By Dr. Richard B. W. Ing
July 18, 2005
We are at a crossroads as individuals and as a church. We have been in a marathon for many years, but we are finally making the last turn around the track and are heading for the end line. Now is not the time to quit! It is the time to gird our loins, set our faces as flint and grit our teeth! Only one (or one group) will win the race. Paul says that we need to run all out. 1 Co. 9:24.
We are convinced that God wants us to go back to the early church and its structure and content. That means house churches and shared responsibilities. It is not an easy task and will require the unanimous support of all members. Change will come over time and will be in stages. First, we must all be in agreement that a traditional church structure will not be able to get us to where God wants us to be.
WHY SHOULD WE CHANGE?
Why should we change into a house church format? For one thing, we believe that the revival that is almost upon us can be accommodated only by house churches. It will probably last no more than 3-½ years and sweep the earth as a mighty wave. Even in areas where adequate monies are available, there will not be enough time for purchasing land, designing buildings, obtaining governmental permits and constructing. We need a plan and a church format that can handle a huge wave of new converts within a short period of time.
Why do we talk about the revival lasting only 3-½ years? For one thing, history shows that the Great Welsh Revival lasted only 1-½ years and converted only 100,000 persons. The Azusa Street Revival was very similar. It lasted about 2 years at most and involved only 150,000 to 250,000 coverts (no one really knows), but ultimately was responsible for spreading Pentecostalism all over the world. This time, we are talking about a revival/harvest that will cover the entire earth within a short time ( Mt. 24:14; Rev. 14:6) and involve hundreds of millions of converts. Where do we put them? The traditional church with its large buildings will not be able to contain a sudden and great influx of people.
Another reason is that in Rev. 11:3, 11, the two witnesses (or groups of witnesses) preach the gospel with power for 3-½ years and are then killed by Satan’s beast. The 3-½ years is probably the time of great revival/harvest. Persecution will increase until the witnesses are destroyed. Their bodies will lie in the streets of the spiritual city called Sodom and Egypt and after 3-½ years, they will come back to life and are taken up into heaven. We believe that these witnesses are part of the group of martyrs that will be killed for the testimony of Jesus. Rev. 12:17. They preach the gospel for 3-½ years and their bodies lie in the streets for another 3-½ years for a total of 7 years. Most theologians agree that tribulation will last for a total of 7 years. Da. 9:27.
Only house churches will allow us to survive persecution. History has proven that fact conclusively and even now, Chinese house churches are surviving in the midst of severe persecution in mainland China. Recent reports are that house churches are prospering mightily in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Middle East, India and other Third World countries where organized persecution against Christians exist. In India, there are thousands of house churches springing up all over the country.
In Rev. 12:6, the woman (who we believe is the true church), is protected and fed in the wilderness by God for the last 3-½ years before the end. Therefore, 3-½ years after tribulation starts, some cataclysmic event will cause all true Christians to be either killed or protected by God. The last 3-½ years will be the time when great destruction comes to the earth. Some call the last 3-½ years the “Great” tribulation. It will be a time of God’s judgment and wrath.
The point is - once revival/harvest starts, we have only 3-½ years to bring as many people into God’s kingdom as we can and also to prepare for increasing persecution that will culminate in the killing of almost most if not all immature Christians. We believe that the event used to separate Christians from the rest of the world takes place when the One-World Government requires that everyone renounce Jesus and take the mark of the beast, or die. Rev. 13:15.
Transforming our church into house churches is part of God’s plan for revival/harvest and to protect His true followers during persecution. Make no mistake. The enemies of the church are increasing in power daily and an all-out attack on Christianity is on the way. In fact, it has been going on for some time now.
We have received many prophecies and visions telling us that we are to be God’s army in our area of the world, we are to train the army and we are to spark a revival and unite the churches. God’s two eternal desires are to have sons and daughters mature in Jesus Christ, and a perfect church that will become the bride of Christ. House churches are only the first step in achieving God’s eternal goals. We should be focused on God’s two eternal desires. Until those two purposes are achievable, Jesus will continue to stay in heaven and sit at the right hand of the Father. He will delay His coming until those objectives are made possible.
