By Brian Sauder
Attention, church. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to infiltrate behind enemy lines and strategically demonstrate the love and the power of God in the places where people work and live. Is this “Mission Impossible?” No, this mission is very possible. But to be successful at this mission, we need to know where the enemy’s lines have been drawn.
Our enemy, Satan, wants to convince us that church is a two-hour meeting in a building where we watch someone “minister” in the front. These are the battle lines the enemy has drawn to keep the church neutralized and the power and revelation of God out of society. His strategy can best be described in two ways: the Holy Building myth and the Holy Man myth. If the enemy can keep the church trapped in the deception of these myths, he knows he has a chance to win the battle.
It Is Something You Are
The church is not something you go to, it is something you are. The church is literally spread throughout the community at any given time. It is found at workplaces, grocery stores, shopping malls, sporting events, neighborhood picnics, small group meetings… it is everywhere! The enemy cannot possibly contain the church of the living God.
We can see God’s heart expressed in Ephesians chapter four. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:11,12). These two verses indicate that Jesus gave leaders the job of preparing people to do the works of service, or works of ministry. Leaders are called by God to train, equip, empower and release the saints to do the ministry.
Our Primary Example
Let’s take Jesus as our primary example. He did not keep the Holy Spirit to Himself. Instead, He launched a training track that prepared His disciples and others to be empowered and anointed by the Holy Spirit for the work of ministry. Then He left, and sent the Holy Spirit.
Let’s take a closer look. Since the book of Luke and the book of Acts were both written by Luke, we could actually look at these two books of the Bible as a two-volume set. The book of Luke explains how Jesus prepared his disciples to receive the Holy Spirit. Acts describes what happened when the long-awaited Holy Spirit fell on the disciples.
The thread of the Holy Spirit’s coming to the earth is evident all the way through the book of Luke. It starts when the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus as a dove. Shortly after this experience, we find Jesus being led by the Holy Spirit, initially into the desert. After being tempted in the desert, Jesus boldly declares in the synagogue that He is anointed by the Holy Spirit and that Isaiah 61 refers to Him. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
But now Jesus starts the training process. He chooses twelve for his first pilot program. “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:1,2). It worked! They preached the gospel and healed the sick, just like Jesus had done.
Next, he tried it with a group of seventy-two. He trained them, gave them instructions and sent them out. This was not just the twelve “big guns” now. These were the average guys. They again returned with positive results. They preached the gospel, healed the sick and set people free from demons.
Jesus’ response to the successful ministry of the seventy-two was electrifying. He said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” I believe that Jesus saw the potential of the Holy Spirit being available to all the believers. He saw the potential for the group that would soon be called “the church” to expand, defeat the enemy, and fill the whole earth with the glory of the Lord. You see, all through the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was only available to a few, selected leaders. What Jesus had just seen working was a radical departure from this paradigm. Luke tells us that Jesus was full of joy! He could see what was ahead.
The rest is history. Jesus died, rose again, and ascended to heaven with the promise of the Holy Spirit to come. The Holy Spirit came and was poured out first on the 120 in the upper room, then on 3,000 later the same day. But they were not 3,000 members, they were 3,000 ministers. New converts don’t just become members of the church–they become ministers in the church.
We understand from church history that Martin Luther restored the truth of the priesthood of all believers to the church. This was incredibly valuable. The church may have died without it. But he did not restore the ministry of all believers to the church. The churches associated with Martin Luther today rely strongly on the clergy to do the ministry. The restoration of the truth that all believers are called to ministry is happening in a new way in our generation.
We say the name Jesus Christ without a full understanding of what it means. Jesus was “the Christ.” It was not his last name. The word Christ means “anointed one.” It literally translates as “Christ, the Anointed One.” The believers at Antioch were the first to be called Christians, or we could say, “the Anointed Ones.” All Christians are anointed by the Holy Spirit and called to minister.
Larry Kreider, the Director of DOVE International, says it like this, “Every believer is called by the Lord to be a minister, and healthy small groups provide the opportunity.” Small groups provide the arena for believers to begin to be led by the Holy Spirit, exercise their spiritual gifts, pray for the sick, drive out demons and experience God in a supernatural way.
In our small groups, believers are encouraged to step out and try using their spiritual gifts. It is a safe environment for believers to learn to be led by the Holy Spirit. They can learn to pray and minister to each other, taking authority over evil spirits like Jesus did when it is necessary. They pray for the sick to recover when healing is needed. Preaching the gospel includes all the things Jesus talked about in Luke chapter four. As the believers are released and trained in ministry, soon leaders emerge who will be small group assistants or the leaders of a new group.
But the ministry of the believers doesn’t stop in small group. It only starts there. Most of the examples of the spiritual gifts being used in the New Testament were not in meetings. Rather the gifts were used in the marketplace, where people were. Peter and John healed the crippled beggar on the way to the temple, not in the temple meeting. We must allow the Holy Spirit to flow through us wherever we are…at our workplace, at the coffee shop, at the lake, at family gatherings…everywhere we go. This is the New Testament model.
I do believe the church can fulfill her mission on the earth. But it is going to take everyone: every believer ministering, every gift released, every anointing activated, to see our mission successfully completed.