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Defining Moments in Church History…(10)

Well, we’ve come to the end of this series having discussed eight significant moments in Church history that have helped carve the landscape of today’s world. Here’s a quick review:

1. A Kingdom of the Gentiles (1st century A.D.) – From its earliest moments, the Church began to spread among the Gentile world until Gentiles quickly outnumbered Jews and leadership of the Church began to shift their direction. Today, he Church is overwhelmingly Gentile.

2. The Edict of Milan (A.D. 313) – Emperor Constantine’s apparent identification with Christianity helped eliminate persecution of Christians within the Roman Empire and marked the beginning of the Western Church’s political journey.

3. The Council at Nicaea (A.D. 325) – Constantine’s “intrusion” into the doctrinal orthodoxy of the Church brought much needed clarity on the nature of Christ and gave the Church a new ecclesiastical model (the Council) for managing its issues.

4. The Canon Established (A.D. 367 – A.D. 481) – Athanasius’ Festal Letter in A.D. 367 provided the first list of “accepted” New Testament books, but it took more than a century for such a list to be finalized.

5. The Crusades (A.D. 1095-…) Pope Urban II’s call for warriors to invade the land of the Bible and reclaim it for the Church spurred several violent excursions into the Middle East, ultimately widening the gap between Christianity and those native to the region.

6. The Protestant Reformation (A.D. 1517) – Martin Luther’s desire to reform the Church ultimately brought about a rejection of the Catholic Church and the formation of what would become a Protestant worldview for numerous religious groups.

7. The Great Awakening (A.D. 1734 – A.D. 1744) – With the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, Charles & John Wesley, and George Whitfield, a great revival spread across what would become America and shaped many of the methods that would later mark the Evangelical Church.

8. The Pentecostal/Charismatic century (20th Century A.D.) – Beginning in Topeka, KS, spreading to Azusa Street (Los Angeles), and ultimately impacting the entire world, the Pentecostal movement launched world-wide evangelism on an extraordinary scale. When various mainline denominational churches and even various Catholic Churches began to experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the expression of spiritual gifts, the Charismatic Renewal expanded the impact even further.

Those who would lead in the local church today would do well to be familiar with the impact these events have had on the environment in which they lead. These moments continue to affect the Church and its effort to engage the world in which it operates.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 316

  1. “My kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18:36).

As with any political season, it’s difficult not to fixate on the seemingly critical ebb and flow of each day’s events. Who will emerge? Who will lead? Will anyone lead us back to greatness or at least back from the moral edge? But in spite of the bombardment of such foci, the Christian understands that there’s a much larger picture. Yes, the current moment matters, but how much attention and focus should it steal from the greater, eternal kingdom. Too many Christians see Jesus’ kingdom as a “someday…boy, I hope I make it there” kind of place. They don’t see it as a living reality, perhaps much like Jesus’ own disciples. For many, the “already, not yet” reality of Christ’s kingdom seems to be mostly not yet. And yet, that kingdom remains within reach of all who might reach for it. So which kingdom gets our greater attention today?

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 315

  1. In order to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews didn’t enter the palace; they wanted to eat the Passover (John 18:28).

Has human history ever witnessed such tragic irony? The wickedly motivated trial of Jesus necessitates a visit to the Roman governor, but the Jews do not want to soil their souls by entering the pagan structure–yet they seem unafraid to raise their hand in violence against God himself. How could they be so blind to such inconsistency? Certainly a more critical question in the current context asks if we could be equally confused? Could it be that we neglect who He is, even in our own efforts to worship Him? Are our hearts aimed in self-centered pursuits while we offer words of praise in His direction? Do we claim to be walking with Him while we walk in a direction away from Him? If we choose to be blind to who He is and the implications of every act toward Him, we will likely look just as foolish as they.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 314

  1. “If I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” (John 18:23)

Jesus question underscores the reality of persecution. Those who are unwilling to face the truth will hide behind violence rather than allow truth to reveal their evil. In this moment, it’s one of Annas’ henchmen that strikes a blow, but such bullies come in all sizes and situations. Their common issue is the evil intent they try to conceal. The very presence of One like Jesus unmasks an evil heart and leaves it with little left to fight with but violence. Jesus made it clear to His disciples (and to us) that such treatment loomed on our horizons as well. If One as humble as Jesus can stir such fear in wicked hearts, surely any of His true followers will earn a similar result. Darkness must resist light if it is to survive.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 313

  1. “I have spoke openly to the world,” Jesus replied (John 18:20).