THE WAY WE WORSHIP
What’s the big deal about the way we worship? It’s important because God designed worship for specific results. Instead of going back to temple worship, God chose something almost diametrically opposite. In the days of Jesus, the head priests and the scribes were venerated and practically worshiped, and it was important to receive an intense theological education in order to be on a “higher level with God.” The priests became self-important, all powerful, and as a result, worship to God took on an artificial veneer, filled with ceremonial laws, rituals and deadness to promote and perpetuate the elite priesthood.
When Jesus built His church, he made each individual as important as the next. The pastors were not to be worshiped and held in such high esteem that they were considered to be the best the church could offer. They had to meet high standards in order to become leaders, but God is not a respecter of persons. Ro. 2:11. It was God’s intent that all saints be filled with the Holy Ghost and power to evangelize, not just pastors and elders. Instead, the church slowly declined until the temple worship that God rejected became the core of the church once again. Ceremonial laws were reinstated, the priesthood became elite and the people became mere pawns to be used by the priests for personal gratification. Paganism and Judaism returned.
Priests became covetous and had their eyes on money, fame and reputation. Holiness became synonymous with how large your congregation is and how much power you had. Power was equated to how much money you possessed. As a result, deception became widespread and over the years, Christians assumed that what they saw happening in church was what God wanted. Christianity languished during the last 1,700 years. Most saints never grew spiritually and the very few that did attain a modicum of maturity did it on their own. The organized church became useless to God in many ways. The church became entertainment centers for the gratification of emotional desires. Envy, jealousies, resentments, rebellion and competitiveness birthed many denominations and cults.
God wants us to go back to open worship where the Holy Spirit is given liberty to move and use each saint to edify the church. In the early church, there was no need for an education in theology or even Bible colleges. Pastors of home groups were ordinary people who loved the Lord and knew the Bible, in addition to the qualifications set out by Paul in 1 Timothy 5. Shepherds were more like moderators and coordinators. Every member was empowered by God for service to Him through the church.
According to Watchman Nee, there was no such thing as pulpit preaching in the early church where people came to sing a few songs, give tithes and sit down to listen to a weekly sermon and go home largely unaffected. Ask any pastor and he will tell you that very few people change because they heard a sermon or even many sermons. Although a few might change habits and attitudes, most people changed only superficially, if at all. Saints hardly ever became more spiritual or zealous from listening to sermons from a pulpit.
LIBERTY AT MEETINGS
Read about revivals and you will find the same thing over and over. Church services and meetings were spontaneous and members would share testimonies, songs, revelations, prophecies, words of knowledge and wisdom, visions, dreams and impressions. The Holy Spirit had the liberty to move and use people to pray for others. Often, someone would stand up and lay hands on another member and pray for healing. Miracles took place, people began to hear from God and excitement filled the air. Sinners would come running to the front, begging for someone to pray for them. Repentance and humility became the battle cry. Faith grew and people began to have a more profound relationship with God. The excitement translated into boldness and boldness into evangelism. Soon, the meetings were filled with new converts.
We need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and open our hearts to Him. Let him use you. Be not afraid to make mistakes. We all do. Let’s put aside our pride and humble ourselves. Let us love one another and help one another to grow in the Lord by encouraging participation. We are all responsible for the church and its growth, not just the pastor and other leaders. Let’s all come to church determined to be used by God.
Come to church services and meetings expecting the Holy Spirit to do something. Pray before you come to church and ask God to give you a word of prophecy or knowledge, to use you to pray for someone, to give you a song or a vision or prophecy. Don’t limit the Holy Spirit. He may want to use you to say something or do something no one ever expected or experienced. If He tells you to dance, then dance. Ask God to use you to bless the gathering. If you are a musician, don’t be offended if the songs you practiced are not used by God. Obey God. If He urges you to say something or do something, obey Him. You may make a few mistakes but we all do and we learn through our mistakes.
As you continue to be open to God and bold enough to obey, you will find your spiritual discernment and senses becoming sharper. You will mature in Christ and your burden for the unsaved will increase. Take responsibility for your own growth. There are things that people cannot do for you. They cannot do your praying and reading the word for you. They cannot obey for you or learn how to hear from God for you. You have to do it yourself. You are responsible. According to Charles Finney, when we get in right relationship with God, revival/harvest is automatic! God bless you!