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When a Cloud Isn’t a Crowd, by Daniel Brown

But that is very different from a kind of charismatic /Pentecostal legalism that tries to make one type of experience or one type of manifestation normative for everyone and for every ministry. The more one or two such spiritual happenings (like Toronto or Pensacola) get highlighted through conversations and Christian media, the less able the rest of us are to simply rejoice at what God has done for them, and the more we are forced to have opinions we would rather not have to have about other players, other rivers.

Movement Hopping or Long Obedience?

No one means to do it, but when people talk about a mighty move of the Spirit, or renewal and revival in conjunction with particular events or experiences, it exerts crowd pressure for everyone else to follow certain examples in our meetings and our services. American Christians are so oriented toward large meetings (rather than one-on-one discipling settings), that we tend to look for validation and spiritual commendation in what happens in those meetings. This puts a pressure on pastors to match their church program with “what God is doing” elsewhere. And that may not be God’s plan at all.

When medical researchers announce a tremendous breakthrough in the treatment of diabetes, scientists and doctors studying cancer, brain disorders and Alzheimer’s disease pause to rejoice. It is unlikely that the discovery about diabetes will have any direct affect on their research. How foolish it would be if they left their specialized studies in order to get in on the diabetes breakthrough. They might be very close to discoveries of their own. The same is true for ministry leaders: what we are doing faithfully today may be the very seeds of tomorrow’s great harvest.

The point is that the global Body of Christ needs even more ministry variety and Body parts than a local church does. All are neither eyes nor ears. The biblical secret for a healthy and growing church (whether it is local, national or global) is found in Ephesians 4:16:

from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Pastors and ministry leaders will gain new courage to keep up with their unique assignments from the Lord the more that they remember the real point. When people get saved, they have different experiences: feelings of electricity coursing through them; being flushed with warm water from the inside out; shaking with relief; weeping; being overcome; feeling nothing. The message that touched them may not be the same one that will touch others; the goal is neither a particular experience leading up to their salvation, nor a particular experience accompanying it.

Likewise, the Bible urges believers to be examples in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity (1 Timothy 4)—not necessarily in experiences. Maturity is measured by true life-change. Despite all the incredible large-group happenings in the Body of Christ, the call to affect people with the Gospel, the mandate to make disciples, is given to individuals—not to movements or to revivals.

Most of the talk about what God is doing in the world today has little bearing on what He is doing in our local churches. It’s like the national economic picture: it is interesting on the macro level, but it doesn’t really affect most people’s monthly budget. The more we recognize the enormity and complexity of what the world-wide church has been given to do, the more we will realize that it will take millions of us being obedient to our unique callings. In our zeal to find the move of the Spirit in our day, let us not forget He resides within and gives directions to individual believers who have distinct parts to play.

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Category: Living the Faith

About the Author: Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but he is best-known for the sorts of resources that help local church leaders excel in their spiritual assignment. For more about Daniel Brown, see his ministry resources website: CTW. Facebook. Twitter.

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