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We are tired of a powerless gospel

I read a blog post from our team in Mozambique. Over 100 people healed! The blind seeing. The deaf hearing. The lame walking. And it’s all happening in real time – this week!   Why don’t you and I experience this stuff? Is this just for Africa, or can it happen here too? What does the B…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
I read a blog post from our team in Mozambique. Over 100 people healed! The blind seeing. The deaf hearing. The lame walking. And it’s all happening in real time – this week!
 
Why don’t you and I experience this stuff? Is this just for Africa, or can it happen here too? What does the Bible say about this?
 
The good news is, in the Bible, this is normal. Look at Matthew 10.  Jesus sends his disciples out to practice sharing the kingdom.  As we watch them move out, we see that the kingdom of God removes pain. It takes away the pain of hunger, of sickness, of demonization, leaving hope.  The message that attends these miraculous events is: God is not far off; he has come near.  We might translate that: “Something incredible is transpiring in real time and it looks like God.”

This is basic Christianity 101.  The disciples advertise the kingdom by meeting felt needs (as opposed to tract-bombing) as their primary strategy. 
 
They don’t convince people into heaven. They demonstrate the tangible nearness of a powerful God by touching felt needs and removing pain.

The question is, how exactly do we do that?
 
Well, for starters, we bring hope in practical, personal ways. Stomachs are filled, cancers eradicated, blind eyes opened, relationships restored. The kingdom is not ethereal; it is near and it is personal.

This brings up a good question: Has your church helped you begin to practice this basic expression of faith? Do you actually get trained to do the stuff like Jesus trained his disciples?
 
Or do you feel like you are being spiritually dumbed down?

Too late in life (somewhere in my 30’s) I discovered this secret that Jesus made plain enough, but we struggle to grab:
 
We were meant to wield the power of God to meet real needs
 
Perhaps it sounds trite, but most of us don’t really get it because we’ve not really seen it. Too many of us have read the verses, but have yet to see what it looks like in the year 2011 to have been delegated the same spiritual authority as the disciples. 
 
Heaven knows I’ve fought long enough to come to a place of some courage on this issue. For too long I’ve sat under pastors who preach another gospel, one of talk without action or action without power. I’ve felt like a hypocrite and looked around at people wondering if they felt that way too or if maybe they knew something I didn’t know.
 
Did Jesus preach a gospel that says healing no longer happens or that demons don’t need to be evicted? Did he give us the example of disciples who were powerless? Yes, they may have started this way, but eventually they grabbed hold of a powerful gospel and their conviction changed things.
 
And so, if you’re a preacher, we who listen to your sermons have a bold request: Would you please preach the gospel of power that Jesus preached? Would you please show us what this looks like with your life?
 
When we see you pray for healing, at least we’ll be encouraged to try. Raise a dead person and we might even visit a few mortuaries with you and join with you in prayer.
 
The fact is, we are tired of a powerless gospel.  We are tired of people preaching a gospel of doctrine divorced from experience.  It feels like heresy when you look at Matthew 10.

There are many wonderful churches that preach a gospel that sends disciples out as Jesus did.  For example, David Platt’s book Radical has power not only because he calls us back to the red letters, but because his church attempts to put them into practice.
 
What does your church do? Are you hungry to do more? Paul says, “My message wasn’t wise and persuasive words, but a demonstration of power.” Have you ever been around Christian leaders who have demonstrated power? Wouldn’t you like to be?
 
As Christians, we’ve been called to demonstrate the kingdom and then to explain it.  Anything less is half a loaf.*
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* Comment #11 below asks where do I start? My response, seek out a discipler – that’s how we grow. More on that here and here

Comments (13)

  • “As Christians, we’ve been called to demonstrate the kingdom and then to explain it. Anything less is half a loaf.” The last sentence says it all, love it, “Half Loaf!” Thank you!

  • As a young Christian, I had been taught that the sign and power gifts were only for the first century.(As if people didn’t need a manifestation of the Kingdom of God after that time). It wasn’t until I had been a pastor for many years that I finally took a stand and refused to let the “fear of man” control my preaching. Yes, many left, but for those who stayed and those who joined us, we have since seen God manifest His Presence and power in our midst, in the streets and in people’s homes.

    Bill Johnson says that “Christians are always trying to answer questions people aren’t asking.” The average person’s primary felt need isn’t eternity (“Do you know if you will go to heaven when you die…”) but with the present pain they are in. When we answer the questions they are asking (sickness, pain, divorce, loss of a loved one, finances, etc) then we earn the right to answer the questions they didn’t know that they really had.

  • Agreed, also great comments

    my question is – do pastors/church leaders read a blog like this and contact you and ask “how DO I/ we do this?”

  • I have come to think the structure of the church plays right into this problem – this lack of demonstration of the Gospel. We have churches led by a few. The whole “pastor centered” leadership structure is flawed and leads to passivity on the part of the “laity.”

    The pulpit and pew are unknown in the New Testament. The participation of the whole body is necessary to function as God intends. We need a new wineskin for the traditional North American church (the only one I know). One that embraces the fullness and boldness of the Gospel and one that is structured to learn and use all parts of the body.

