirit is too powerful to allow His hands to be tied, so He leaves that church and goes to work with genuine, humble believers who will take the time to listen to His voice and to obey what He tells them to do.

In the face of all this, let's not get discouraged and depressed like Elijah who believed that all the true prophets of God in Israel were killed.  The Lord told him that there was still a significant group of prophets who were still true to His Name.  It is the same here.  God's foundation still stands sure, He know those who are His, and He is working with them to accomplish His plans and purposes in the world.

Now is the time for the men and women of God to stand up and declare that they are on the Lord's side and to get the Word from the Holy Spirit and with courage and boldness declare it.  George Fox, of the Quakers, did just that.  He heard the voice of the Spirit, and went with boldness into churches he called "steeple houses", interrupting services and letting ministers and congregations know what the Holy Spirit was saying to the churches.  He suffered intense persecution for what he did, but many people came to Christ.  His boldness was so over the top, that church historians often wonder whether he was actually led by the Holy Spirit.  But the fruit of his actions brought people to Christ and brought about a revival resulting in the Quaker movement (nowadays called "The Society of Friends").  It is interesting that the Quakers have no pastors, but are governed by a group of elders, and teach that every believer can hear the voice of the Spirit to guide the ministry of the movement.

George Whitefield, when he was prevented from preaching in churches, preached in the open air.  He took action, which was unprecedented in those times, but the Holy Spirit worked with him, vindicating his ministry by causing thousands to come to Christ.  John Wesley, when he was ejected from his church, held meetings in hired halls, and conducted an extensive itinerate ministry, something which was also new to the Church at that time.  John G Lake took hold of God and did not let Him go until the Spirit started to heal people through his ministry.  He took action and set up healing rooms in Spokane in Washington State, and saw thousands miraculously healed.   Smith Wigglesworth used some very aggressive techniques in his healing ministry as part of his  belief and sickness was caused by demonic activity, and the Holy Spirit vindicated his ministry with many signs and wonders.

We need to take action, not depending on what God has done in the past.  What might have worked in the past might not necessarily work again.  We need to go before God and wait to hear the voice of the Spirit and to do what He says.

Maybe we won't be able to reform the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches.  Maybe they will end up being fresh monuments to man's failure to listen to the Holy Spirit, and of man's insistence to depend on himself, his skills and abilities instead of totally depending on Jesus and abiding in His Word.

Where do you stand?  Are you on the Lord's side?   What is the Spirit telling you to do?

I am taking action by writing this and putting it on my website for people to read.  I believe that there are others waiting at the other end of my obedience who will receive a blessing from God because of it.

There will be others who will speak against what I have written, because conviction can work two ways - hardening of the heart through pride, or softening of the heart to repentance through the reception of God's Word.

There is the challenge.  We want to see the Holy Spirit working through us as we preach the Gospel to lost sinners, heal the sick and casting out demons.  As we hear and obey the voice of the Spirit and obey Him, then He will vindicate our faith and ministry, and will show up the barrenness of those who think  they are somebody in their self righteousness, and maybe some will be restored.

Finally, remember Paul's exhortation in 1 Corinthians 14:1: "Pursue love and desire Spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy."   Love is the key, using the Holy Spirit's resources and tools is our actions, and the Word of Christ will accompany our prophecies and preaching as we obey Him.

 

29 January 2012

 

Selected Annotated Reading List

 

A Guide For Elders, Colin Ray; 1994, Australia, Uniting Church Press.

A practical guide for church leaders administering the church, assisting the minister, providing pastoral care, keeping the church stable and fruitful.

Authority, John Fergusson; 2010, Auckland NZ, JF Ministries.

A penetrating look at true spiritual authority, contrasting this with authoritarian practices; the authority of every believer in Christ; how to practice authority in the church without causing damage.

Biblical Eldership, An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership, Alexander Strauch; 1995, USA, Lewis and Roth Publishers.

Examines the role of elders in the New Testament and the early church; the importance of today's church returning to the Scriptural pattern to make it effective and fruitful; pastors and ministers ruling churches is not the New Testament pattern and unheard of in Paul's writings and the early church.  Elders are mature believers, able to teach, calling a true calling in Christ, ruling their homes well, and being believers of good character, not appointed by any overseeing body, but respected believers chosen from among the congregation by consensus of all the members.

Breaking Intimidation, How to Overcome Fear and Release the gifts of God in Your Life, John Bevere; 1995, USA, Charisma House.

The main problem why rank and file believers do not speak out against toxic leaders is that they are intimidated by them, and also by their own weaknesses and shortcomings.  This study helps to break intimidation and shows a believer where he or she stands in Christ, and how to exercise true spiritual authority to enter into their calling and effectively use their spiritual gifts and ministries in the church.

