In the book of Acts, the Lord reveals to us the plan for world-evangelism according to the Holy Spirit. And it is not mass media, nor the distribution of tracts, nor great evangelistic meetings and revivals, nor any other humanly contrived system. No, it appears His method of evangelism for the early church is the presentation of the gospel accompanied by “signs and wonders” that only come from the Spirit. Or, as Peter Wagner coined the phrase, Power Evangelism.
But many in the church reject this because of our fear of the Holy Spirit or the fact we don’t want to be one of those people who do and believe loopy, non-sophisticated stuff. And we go to great lengths to conceive the reason God no longer works in our lives today the way He did in the book of Acts. We call it cessationism, and it decrees we don’t need Him to move that way anymore, because we have the completed Bible.
Really? Think that through for a moment.
Scripture tells us about the five-fold ministry the Lord gave His church. We find that in Ephesians 4.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ – Ephesians 4:11-13.
According to this truth, the Lord gave five groups of people to the church, five ministries (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers), each empowered by the Holy Spirit with different gifts for “edifying of the body of Christ,” or the building of the church to a point of maturity. And He gave the church these five ministries for a certain time period. It says, “until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Look around. Are we there yet? Have we “all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God?” As Chuck Missler would say, “Not that you’d notice.”
But according to the cessationist view, we only need three of the five today (evangelists, pastors, teachers). They reject apostles and prophets. Which means the church is functioning on 60% of what God originally intended. No wonder the book of Acts seems so hard to duplicate, yet alone believe. But God gave it to us as a prototype of what church and evangelism should look like.
What are we to do?
What do we know about the church in Acts that is so foreign to us today? Let me list just a few traits they excelled in that we seem to struggle with, or reject altogether, to our own demise.
One, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. We see this continually stated throughout the book of Acts.
Two, they were in complete unity, even to the point of selling their possessions to meet the needs of others.
Three, God performed many signs and wonders among the people. So much so that they came from outlying areas just to have Peter’s shadow fall on them (Acts 5:14-16).
Four, the Lord first added, then multiplied, the number of those being saved. Almost unheard of in our church today.
So, we have a choice to make. We can continue to think like Westerners, or we can think like children of the Most High God who has given us the Spirit to be filled with and to empower us. We can think like churchgoers, or we can think like those who have the written Word of God in our hands and who believe His amazing promises to each of us, all of them. And we can have faith in our experiences or in the One who redeemed us from sin and is now preparing a place for us to spend eternity with Him.
The choice is ours. But there is a paradigm shift coming. And to learn more about it, keep listening.