An Enemy Called Formality


A man pushing or resisting (isolated on white)
A man pushing or resisting (isolated on white)

Today as I was taking a walk during my lunch break at work, I started thinking about one word, “Formality”. “A formality is something that follows traditional rules. Even though you knew your request for time off at work would be approved, you still went through the formality of filling out all the required paperwork. Formality also means to align with customs or etiquette. In this way, a formality is often something that’s more symbolic than necessary.” (vocabulary.com)

Formality requires a group of “experts” on the “proper way of doing things”. In the church today we have many experts on formality, but very little anointing. Formality does not promote, spontaneity, questions or discussions of any kind. Even their “fellowship” becomes filled with formalities.

One of the greatest challenges the church is facing today is indeed “formality.” The Pentecostals have their formalities, the Baptists have theirs, the Presbyterians, the Catholics, the Charismatic Black Church, the Latinos, etc. Formality is everywhere; but we should not pursue formalities; we should be organic in our relationship with God and in our relationship with one another.

For something to be organic it must derived from living organism. Have you noticed that organic foods are usually smaller? However, they are richer in substance and in taste. A formal church is usually boring and the focus becomes the order of service. An organic church is alive because it embraces a lifestyle of listening to God.

When you bring a small group of people and they spontaneously engage in conversations there is no pressure; it may start a little awkward, but if you have a group of true believers; they will always bring up the love of their lives…Jesus Christ! However, as soon as we make it look formal people gets nervous.  It becomes a public speaking event.

Jesus did it all; He spoke to large groups, in the Synagogues, to the disciples only and to individuals. But everything was organic and not formal. We never read that Jesus was the guess speaker; He just spoke.

Is amazing to me that the Bible makes reference to listening to our conversations, yet no reference to God listening to our Bible Studies and sermons!

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,

And the Lord listened and heard them;

So a book of remembrance was written before Him

For those who fear the Lord

And who meditate on His name. Malachi 3:16 (NKJV)

Have you ever been in Bible Studies where you have a few that seem to love to listen to themselves and share their great revelations, but when you catch them, “just talking” outside of Bible studies, Jesus is the last topic they chose to talk about it?

It is easy to put a Bible Study together; it is easier to just sit there and punch the clock, but if you want to see somebody’s heart, just listen to his or her conversation; that’s the real deal (Matthew 12:34). As my wife and I open our home for Bible Studies and fellowship, the challenge becomes to bring down traditions of man and enter into a place where we as God’s people can be free.

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NKJV)

 

A Journey Through The Greatest Revivals in Church History


REVIVAL

 

“O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk 3:2 (NKJV)

 

I believe in revivals; I believe in the need for revivals; in the power found in revivals, the love, the passion, the deep search for truth, the hope and the ministerial effectiveness of revival. Even as I am aware that there are other revivals that have taken place in history, these are the revivals that I consider had regional, national and/or international influence. These are the revivals that changed hearts, change local churches, changes communities, cities, nation and the world.

 

  • 1517: The Reformation. Led by the German Martin Luther. Through Martin Luther God reestablished the definition of JUSTIFICATION. It was a return to the true definition of the Gospel. We can say that, perhaps 300 hundred years after Christ, the doctrine of Justification was tragically corrupted. The overtaking of the Catholic Church deeply affected the spiritual health of Christianity. The reformation took us back to the primitive church’s doctrine of the Apostles; it explained how people receive salvation according to the bible and not according to some man-made idea. The central theological point of Martin Luther was that, we are saved by faith alone through grace. Martin Luther made it clear to the world that salvation is only available through Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

  • 1790-1840: The Second Great Awakening. This was an evangelistic explosion that brought millions of new converts. This was also an American revival, even as it also affected the world. The Methodist and the Baptist were used by God to lead this powerful revival.

 

It is important to point out how God made sure that JUSTIFICATION was well-defined before releasing this powerful evangelistic anointing. Also, historically speaking, we see that God had His hands on this great nation from the beginning. The First Awakening took place during the times of the Colonies and as we were formed as a new nation we started experience the Second Great Awakening. With less than 100 years as a nation; a nation that was established the 4 of July of 1776 we entered the Third Great Awakening.

 

  • 1850-1900: The Third Great Awakening. With this revival the church actively embraced what is known as the Social Gospel. This is the church getting actively involved in social issues. A new movement rose during this time, the Holiness Movement; this movement established Christian Perfection. In other words, a life free from voluntary sin was possible as the person experience the second work of grace, SANCTIFICATION. The holiness movements established that with salvation we are free from the guilt of the original sin (Adam and Eve’s sin) with this second work of grace, sanctification, we now become perfect as any tendency or desire of sin is no longer a reality in the sanctified heart.