Building a Contagious Church, Revolutionising the Way We View and Do Evangelism, Mark Mittelberg, with contributions by Bill Hybels; 2000, USA, Zondervan.

In the face of rank and file congregation members going from one church to another because of toxic leadership practices, lifeless sermons, lack of love, this book examines the causes why churches do not grow and suggests remedies to get out into the community and make the church attractive to non-churched people.

Experiencing The Presence of God, Charles Finney; 2000, USA, Whitaker House.

A comprehensive look at how individual believers can enter into and experience God's presence in their lives; how to recognise hindrances and difficulties in their relationship with God, and how to release the Holy Spirit in their lives, so that they can influence others for Christ and bring fresh life into their churches through the practice of the presence of God.

From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire; America on the Edge of Revival, Michael L Brown; 1996, USA, Destiny Image Publishers.

A description of the Brownsville Revival, how it came about, the underlying principles that enabled thousands to come to Christ, pastors of other churches powerfully affected and equipped; the importance of true conviction of sin, repentance and genuine conversion that formed the basis of the Revival; an examination of the more extreme affects and how they were dealt with; the differences between genuine manifestations of the Spirit and demonic manifestations and how they were dealt with; the importance that everything had to be done decently and in order, having team members on alert for people behaving excessively and disrupting services, removing them to a place of ministry away from the main services; the misconceptions of people who visited the Revival only once or twice without staying long enough to see what was really happening under the surface.

Greater Works; Experiencing God's Power, Smith Wigglesworth; 1999, USA Whitaker House.

The importance of personal faith in seeing God healing the sick and delivering people from demons; how we receive faith and retain it; how unbelief hinders the work of the Spirit; the faithfulness of God to vindicate and support the faith of genuine believers who step out of the comfort zones to prove Him as they heal the sick and cast out demons.

How to Change Your Church (without killing it), Alan Nelson and Gene Appel; 2000, USA Thomas Nelson.

Deals with the problems of today's churches, providing practical steps to turn an under achieving church to a powerful fellowship that is known by the community, releasing the power of the Holy Spirit to attract unbelievers and cause the ministry of the pastor and elders to be powerful and effective at causing them to be truly converted to Christ, discipled and installed as stable church members, able to win others for Christ.

John G Lake, His Life, His Sermons, His Boldness of Faith, 1994, Fort Worth Texas, Kenneth Copeland Publications.

The life and ministry of one of the most powerful men of God in the early Pentecostal church.  His teaching and example provides an excellent model for today's church, which has largely ignored it.   He has a deeper appreciation of faith and practice in the healing ministry, being trained as a medical professional who left his studies just before graduation to preach the Gospel full time.  He lost many family members in his early days through sickness, and he became determined that this was going to stop, so He got hold of God and would not let Him go until God promised to support Him through His power, which He did.  Lake describes the signs and wonders that occurred regularly during his ministry in South Africa, and the power of God working through the healing rooms he set up in Spokane, Washington State.  This is a must read for anyone who aspires to the healing ministry.  One can sense the anointing of the Holy Spirit in every page of this book.

Let No One Deceive You;  Confronting the Critics of Revival, Michael L Brown; USA 1997, Revival Press.

This is a rebuttal of the criticisms that have been levelled at the Brownsville Revival.  Michael Brown was the Bible Teaching ministry at Brownsville, working alongside the evangelist Stephen Hill.  His teaching is sound, orthodox, and inspiring.  He deals effectively with the excesses that always happen during revivals, and describes the manifestations that occurred in the Methodist revival under Wesley, the New England revivals under Edwards and Finney, the Welsh revival, and the early Pentecostal revival, and compares those manifestations with what was happening at Brownsville.  He says that the criticisms that were levelled at the Brownsville revival are the same as were levelled at every other revival that happened through the history of the church, and exposes the hypocrisy of the critics of Brownsville who speak favourably of the previous revivals as if God did something different during previous revivals to what was happening at Brownsville.  A compelling book that gives a much better insight to what was really happening at Brownsville.

Power-Filled Living, How to Receive God's Best for Your Life, R. A. Torrey; 1998, USA, Whitaker House.

A general study of how a believer can allow the Holy Spirit to work effectively in his or her life and ministry.  This is a modern language edition, written in a clear and understandable way.  Provides a set of good foundations for good ministry in the Spirit.

Rediscovering Gods Church, Derek Prince; 2006, USA, Derek Prince Ministries.

A penetrating look at why our present church needs to be reformed.  Prince compares the early church with today's church and gives reasons why today's church is only a shadow of what the early church was in terms of effectiveness and power.  He provides practical insights and guideliness on how we can bring our churches back into line with the New Testament pattern.

Setting Your Church Free, Neil T Anderson and Charles Mylander; 1994, USA, Regal Books.

This is a guide on how to set your church free from formalism and toxic leadership practices, and make it a warm, attractive place of fellowship and ministry.

