Too Late For Another Denomination?
My wife Jerry and I are self-quarantined. We “go out” only to take walks in a wooded, lake area on the grounds of our life-care retirement village. I’m seeking to keep a patient heart in these coronavirus days. Those who know me, especially my family, know this is tough. Patience is neither a virtue for me, nor a gift that I have cultivated.
Constantly aware our troubled nation and our painfully divided denomination, for months I have been more passionate in praying for revival. On a recent Sunday we shared in meaningful on-line worship with our Christ UMC community. My normal pattern would be to spend the afternoon catching up with what I consider optional reading, magazines, etc. That changed. The virus has made my praying for revival more intense, and I had this deep inner conviction that I should read again Leonard Ravenhill’s Why Revival Tarries which I read over 20 years ago.
Because ministry changes and geographical moves I have given away over half my library, so I was surprised to find the book. But there it was, with notes throughout, and I spent the balance of Sunday and a half-day Monday with Brother Ravenhill. Though I have some “issues” with his notions about “Rome” and preoccupation with preachers who are “weighed down with degrees and doctorates,” causing many to “know only a slick, tearless, passionless, soulless round of preaching that passes for the minister’s office these days” (p. 53), I was tempted to review it. His passion for, and clear Biblical teaching on the absolute essential of prayer, is both confronting and challenging. Instead of review, I believe it more urgent to deal with his claim which had not gotten my attention years ago, “The hour is too late for another denomination to be born.” (p. 49)
Given our situation of conscience driven conflict in how the church moves forward in mission and ministry in our present pronounced division, I share the “general agreement” that our present denominational expression of the faith will best be served by at least adding a “new expression.” The fact is the new expression will result in a new denomination. I contend that it is not too late for that, in fact it is essential in our circumstances.
I honor Brother Ravenhill. He is pleading and praying for revival. He followed his claim about too late now for a new denomination, saying, “Right now, God is preparing His Elijahs for the last great earthly offensive against militant godlessness (whether political or wearing a mask of religion.)” Then came the telling word which we must take with utter seriousness. The last great outpouring of revival, Holy Ghost born and operated, will be new wine bursting the skins of dried-up sectarianism.” (50)
It is too late for revival of dried-up sectarianism. It is not too late for a new expression of a world Methodist/Wesleyan evangelical movement. For that to happen we who share in the movement must keep a penitent heart, committed to Gospel certainties without being bigoted. In prayerful humility, I share my vision of what I believe are some foundation certainties.
MINISTRY BELONGS TO THE WHOLE PEOPLE OF GOD
We must begin courageously practicing the fact that ministry belongs to the whole people of God. As a pastor, I have heard it far too many times: “I am just a layman.” I wish I had never heard it, and I hope it will be forbidden language in our new movement. Many persons making this statement think they are being asked to do something that a “professional’ Christian” is called to do…the “professional Christian,” being a pastor or some person working as a paid vocational staff person in the church.
What concerns me most is that the statement usually comes from persons being invited to share in ministry that belongs to “the whole people of God.” “I am just a layman’ is irreverent and demeaning. It denies that God has gifted and called all, offering us the incredible privilege of being co-lovers and co-laborers with God.
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