    I am with you Seth – I pray for and desire to be surrounded by those that are tired of the misrepresentation and seek to see the Kingdom brought to earth more fully and now.

  • The concept is so foreign to us westerners. I find I easily slip back into the half loaf mentality.

    May all Christ-followers get how to walk in the power. Demonstrating…healing…loving…sharing…TRANSFORMATION.

  • It is foreign isn’t it? A lot of “Charismatics” speak in tongues but have no concept of a powerful gospel.

    Scott, in answer to your question, “No.” However, guys like Bob Higgins (comment #4) have allowed God to show them the answer.

  • Great words here Dad. I’m chewing on something I heard around you recently, “…the west is modern day Nazareth.”

    Axe heads swim and float when we dare to expend the Kingdom in dark and difficult places. Jesus and the host of heaven are waiting for us there.

  • Yes! But please, where do I start? How do I move forward here? I am so half-loaf. Probably even a quarter.

  • Good word. I love the teaching of Ravi Zacharias but I was disappointed tonight when I heard him speak of a young boy with cancer whose parents had been suckered by a false faith-healer. Of course that stuff happens, but I didn’t hear Ravi say he prayed for the boy. He seemed convinced the boy was about to die and convinced the false faith-healer would hasten this boy’s death. But why didn’t he say, “I offered to pray for him.” Maybe he did, or maybe the parents didn’t want him to, but in either case, tonight’s message was missing the whole Gospel. You put the finger on why.

  • This is a long exerpt, but it arrived the same day as this blog post and I thought it gave some answers and insights. It’s from the book, “The Power of Proclamation” by Ben Woodward:

    “Most of the church has a very big devil and a very small God. We blame the devil for everything from sickness to family problems to religion and financial distress. It is true that the devil is the author of a lot of the evil that exists on the earth but the perpetuation of sin often is the result of man, not the devil. Now, I don’t want to deny that the enemy is a powerful foe, but in reality the enemy needs very few tools in his belt to accomplish his ends because he knows how powerful the tool of deception is…

    Thankfully, we have a legal agreement in heaven as sons and daughters of the living God. The agreement states that Jesus blood has paid the price for all of our failure and rebellion against God and now we have access to heaven. We also have the mandate given to us by Jesus to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth and release the fragrance of God in every place. As a part of this agreement we have full access to all that we need to accomplish this task upon the earth through prayer and intercession. So, if we have a victorious leader and an unending supply line, what is the hindrance that disables us from accomplishing the task at hand?

    Unbelief….

    The unbelief that is at work in the body of Christ is an unbelief directly related to who God is and Faith comes as a result of knowing who God is, not what God can do. Let me say it again, we do not have unbelief about what God can do, we have unbelief about who God is. There is not a single believer that would doubt that God could heal the sick. He could point to countless examples in scripture and possibly even a few that he has heard around him. But if you ask that same believer if they think God would do it for them, to save face they would probably say yes, but more often than not there is a nagging doubt that lingers in the recess of their soul that says the opposite. Sure God can heal, but will He? Sure, God can get us out of foreclosure, but will He? The issue is not a question of whether or not God can, but whether or not He will.

    The enemy’s first attack was not to overwhelm Adam and Eve with hatred, lust or greed, but to accuse the nature of God. Genesis 3 gives the account of the snake attacking the credibility of God. Is He being honest with you or is He holding back something from you? Can God be trusted? Is He who He says He is? This is the same nagging doubt that exists in the back of our minds when we think about God. We know that He can do anything He wants to, but can He be trusted to do it for me?

    The key issue that needs to be addressed is not unbelief about God’s ability, it is unbelief related to God’s character. We need to have our minds renewed to believe that God is who he says He is and in doing so we will position ourselves to receive from him….

    Unbelief may be a powerful weapon of the enemy but it has a very simple but powerful defense.

    The Truth…

    When Jesus and the enemy faced off in their great showdown in the desert, the entire wrestling match did not hinge on who could pull off the greatest miracle, sign or wonder. It did not hinge on a spiritual battle complete with swords and spears and armies facing off in battle or even a cosmic battle of the minds. The entire battle hinged on the very things that we have been addressing. “If” was the key to the enemy’s battle. Could he convince Jesus to doubt God’s purpose for his life? Was the Father trustworthy or not? Seeing how Jesus responded gives us a clue to the way that battles are fought and won in the spiritual realm. Whenever he was presented with a question, he would not answer out of his own words or wisdom, he would answer out of what was written in the word of God. He would answer with truth…..

    Countering the lie requires more than just determination, it requires a transformation. It is not enough to just have a change of understanding, we must have a renewing of our mind. It wasn’t enough just for God to think about creation, he had been doing that from eternity past. Deep in the recesses of time, he had been thinking and planning and designing, but it took more than just God thinking about creation to bring forth the ground that is beneath our feet. Creation came forth as a result of God speaking forth, and in much the same way, we have the responsibility to be those who speak truth and in doing so, release the kingdom of God.”

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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