Signs and Wonders, Maria Woodworth-Etter; 1997, USA, Whitaker House.

Along with John G Lake, Maria Wordworth-Etter was one of the most powerful woman ministries of the early Pentecostal church.  She went through the heartbreaking experience of losing five of her six children through sickness and disease, and this brought her to the feet of Christ and broke her so that she became totally dependent on Him.  She felt a call to preach the Gospel, and thousands came to Christ as the result of her preaching.  There were some remarkable manifestations of the Spirit including believers and unbelievers falling under the power of the Spirit and remaining unconscious sometimes for days at a time while God took them to heaven and hell and told them to make their choice.  Many of the unbelievers who fell under the Spirit got up totally and genuinely converted to Christ.  Her ministry is an excellent example of how the voice of Christ can speak effectively through the preaching of the Gospel.  Although her preference was to preach the Gospel, the Holy Spirit started healing the sick and demons were manifesting and being cast out.  She did not set out to concentrate on healing and deliverance, but it sovereignly happened as she preached the Gospel, and continued until her ministry ceased at her death.  She continued to preach the Gospel well into advanced age and it was only the final sickness that brought about her death that brought her ministry to an end.  This is a must-read book for anyone who feels called to preach the Gospel with the demonstration of the Spirit and power.

Spiritual Gifts In The Local Church, How to Integrate them into the Ministry of the People of God, David Pytches; 1985, USA, Bethany House Publishers.

This book encourages the rank and file believer to enter into and activate their Spiritual gift in the local church.  It stresses the importance of church leaders to allow the body of believers to stir up their gifts and use them for the blessing of others.  It is important that believers are trained in Spiritual gifts and given opportunity in Sunday services to put them into practice.

The Day Of The Saints; Equipping believers for their revolutionary role in ministry, Dr. Bill Hamon; 2002, Destiny Image Publishers.

This is a comprehensive study in the latest move of the Holy Spirit in today's church.  The day of the one-man-band pastor or minister providing all the spiritual ministry in a church is over.  Those churches that retain the one minister approach are no longer supported by the Holy Spirit.  God wants all believers to be involved in spiritual ministry during church services and in the wider minstry of the church in the community.  Those churches that are allowing rank and file believers to use the gifts of the Spirit, including prophecy, word of knowledge and wisdom, discerning of spirits, sharing insights and revelations from His Word, having a greater say in the direction of the church, are fellowships that are alive and growing.  Those churches that limit the ministry to a selected few with the bulk of believers sitting like wooden indians in church are churches that are declining.  Believers are hungry, not only for sound doctrine, but to be used of God in effective spiritual ministry, and they will look for churches that will allow them to do that.

The Disciple-Making Church, Bill Hull; 1990, USA, Revell.

This follows the same theme as other books on how to improve the performance of the local church, getting rid of toxic leadership practices, spiritual abuse, authoritarian attitudes; setting out to equip every believer to make disciples for Christ, setting up programmes in the church to provide effective teaching and discipleship for new believers, and ministry opportunities for mature, experienced believers.

The First Epistle of Paul The Apostle to the Corinthians, John Calvin; translated John W Fraser; 1960, Great Britain. Oliver and Boyd Ltd.

Martin Luther spearheaded the Protestant Reformation in Germany, which spread right through Europe and England, and John Calvin formed the theology of it.  He has been described as the greatest theologian of his time, and his teaching has influenced all the major revivals that took place since.  His theology was at the basis of the Puritan revival, the Scottish Covenanters, George Whitefield's ministry, the revivals in the USA under Jonathan Edwards, and the Welsh revival.  His theology forms the basis of the Westminster Confession of faith, the guiding document of the Presbyterian Church, and the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England.  It also forms the basis of many groups in the United States, including the Amish and Mennonite communities.  His theology is accepted in some areas of the Pentecostal church, in tandem with the Arminian theology that came through the Holiness movements and Wesleyan Methodism.  Charles Finney described himself as somewhere between Calvinism and Arminianism.  In his Commentary, Calvin acknowledges the place of miracles in the church and says that they are there to show that Jesus is really alive and the Gospel is true.  He says that the gift of tongues was withdrawn from the church through excessive misuse similar to the malpractice that Paul recognised in the Corinthian church.  Calvin makes some very interesting comparisons between the faults of the Corinthian church and the church of his time.  What is remarkable about this commentary, written in the late 1500s, is that there are many startling parallels between what Calvin has written and the state of today's Charismatic and Pentecostal churches.

The Life Of John Knox; Thomas Mcrie, D.D.; 1976, Glasgow, Free Presbyterian Publications.

