We have instructed the church in nearly everything but becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. We have filled the people with doctrines instead of deity; we have given them manuals instead of Emmanuel.
It is not difficult to recognize someone from Pentecostal, Baptist or other traditional church backgrounds. Nearly every congregation seems to develop a particular slant or system of traditions, some of which ultimately obscure the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. Submit yourself to their way of thinking, and soon you will become like them.
Is that wrong? Not necessarily, but for us it will never be enough. We are seeking to be like Jesus, not men; we want the kingdom of God, not typical American Christianity.
Thus, we must be vigilant to submit ourselves passionately and solely to the Holy Spirit and the words of Jesus, incessantly reaching for the holy standards of the kingdom of God. Any focus or goal other than Christ Himself in fullness will become a source of deception in the days ahead.
Look at what Jesus did with common men. In just 3-1/2 years, average men and women were transformed into fearless disciples, literally filled with the Spirit of God. They did not wince at suffering; they did not withdraw from sacrifice.
These ordinary people were equipped with spiritual authority over demons and exercised power over illnesses. They were the living proof that Christ transforms people. Three and a half years of undiluted Jesus will produce in us what it did in them: the kingdom of God!
Those men were as average and human as we are. The difference between them and us is Jesus. He is the only difference.
One may argue that this occurred 2,000 years ago. True, but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8, NKJV). Or you may say, “But they actually heard Jesus speak; they saw His miracles!” The same Spirit that worked through Jesus in the first century is poured out upon us today.
The Holy Spirit has not grown old and feeble; He has not become apostate. Indeed, the same words Jesus uttered in the first century are “living and powerful” in the hearts of men today (Heb. 4:12). So Jesus is the same, the Holy Spirit is being poured out, and the words of Christ still apply. We have no excuses.
The eternal One who established His kingdom in men two millennia ago is fully capable of producing it in us today. All we need is undiluted, uninhibited Jesus. All we need are hearts that will not be satisfied with something or someone less than Him.
If we divide over forms of church government or peripheral doctrines, we will miss completely the true purpose of the church, which is to make disciples of Jesus. Let me make it plain: God is not raising up “ministries”; He is raising up bond slaves. After we recognize that the goal is not ministry but slavery, we will begin to see the power of Christ restored to the church.
The pattern for leadership in the years ahead is simple: Leaders must be individuals whose burning passion is conformity to Jesus Christ. Is this not the highest passion of your heart, to possess the likeness of Christ? From heaven’s view, the issue with our congregations is not one procedure over another; the concern is, will we become people who are seeking hard after Christ?
God can use practically any church structure if the people in that congregation are genuinely seeking Him. The outward form is not the issue with the Almighty—the true issue is the posture of the human heart before Him.
Francis Frangipane is the senior pastor of River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the director of In Christ’s Image Training, an online ministry school with students in more than 70 nations. He is also the author of several books, including When the Many Are One, from which this column is adapted.