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The Problem of Old Wineskins

Image: Rowan Heuvel

Seeker-friendly or Spirit-friendly?

They mistakenly believe, to be culturally relevant, seeker-friendly, or to attract as many as possible to Christ, they must “tone down” spiritual manifestations. Otherwise, seekers, newcomers, and those weak in the faith may become frightened. They mistakenly believe they can reach more people without the Holy Spirit than with, and win more to Christ in their own strength than by the power of God. The apostle Paul believed the opposite: “Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:4 NLT). Again, he wrote: “So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit.” (Rom 15:17-19 NLT)

Has God called us to be salt and light or contaminated with our culture?

So, do we want to attract more people to our churches, or attract more of God to our churches? If we make room for God, the people will come. The seeker-friendly model has been tried for more than thirty years and has utterly failed to infect Western culture. Isn’t it time we ditch the seeker-friendly model for a Spirit-friendly model? Let’s stop looking at our culture and then looking at God’s Word and setting our standards somewhere in the middle. Has God called us to be salt and light; holy and set apart, or contaminated with our culture?


Disuse or Proper Use?

Do we want to attract more people to our churches, or attract more of God to our churches?

Other Western church leaders are, like Timothy, fearful of the spirit of power and the gift God has given to them. They’d rather not have to deal with fleshly manifestations, or like Paul, lovingly confront and correct spiritual abuses. They’d rather not have to perform public deliverances, or like Jesus, openly rebuke demons. They’d rather disuse the gifts and deny themselves and their congregations the power to sanctify, heal and deliver. Instead, they do precisely what the Scriptures forbid: “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” “Desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy.” “Be eager to prophesy, and don’t forbid speaking in tongues. But be sure that everything is done properly and in order.” As the old saying goes, the cure for abuse is not disuse, but proper use.

Still other Western church leaders take a “balanced” approach to spiritual gifts, but a balance between what? Jesus said to the Laodicean church: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. But because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” Unfortunately, there is no middle ground when it comes to the Holy Spirit—we either accept Him or grieve Him, embrace Him or quench Him.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2018

About the Author: Jeff Oliver is an inspirational speaker and author of Pentecost to the Present: The Holy Spirit's Enduring Work in the Church. This three-volume (Book 1: Early Prophetic And Spiritual Gifts Movements, Book 2: Reformations And Awakenings, Book 3: Worldwide Revivals And Renewals) series traces our Spirit-filled heritage to ancient times and gives documented historic evidence of signs, wonders and miracles continuing in the church to this present age. Jeff is also founder and president of Global Wakening, a ministry that is inspiring and equipping a new generation with a supernatural Christian worldview to help ignite a global wakening of God's church.

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