Larry Tomczak

Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. Genesis 8:1

This Pandemic is not the end of the world, but the end of an era. Sequestered in our bunkers we’ve been surveying the situation and as Christians we shouldn’t succumb to understandable sentiment: “Let’s hang in there so we can soon resume everything the way it was.”

After The Flood everything changed. After World War II everything changed. After 9/11 everything changed.

It is not an overstatement to say that after the Corona Crisis everything will change.

Economy. Professional Sports. Health Care. Hollywood. Jobs. School. Travel. Childcare. Shopping. Youth Athletics. Campaigning. Restaurants. Military. Entertainment. Elections. College. Cruises. Funerals.

All have been impacted dramatically and permanently. There’s is no going back, constant change is here to stay.

We dare not leave out The Church. Many sense that this season of divine disruption is a dress rehearsal, that God is purifying, developing endurance and laying out lessons so we are better prepared for the last days perilous times.” 2 Timothy 3:1

In the meantime, we’re reflecting, recalibrating and resetting to not miss this unexpected, unbelievable teachable moment.

Defining Moments

My previous defining moment came during the 1970’s Jesus Movement. Teaching at a gathering of 2,000 young people near the White House, I had a “woke” moment with our team: Would we maintain business as usual with the successful weekly teaching services (diluting the New Testament model for church) or would we make changes to align with scripture? We finally embraced the latter and eventually birthed a strong church, then a movement of over 60 churches in the US and abroad.

In our current defining moment when so much has been brought to a standstill, many Christians believe The Church needs to make radical adjustments.

I submit the following three areas for adjustment…

  1. DECONSTRUCTION: We need to deconstruct our prevalent gospel presentation to highlight repentance, Lordship and The Kingdom of God as they are so evident in the Gospels, Acts and Epistles. There simply is no biblical basis for a “Jesus as Savior only” message. The content of our message determines the quality of our converts. And if we want New Testament results we have to recover the New Testament pattern…“These men who have upset the world have come here also…and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Acts 17:6-7
  2. DISTRIBUTION: God’s blueprint in Ephesians 4:11-16 reveals: The Church is not a building but a body; Christianity is not an auditorium-centered, spectator sport with leaders given only for educating (or entertaining) but “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry;” Spiritual Gifts are essential not optional so “every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.Ministry must be distributed throughout the body of believers. Christians, all having God-ordained ministries, must discover and develop their Spiritual Gifts and then be deployed and distributed outside buildings into life. The Corona crisis can accelerate God’s original purpose by thrusting us out of buildings that are closed.
  3. DECENTRALIZATION: The church must be decentralized to express the New Testament model that Christianity is not merely a meeting to attend but a life to be shared. The church is not built primarily on services but relationships (Acts 2:42-47). And God is first and foremost concerned with the quality of our work not the quantity, for it will all be tested by fire in the final judgment to either “receive a reward” or see it be “burned” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

God’s Ways and Means

The major intervention the Church has experienced in this pandemic has been this decentralization. Is this coincidental or providential? Is this God’s “ways and means committee” demonstrating He has ways to show He means business about accomplishing His purposes?

This reminds us of the experience of early Christians amidst crisis in Acts 8. Remember, crisis resulted in expansive evangelism.

The Church in South Korea experienced explosive growth through fervent prayer and decentralized home cell groups. When the Korean War crisis occurred in 1950 as North Korean forces invaded South Korea, The Church reset their model so if they couldn’t gather collectively in a building they could continue on with relationship centered home cell groups.

This is the model from Acts. “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47).

In the early 1980’s evangelist Bob Weiner launched an outreach in Manila that was then entrusted to my friend Steve Murrell. Today Steve, who playfully calls himself the “reluctant pastor,” oversees the 91,000 member Victory Metro Manila Church which basically follows this same decentralized approach. They meet weekly in 20+ locations (no video sermons) alongside over 10,000 weekly home gatherings dispersed throughout Manila. They followed this same relational and discipling pattern in planting additional churches in over 100 Philippine cities with over 50,000 weekly in attendance and 5,000 small groups. [Steve was reluctant to share these stats but yielded at my encouragement.]

Restoring Authentic Christianity

I submit to you that God is calling us to “Repent…so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19-21). He’s graciously poking at the Church, for whom His Son died, to align with His Word, to get on track for greater impact and to ultimately fulfill Jesus’ promise of the harvest at “the end of the age” (Matthew 13:39).

Let’s say goodby to compromise and to churches offering nothing more than quick, non-offensive, entertaining services based more on performance than on experiencing the presence of God. Let’s focus on Christ-centered, character building content.

In the post pandemic era, may we be radical followers of Jesus in a local church aligned fully with Scripture.

12 Signs of an Authentic New Testament Church

  1. Is Jesus Christ exalted as the Son of God, risen from the dead and humankind’s only way to forgiveness and redemption (Acts 2:22-24)?
  2. Is the Bible honored and taught as God’s inspired Word and will for humanity (2 Timothy 3:16)?
  3. Is there authenticity, sincerity and vitality in the praise and worship (Psalm 150)?
  4. Is there genuine love expressed by the people (John 13:34-35)?
  5. Do the people build interpersonal relationships among themselves that go beyond merely attending services (Acts 2:42-47; 5:42)?
  6. Do the leaders emphasize pastoral care that embraces a person’s legitimate needs and do they exercise biblical authority when needed (1 Peter 5:2; Hebrews 13:17)?
  7. Is there an emphasis on commitment rather than mere convenience in the life of the church (Acts 2:42-47)?
  8. Do the leaders exemplify Christian virtues like integrity, loyalty and humility (1 Timothy 3:1-13)?
  9. Is there acknowledgment of and encouragement for all to function in ministry based upon each ones Spiritual Gifts (Ephesians 4:11-15)?
  10. Is there an evangelistic thrust to intentionally reach others with the Gospel and connect with the wider body of Christ in our locality to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20)?
  11. Is there a sense of reality and relevancy as opposed to religious ritual (2 Timothy 3:5)?
  12. Are people’s lives being genuinely transformed through their involvement and opportunities for service (Romans 12:1-8)?

As the waters recede and we transition into the post pandemic era, will we rise to the challenges and opportunities?

May we cast down any idols, including those of religion, tradition and fear of man.

“…just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25) may we do likewise as the bride who “made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).


 

More articles by Larry Tomczak

Larry Tomczak is a best-selling author of nine books, including a quarter-million bestseller, with 43 years of trusted ministry experience. He is a cultural commentator whose weekly articles appear on sites reaching 26 million monthly. He is a public policy advisor with Liberty Counsel legal defense organization and 40 year board member of Intercessors for America national prayer ministry. He has ministered internationally and spoken to numerous NFL and NBA teams. Married for 40 years, Larry and Doris have four grown children and five grandchildren.

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