June 2012: Powerful Christianity

Pentecost: we celebrate the empowering coming of the Holy Spirit, without whom the earliest Christians would be long forgotten. We do well today to remember that the opposition faced by this small band of men and women was much greater than that faced by the churches today. So why do we see churches shrinking instead of growing?

Not all churches are shrinking, of course - there are many big, successful churches around. The wider picture is one of consolidation; smaller churches become less viable as large ones do better. The small churches must choose a niche area to occupy, or fade out trying to do too much. Meanwhile, alongside denominational churches, home and cafe churches spring up, grow and network for a while, and then often die again as people move. This is the way of our time, in the Western world a very secular phase in humanity's development, lacking stability and commitment.

In the New Testament, we read of visions, dreams, and clear guidance for the believers. The Spirit of God is their explicit source in some passages.We also read of healing, escape from prison, and other works of power that bring glory to God. Would not such power make a difference today? It does, in fact, but too often we fail to discern it through our modern scientific sunglasses. The Gifts of the Spirit are clearly given today for God's glory and as the Spirit wills. Yet even Jesus' miracles did not persuade everyone; the choice to believe or not must remain, or we would be like robots and not human at all. Therefore, we can close our minds to God.

His power remains, however. If we are less open to miraculous works, there are other kinds; and the Spirit of God knows us well. As Jesus says inJohn 15:8-11, the Spirit proves the world wrong about three things, which can be summarised like this: its rejection of Jesus himself, what it takes to enter God's presence, and where ungodly ways will lead. As Advocate, the Spirit comes alongside the believer with words and guidance ready for this task. Yet too often we fail to act! It is as if we are sitting in a car, with the engine running and plenty of fuel in the tank, enjoying the music on the radio but never releasing the handbrake, never putting the car into gear, never pressing the accelerator, and especially never feeling the turbo kick in. And so the churches shrink.

Powerful Christianity is prepared to press the accelerator with the help of the Holy Spirit, to act willingly for the sake of others - no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they are from. Jesus never asked to see a person's concession card or passport and visa first! Powerful Christianity is prepared to sing a song of difference for the better in someone else's life. Powerful Christianity is devoid of the stench of hate, but carries the alluring aroma of love shared unconditionally. Powerful Christianity is the sort that reaches out quietly, steadily, patiently, caringly, and soon triggers the crucial question, "Why did you do that for me?" Ah, Good News!

Let us celebrate Pentecost!

Parkdale Church of Christ 2012-18 —A community of faith, hope and compassion.