This book was included in this list because it provides some startling comparisons between John Knox's conflicts with the authoritarian practices of the Roman Church and things that are going on in many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches today.  The particular issues may be different between the different generation, but the principles of an authoritarian organisation intimidating rank and file believers and those genuine ministers of Christ who find themselves having to oppose it as they work to be faithful to God's Word.   We are finding that the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are teaching doctrines and practices that are not found in the New Testament, and when faithful men and women of God speak out against those doctrines and practices, the leaders of the organisations do all they can to shut them down.  Knox's experience brings to our attention to our need for a present-day reformation in the Pentecostal/Charismatic church.  It shows that present-day reformers will be opposed and persecuted in the same way that Knox and his supporters were.  Some things never change, and the anti-Christ religious spirit that was existent in the Roman Church of the 1500s is very much alive and well in our modern churches.

The Nearly Perfect Crime, How the Church Amost Killed the Ministry of Healing, Francis MacNutt; 2005, Grand Rapids MI, Chosen Books

This is a study of the historical causes of why the healing ministry near disappeared from the Christian Church.  It shows how the church departed from the doctrine and practices of the early church as taught by the Apostle Paul in his letters, and shows how Calvin and the Protestant Reformed church substituted teaching that the miracles and gifts of the Spirit ceased when the last Apostle died.   MacNutt shows the change from the anointing of oil to heal the sick, to the Roman Church practice of the anointing of oil as the Last Rites, and that sickness was part of the cross that Christians have to bear, and praying for the sick is trying to avoid going through the period of suffering that all Christians must face, implying that praying for the sick is an act of disobedience rather than part of the preaching of the Gospel and ministry to believers.  MacNutt provides practical guidance on how get rid of the false doctrines and practices and to restore the healing ministry back into the church.

The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, The Epistles of Paul to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon; John Calvin; translated T. A. Smail; 1964, Great Britain, Oliver and Boyd Ltd.

Calvin provides practical guidance out of the books of Timothy and Titus to show the role of elders and deacons in the Christian church.  These principles are still very relevant for today's church.

Toxic Faith; Experiencing Healing from Painful Spiritual Abuse, Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton; 1991, 2001, USA, Waterbrook Press.

This is an excellent study of the abuses that Christians experience through toxic leadership and intimidation in their churches.  The principles are startling similar to what happens to victims of domestic abuse and bullying.  It is the same spirit behind all of it.  If a believer brings up issues tot  a church leadership where he or she believes that decisions are being made that are contrary to God's Word, he or she is treated as having a problem of rebellion and divisiveness and is subjected to accusative meetings and censure, sometimes being forced out of their ministry in the church.  The effects of this is extreme stress, discouragement and despair.  Many of these abused believers suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  This is the fruit of authoritarian leadership of churches that are following a demonic religious spirit instead of the Holy Spirit.  It is a disturbing book because it rips the outer cover off things that are going on in our churches.  Spiritual abuse, along with domestic abuse is the silent epidemic that exists in so many of our churches.  As women stay with battering husbands and partners, abused believers stay with churches because of a misplaced loyalty and the belief that they deserve the abuse, when in reality it is never the fault of the abused believer.  Domestic violence often starts with psychological abuse that leads to actual physical violence.  The psychological abuse, made up of put downs, accusations, quoting condemning Scriptures out of context, etc, that happens in churches is basically the same as the practice of abusive husbands and partners toward their wives.   This is the leading cause of why the Holy Spirit refuses to vindicate the ministry of these churches with signs and wonders.  This book provides guidelines on how to treat spiritually abused believers and how to recover from the abuse and become productive and fruitful church members again.

Twisted Scriptures; A path to freedom from abusive churches, Mary Alice Chrnalogar, 1997, USA, Whitaker House.

This is similar to the above, and examines the misuse of Scripture to keep abused church members under the control of a toxic leadership.

Why I Stayed; The choices I made in My Darkest Hour, Gayle Haggard, with Angela Hunt; 2010, USA, Tyndale House.

This is Gayle Haggard's account of her husband's fall from grace, and the reasons why she decided to stay with him rather than use her right to separate from him.  She records her husband's genuine repentance and efforts to get his life back on track, and to get the victory over the temptations and struggles that he was having that led up to the incidents that caused his resignation of his pastorate of the church.  She recounts the abusive way the overseers of the church dealt with him, while telling the congregation that they were working with him to restore him to ministry.  She shows that these overseers lied to the congregation while using legal means to keep him out of the church and compiling a list of accusations against him which turned out to be just a pack of lies.  We don't condone Ted Haggard's sin, and desire that he keeps on showing the fruits of repentance, but neither do we condone the way his church treated him.  It is a good example of how one pastor's wife experienced spiritual abuse from a group of church leaders who should have known better.

Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow, C. Peter Wagner; 1979, USA, Regal Books.

This is a study of how to stir up the gifts within us and provides practical ways on how a church leadership can promote the use of the gifts of the Spirit in their meetings, and make the practice of the gifts a significant factor on the growth of the church.

 

 

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