Yes, the message of the Gospel has been for the whole world. It is not hidden from any. Here, at his initial trial before Annas, Jesus feels little need to defend or describe His teaching as it has been available for all. No secret plans. No private initiatives. And no reason why the high priest’s father-in-law shouldn’t have access to it. Jesus won’t “recast His pearls before swine.” Instead, He is ready to be judged for what He has said, and He knows that only those who would twist His words could find a case against Him. His word is truth, and when we proclaim His message, we speak truth as well. Truth is it’s own defense.

 

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Defining Moments in Church History…(9)

Well, we’ve come to the end of our list, the last of the eight moments in Church history that have given us the world we dwell in today.

Now some may not want to include this final moment, either their doctrinal ideals are not truly affected by the moment or they find it unnecessary to recognize its impact, but there can be little debate that the so-called Pentecostal century has radically changed the Church worldwide.

When Charles Parham left his Bible school students with the assignment to study the baptism in the Holy Spirit described in the book of Acts, an amazing journey was underway. On January 1, 1901, a young woman in the group, Agnes Ozman, was the first to experience what their study had revealed–that speaking with other tongues is the initial sign of receiving this baptism. Soon this teaching and the experience it brought swept down the southeast side of Kansas, into Oklahoma, and all the way to Houston, Texas.

In Houston, at another Bible school established by Parham, William Seymour embraced the teaching. Even though he had yet to experience this phenomenon, he traveled to California to accept a ministry position, he quickly lost because of this teaching. Relocating his teaching effort to an abandoned building on Azusa Street, this humble African-American man and a circle of friends began to experience an “outpouring” of God’s Spirit unlike anything since, perhaps, the Day of Pentecost.

Day and night for more than three years, the Azusa Street revival burned brightly, impacting thousands–both those who would travel to this Los Angeles miracle and those who would hear the Gospel because of the missionary spirit the revival would produce.

Throughout the 20th century, the Pentecostals spread at an amazing rate around the globe. one group, the Assemblies of God, grew from around 300 in their first meeting in 1914 to more than 66 million by their 100th birthday. At one of their earliest meetings, these few hundred folks determined to accomplish “the greatest work of evangelism the world has ever seen.” Given their rapid growth and ongoing spread around the world, they may have achieved just that.

But they are far from the only Pentecostal group. The Church of God in Christ, Pentecostal Holiness Church, Church of God (Cleveland, TN) and dozens of others turned the final 100 years of the millennium into the Pentecostal Century. Today, in many parts of the world, the Church is a “full-Gospel” or “Spirit-empowered” Church, where people live with the expectation that the miraculous moments of Scripture can and should be a part of the Church’s reality today.

While many denominational groups continue to resist this teaching, one cannot deny that the Pentecostal message and experience has reshaped the Church in just about every corner of the globe.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 312

  1. “You are not one of His disciples, are you?” the girl asked Simon Peter (John 18:17).

What does it cost to be identified with Jesus? It’s perhaps a bit too easy to see Peter’s denials as merely indicative of his own weakness–a lacking that will be cured by the power of Pentecost. Truth is, many Spirit-filled saints would come to such a crossroads and succumb to the price of this identification. To be with Jesus comes with at least a few labels, sometimes with even more threatening response. Peter’s not alone in his fear of what that evening would hold for him should he be forced to join Jesus in the trial room. If they treat the Son of God this way, surely they’ll do the same to all who claim to be God’s children, right? To follow Christ is a choice–a decision that’s not comfortable. Our modern efforts to make that choice comfortable or easier for the masses does little to prepare people for moments of question, or persecution. Indeed, a secret faith tends to waver when forced into the sunlight.

Categories: Leadership Journeys