 

So now the body of Christ, not only understands salvation, but is also getting involved in social issues and is recognizing the central place of sanctification in the live of a believer. I believe that it is here where great divisions start taking place. The issue of Sanctification, from John Wesley’s point of view was the prevailing theology in the Body of Christ during this time. The division comes because other theologians, even as they understood the importance of sanctification, saw it as a process. This division is still a cause of division in the Body of Christ today.

 

With the Social Gospel we also have to be careful, as we must remember that even as we live in this world, we are not from this world. I get the feeling that the Body of Christ focus too much on what the world is saying and doing and forget that the judgment of the Lord will start with us.

 

  • 1904-1905: The Welsh Revival. This revival was a massive and spectacular move of God. In this revival God used a young man by the name of Evan Roberts. This man created a habit of waking up at 1:00 AM and meet with God until 5:00 AM. This is a good example of a revival starting in one man’s heart and spreading through nations. This revival started in Welsh, it spread through the rest of Britain, Scandinavia, parts of Europe, North America, the mission fields of India and the Orient, Africa and Latin America. The Welsh Revival involved young people, involves music, a hunger for prayer, for God’s Spirit and at its heart the theology of this revival was very simple:

 

(1) Confess all known sin to God, receiving forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

 

(2) Remove anything from your life that you

 

are in doubt or feel unsure about.

 

(3) Be totally yielded and obedient to the

 

Holy Spirit.

 

(4) Publicly confess the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

I believe that this simple formula that marked the center of Welsh’s theology, is as real and current today as it was then. Welsh gave us a passion for prayer, a passion for worship, a passion for holiness and a passion for souls.

 

  • 1906-1909: The Azusa Street Revival. In this revival God used a black man by the name of William J. Seymour. Again, we see the hunger that is so characteristic in the lives of these men that God uses to bring these mighty moves. Seymour was known for his prayer life, from five hours a day dedicated to prayer he increased the time to seven hours a day. This was a man whose dependency in God was unparalleled. At Azusa, the meetings were truly led by the Holy Ghost. You did not know who was going to preach, who was going to sing; there was no order of service, no service structure and no man agenda. Seymour use to place his head in a shoebox and pray for God’s guidance in every service. At the peak of the revival they had three services a day, every day and, none of the services looked the same. This was the revival that brought Pentecostalism all over the world. This was a revival of God’s Spirit and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. Here we see, theologically, that they embraced the First Work of Grace, Justification. They also embrace the Second Work of Grace, Sanctification, from John Wesley’s prospective and, they also introduced the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Baptism of he Holy Spirit was not necessarily introduced as a third work of grace, but as necessary empowerment for the believer to be fully equipped and ready for ministry. I am aware that people were baptized in the Holy Spirit prior to The Azusa Street Revival. We must recognize Charles Parham and his school in Topeka Kansas, where one of his students was baptize in the Holy Ghost within hours of the arrival of the twenties century. We must also acknowledge that Charles Parham also explained and introduced this experience as a Biblical Doctrine. However, history revealed to us that it was William J. Seymour who God used to bring this amazing experience back to the Christian experience. It is part of the spiritual treasures God has available for us. With this revival we saw an amazing displayed of God’s power.

 

With the Pentecostal movement we also see many doctrinal atrocities. As I said before, in every movement and in the lives of all the mighty men of God, we see a lack of truth in their doctrinal views. With the exception of the original apostles we see that everybody missed something, if not in doctrine, in love. The Pentecostal denomination, more than any other is infected by a history of racism. Also, Azusa incorporated the doctrine that Justification, Sanctification and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost were all necessary for a person to be saved.

 

I strongly believe that in order for us to be able to find the Church, we must look at these revivals as road maps. The history of the church is found in these revivals as we see God’s hand behind these supernatural movements. These were things that could have never being achieved without God, that is how I know that it was HIM. We are also able to see that the selfishness and arrogance of men ended these revivals.

 

What is next? The Body of Christ stands in need of another revival. We need a revival that places God’s Word in the center of what we believe. We need to develop a mentality where we refuse to accept anything as doctrine that can’t be found in the Bible. That means that we must question everything and start from the beginning. We need to go over the Biblical definition of Justification, what does it means to be saved? and How do we get saved? etc.

 

We need to truly understand sanctification. Was John Wesley right with his Christian perfection doctrine? or Is sanctification a process? We live in a time where churches are too liberal. Under the umbrella of “Nobody is perfect” we go after imperfection, justify our sin and continue sinning. The “Don’t judgment me doctrine” is the spiritual version of the political correctness that is consuming our society today.

 

We also need to reevaluate the doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. Being baptize in the Holy Ghost must be more than just speaking in tongues. We say that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence, but what is the real tangible evidence? After speaking in tongues what else do we look for?

 

The Body of Christ is seriously and shamefully divided. This division can’t be taken lightly. We are supposed to be one Body!

 

 

So I pray, may the Lord bring us together, may the Lord save many, give us a heart for holiness and a heart to recognized the needed power of the Holy Ghost so that we may be effective witnesses in this fallen world.