“Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.”—Matthew 10:1
During, and now in the aftermath, of the 2020 election many of the voices in the church in America are speaking of the need for reformation. The charge for the church to “wake up” is resounding across social media, that is on those sites that haven’t banned Christians voices as yet. There has been a lot of talk of the “seven mountains” of influence and how the church has lost influence in each of the following: government, finance, the arts (sports and entertainment), education, the media, family and even religion. It is true. The church at large has been for the most part ineffective in molding minds and hearts in each of the subcultures noted. So now what?
First of all, I’m not at all sure that the voices calling for reformation have the same kind of reformation in mind. To those who would seek to go back to the “good ol’ days” I would suggest they get off the “yellow brick road”. Those “good ol’ days”, say hearkening back to the 50’s, before “free love” and rampant abortion etc. etc., were not very “good” if you were a person of color or were a woman. So it should be made very clear that the call for reformation is not a call to return to what would surely be considered an era marked by misogyny and overt racism.
Any true reformation must be the product of changed hearts and minds, not the application of external influences such as laws and political power. Any reformation created through the use of power is simply unbiblical and wrong-headed. Fighting fire with fire is not the way. Yet, when I hear some of those who are leaders in the church at large I become wary. Talk of getting involved, becoming engaged in the political process, calling your congressman, running for city council or the school board, etc. Clearly, those can all be good things, but not if one is doing so to wield influence. That would be a form of manipulation. The idea of flooding each of the seven mountains with Christian influence by sheer numbers is simply an adaptation of “might makes right”. Not to mention that such an approach has its roots in works, as opposed to faith. When one listens to those voices you can’t help but feel the obligation, the duty, inherent in the charge to get involved. It has been said, “Jesus pulls, the devil pushes.” I am feeling pushed.
Permit me to bring back a phrase in vogue not so long ago, “What would Jesus do?”
Back to Matthew 10:1. One might wonder what this verse has to do with the notion of societal or cultural reformation. The key word in the cited verse is authority, “exousia”. “Exousia” is a powerful word. It means power to act. In the New Testament this “delegated power” refers to the authority God gives to His saints to accomplish that which He charges them to do and would be impossible to accomplish without it. This was true authority, real power to accomplish the delegated tasks. The proof is in the pudding, this motley crew went out and did cast out demons and did heal every disease and every kind of sickness. However, to understand the import of the verse one must go back to the last few verses in Matthew 9.
“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’”
Jesus was deeply moved by the overwhelming needs of this multitude some of who had walked a 100 miles just to see Him. (That is the distance from Jerusalem to Capernaum on foot.) Note, Jesus didn’t come up with a new public welfare strategy. He didn’t suggest running for public office, in those days getting involved in the hierarchy of the Jewish religious structure, or taking on the Romans. He didn’t recruit people to sign up as volunteer “workers” in an effort to feed, clothe and or educate the masses.
What He did do is immediately call the twelve aside and charge them. But, not only did He charge them, he empowered them by imparting to them the same “authority” that He operated in. Which, by the way, is a perfect model of true delegation, responsibility delegated combined with the power to be responsible.
Ultimately, those twelve, actually eleven plus a replacement for Judas, turned the known world upside down. Not by virtue of forming a new political party, not by initiating a new populous movement, not by preaching a message of “get involved”, “get engaged”, “run for office”. No. The movement that changed the world forever, the greatest reformation yet, was accomplished as a result of focusing on a one-at-a-time, inside out transformation of the individual. We call it revival, which I find to be a curious term. To revive is to bring back to life something that was dead. Is that we want? Jesus did not preach revival, neither did the apostles. Jesus said you can’t put new wine into old wineskins. What we need has to be new. New life, new hope, new dreams, new vision, new power. “Old things passed away, new things have come.”
In order for real reformation to occur there is one absolute necessity… true authority, true power, only available through the Holy Spirit. He is our greatest need. So much of church growth can be explained without any reference to the power of the Holy Spirit. There are massive secular organizations, heavily financed and wielding political power like never before, all accomplished in the flesh. Statistics show that church growth is not a good metric for measuring cultural influence. Paul’s words to Timothy come to mind, “holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power; avoid such people as these.”(2 Timothy 3:5) This same Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “the Kingdom of God does not consist of words, but of power(dunamis-“dynamite”)”. (1 Corinthians 4:20) As the old ad said. “Where’s the beef?” Unless and until the church is imbued with power from on high and begins to work the works of Jesus, yes miracles, true reformation will remain a pipe dream.
I am in no way suggesting that Christ-followers should not be good citizens. Getting involved in our communities at whatever level is a good thing. Voting is a good thing. However, these are givens they are not a means to an end, they are not part of an overall agenda. We stand in good stead when we become “involved”, in whatever, in obedience to the call and the specific direction of the Holy Spirit. As opposed to responding to a general call to duty in an effort to change our culture, which is a recipe for failure, or worse.
I can only speak for myself. My life lacks the kind of power and authority that Jesus imparted to the twelve that day in Capernaum. I have had what some call God-encounters. I have known His Presence and even His power on occasion, but I don’t walk in it. I do not personally know one Christ-follower who walks in that authority. Not one. I know of them, but I don’t have a personal relationship with them. I have been following Jesus for nearly 50 years, so that is a sad commentary. Until that changes. Until the Lord of the harvest sends out workers into “His” harvest, not our but His. Until we walk in true authority, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and cast out demons and heal the sick and raise the dead we are the one’s in need reformation. Truth.
Having said all that, I do believe that reformation is coming. I do believe reformation is at hand. I do believe more than at any time in my lifetime that the Holy Spirit is about to be poured out on America. I, also, believe it will be messy, very messy. Judgment begins with the household of God. Release that tidal wave of justice and righteousness that the prophet Isaiah spoke of O God. Reform us as only You can. Amen.