Remember watching Gilligan’s Island on tv, the episodes where Professor would rig up an invention to make their Crusoe-esque lives a little easier? My favorite is “Gilligan-powered” ingenuity. Gilligan is seated on a bamboo bicycle, those skinny legs pedaling furiously to generate electricity for a radio transmitter, or to agitate a paddle wheel in a washtub full of dirty laundry, etc.
In the Body of Christ, are we pedaling bamboo bicycles to generate power? Are we mobilizing programs solely on our own strength and ambition–or even worse, based on someone else’s perceived success in harnessing revival?
We are so trend-driven when it comes to our faith, and it ought not be. It’s one thing to come away inspired by someone else’s encounter with God; but we are more than a little foolish if we think there’s some magic formula for revival, soul-winning, and restoring miracles in the Church. We saw in the 60’s and 70’s a variation of this. If Apostle so-and-so wore porkchop sideburns and he had a following, suddenly all the up-and-coming young ministers grew big goofy sideburns. They held the mic the same way he did. Pulled their lapels wayyyy out. They parted their hair on the same side, mimicked his vocal inflections, got the walk down just-so. If the evangelist had people fall out when he laid hands on them, now all the young hopefuls wanted everyone at the altar to fall out for them too! Yep, I’ve had a couple of them try to tip me over when I didn’t fall out on my own.
I’m not trying to mock our Pentecostal heritage, not at all. I celebrate it and walk in the gifts and baptismal measure of the Holy Spirit. Looking throughout the Bible, and throughout church history, however, it looks like every generation has had its bamboo bicycles on deserted islands where the power connection didn’t quite reach. Perhaps it’s not so much laziness on our part, but not actually knowing that we can have our own encounter without having to do it like so-and-so’s church, like Reverend Powerhouse, or like our godly role models. We do want the fire to fall; but we are looking in the wrong direction, hoping someone else to our left or right has perfected the template–hoping some else’s proven method will save us from having to seek God’s revelation for our own prayer and fasting model. We are trying to house the Holy Spirit in recycled plastic milk jugs instead of paying the price to become stretchable wineskins ourselves. We will try on someone else’s armor only to find out it’s too big and bulky for our own frames.
Consider this: although God changes not, He will never make Himself known to us through a boilerplate format for the encounter. When we copy someone else’s method, even if it works for that movement and season, for us it becomes dead works. And if we don’t move with the cloud by day and the fire by night, what DID once work for us will suddenly become dead works, too. How many times has the Body of Christ failed the test when the Lord called us to follow him out of a particular season on to another level? God is never going to share His glory with man. Yes, once He has moved on, we are perfectly free to stay where we are; program it up, to try to keep it all going just as before. He’ll let us. He just won’t be the source generating the energy. He will never prosper our attempts to bottle and patent and copyright His glory!
Not every church is going to be a Brownsville. Brownsville can’t even afford to be labeled a ‘Brownsville-style movement;’ for such a label has the potential to become a judgment against us. If we are blessed to have God’s visitation in a phenomenal, supernatural season, and He chooses to move us out of our oasis and back on the travel path again, there’s great danger in choosing to try to remain in the move that He’s finished anointing. I believe, and I say this with fear and great respect, that even the leaders of these great awakenings which have birthed in these last few years would tell you to keep your eyes on Jesus alone, listening to His directive–and stop trying to market a particular style of worship as being the “next new thing.” If we are blessed to be under the deluge of His outpouring, and His power should suddenly moves in a different direction; or, if we are trying furiously to bring someone else’s revival recipe to our own little corners on the globe, then we’ll just be pedaling our little bicycles like madmen, doomed to fail in our human frailty! God’s will is that all of us have a supernatural encounter with Him; but we don’t get to define the parameters for that encounter. He may manifest as wind in one setting, as rain in another, as fire in yet another, or He may manifest as that still small voice. If it’s from HIM, all of it is good! It’s HIS prerogative to define the visitation; it’s our mandate to be merely, get this, obedient.
I’ve heard some irreverent commentary even in the Body, where this or that particular movement would be rumored to be taken in error in spite of at least a timed visitation from God. Frankly, it hurts my feelings, for I believe these visitations have been very real at least as long as we have remained under God’s directive. I don’t know each individual situation, nor do I want to; but after the rumors of mighty revival movements collapsing or “fizzling out,” suddenly a teaching emerged which warned of the dangers of strange fire. Then the Body of Christ became scared of any manifestation of the Holy Ghost being labeled strange fire, and so we went back to having no fire. Neither of those polar positions is God’s intent for us individually or corporately. I’m not even sure I fully understand what constitutes “strange fire,” but I do know that if something ventures beyond Christ alone, its fruit will not and cannot remain.
I would challenge us all today to radical obedience. Obedience, not as weighed against the methods of others; but drowning out the popular theories of church growth, and getting somewhere alone with the Lord to hear what HE would have us do in order to release that anointing in our lives, in our churches, over our geographical areas. Obedience to GOD, not a new 7-step bullet point program for stirring up an awakening.
Jesus scolded Peter for worrying about John getting an easier ticket to heaven than he was getting. Jesus as much as said, “John’s encounter with me is not your business, Peter. Follow ME.” Peter didn’t want that place of being led where he didn’t want to go, to that untimely demise, that suffering, persecution, that upside-down cross. If John’s encounter involves an easier burden–if it were to be perceived that John has more favor or is looked upon by the other 12 as holier–Peter is jealous for THAT encounter. We can’t busy ourselves with what works in Australia, in Pensacola, or in the big new church on the other side of town with a coffee shop and valet parking. Praise God for moving in such notable ways in those places; we rejoice for them! We will buy their worship tapes, listen to the preaching on our CD’s, read the books and let the zeal for the house rub off on us, too–but our job is still to look to GOD ALONE for our own visitation, whatever that visitation should look like for us. I can almost guarantee that it’s going to look a lot different here in the foothills of Appalachia than it does in Sydney, than it did at Mezuzah Street or at Murphy, NC. But…if God’s the one generating the power, we won’t have to build a single program or training center to keep it going.
Obey the Lord, pure and simple. He will not let it be said that the success of His Body comes from the neck down! Know this: if you obey Him only, instead of trying to power your own movement, you will never ever be in danger of deception. You won’t have strange fire, and you won’t have no fire. You will have HIS fire. And you won’t have to grow sideburns or pedal a bamboo bike! Just saying…