(EDITOR'S NOTE – In the July 21 issue we focus on discipleship. What does it look like? Why is it important? Most importantly, we look at how you, your family and your church can get involved in making disciples. We hope you find the information in these stories to be helpful in that journey.)
What do you get when you place a frog in a pot of lukewarm water and slowly turn up the heat until it is boiling? Supper – because the frog will stay in the water until it boils to death!
In 1990, a groundbreaking and rather controversial book was published with a futuristic look at the transforming culture of the coming millennium for the church. The book is The Frog in the Kettle: What Christians Need to Know About Life in the Year 2000 by George Barna.
After providing an example of America’s future in the book, Barna explains the need for the church to begin anticipating the impending change of culture. For far too long, the American church has looked for large changes while overlooking minimal changes within society. Like the “frog in the kettle,” the church is beginning to be burned by a slow change in cultural temperature. Instead of the church changing the surrounding culture, the reverse is true. According to the book, secularism and materialism have impacted the country so profoundly that the country and the church have lost much of their spirituality.
In 2006, Barna cited in his book, Revolution that 90 percent of the predicted outcomes in his 1990 classic became reality. Even today, it really doesn’t take an “outsider” long to observe the church reflecting more of the world’s culture than Kingdom culture.
NAMB photo by Jim Whitmer
Unless the antidote is administered, this pandemic will ultimately destroy the American church as we know it giving way to culture hostile to Jesus Christ, His Church, His Kingdom and His followers. The Congregational Services team for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina believes that antidote is found in The Great Commission and The Great Commandment. Christ commissioned every believer to make disciples and to teach them to observe all that He had commanded whenever, whatever and whoever. In order for this to happen in a majority of churches, the current culture must be transformed to a disciple-making culture. Herein lies the problem and the most often asked question we receive from pastors, “How do you change culture?”
One example includes Steve Clark, pastor of New Life Church in Conover. He became pastor 19 years ago knowing the church began two years earlier as a result of a church split. Pain, hurt, and no vision described the environment of the body at that time. “I came with the intent to change the culture,” Clark said. “I came with a justifiable vision in hand. I came wanting this to be the last ministry I would do in my lifetime.”
What was that “justifiable vision” that God gave Clark? “A justifiable vision is a biblical vision,” he said. “This biblical vision God gave me was to create an environment where an individual believer hears God, hears what He would want them to be and do, and then to have the grace to equip the saints to do the work of ministry and trust the Holy Spirit to empower them. Simply put, the ministry grows out of the individual.”
This particular vision had grown out of his study of Henry Blackaby’s, Experiencing God. “When I did Blackaby’s study in 1993, the question that struck me was how Jesus becomes the head of the church?” Clark said. After arriving on the field, Clark’s first goal was to establish the Word of God as the biblical authority of the church.
Over time, Clark constantly and consistently preached the Word at all times. He would use biblical pictures, examples and teach scripture leading the body to discover what the Word of God says the church is to be and do. The Holy Spirit began to reveal to the body truth and ideas that comes from the scripture. It was at this point Clark said, “You have to trust God and His Word.”
Clark shared the vision God had given him for New Life Church with everyone he met and in every sermon: “The vision God gave me is the opportunity to share His vision with others.”
Then eight years later an out-of-state team from Michigan led a revival at New Life Church. For two weeks the team emphasized holiness. Fourteen days later the revival team left but the Spirit of God did not.
Two weeks turned into three and three turned into four. Clark recalls the experience, “After the team left, the Spirit was so strong we continued the revival for 35 days total.”
Following the revival, Clark fasted for 40 days. “The Lord spoke to me,” he said. “I was reminded that New Life Church started from a split resulting in pain, hurt, and unforgiveness. We needed to make right what we had done wrong. We were led to confess, repent, and ask forgiveness from the church we split.”
The church took out ads in the local newspaper asking the community to forgive them and ultimately held a service of reconciliation between the two churches. “For some of the people, it was painful because of hurt feelings; for others it was not because they were not part of the body at that time,” he said. “Now we have a good relationship with the church, and it is a great relief not to have that over your head. Once our heritage was cleared up, the Lord was able to move in ways we could not have imagined. This movement of God created an atmosphere of forgiveness and confession; gave the people more of a willingness to hear and be led by the Lord, and God allowed us to reduce a lot of our debt.”
Since the spiritual awakening, New Life Church has started two multi-site churches, developed several ministries around the county, and partnered with a church in Puerto Rico to plant a Hispanic church within their facility. “Acquire a strong vision, have patience to let God have His way, trust the Holy Spirit to move the people, not you,” he said. “If you move the people, it’s your church; if the Holy Spirit moves the people, it is God’s church. And the Holy Spirit will always move us to Kingdom mentality.”
Congregational Services desires to assist N.C. Baptist churches in creating a disciple-making culture that transforms lives by the power of God. Contact Eller at (919) 467-5100, ext. 5636. Attend one of the fall “Looking at Your Church in 3D” workshops: ncbaptist.org/3d.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Neal Eller is team leader for Church Health with the Baptist State Convention of N.C.)