We need the Holy Spirit in the local church. Could the way we conduct church make it difficult for the Holy Spirit to work? Do we need a restructuring on the local level?
Revival fires! How the church longs for the Holy Spirit to enliven it for the final accomplishment of its mission─reaching the world for Christ. We can never divorce the Holy Spirit from the mission of the church. This was the whole reason for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
As Jesus ended His ministry and returned to the Father, the obsession that stirred His soul was the need for the disciples to fulfill His mission and their need for power to do it (Matt. 28:18-20).
Judaism of the first century had become an exclusive club of people who thought they possessed the truth. Salvation, they believed, was assured as long as they had membership in the seed of Abraham. Jesus came and disturbed their exclusiveness, calling them to account for their failure to fulfill His mission.
Now Jesus was concerned lest the same thing happen to the Christian church. It was not our Lord's purpose that the church become an institution interested only in its internal affairs. He had called this new body into existence for one purpose: to make disciples among all ethnic groups. His was a call for commitment to that mission. And for its accomplishment, He promised the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.
In this initial endowment of the Holy Spirit, we discover its purpose: empowerment for the accomplishment of mission. The Holy Spirit is poured out for action─for the accomplishment of the task of Christ. We must never see the Holy Spirit as separate from His great function─the making of disciples. That's why we cannot finish the work without the Holy Spirit. The Spirit cannot be poured out unless there are people willing to be filled with power, enabling them to share Christ with the world around them.
The early disciples spent 10 days praying for the deluge of the Holy Spirit. The instruments were ready to be used by God. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon the waiting company, and immediately they became involved in the fulfillment of Christ's mission. Again, there is no separating the Holy Spirit from the accomplishment of mission.
How was the Holy Spirit manifested in the early church? In response to what Christ Himself had promised in Mark 16:15-18, miraculous signs and wonders occurred with increasing rapidity. The disciples spoke in new languages (Acts 2:1-4), the sick were healed, and other miracles occurred. All of these were spiritual gifts that empowered the church for action.
The New Testament seems to emphasize the more miraculous of those spiritual gifts: tongues, healings, and other miracles, for example. Yet the New Testament indicates that nonmiraculous spiritual gifts were also imparted by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:6-8).
Since we now live in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, we can expect the same spiritual gifts that were so active in the New Testament church to be active in the remnant church. Yet strangely, Adventists have sometimes avoided spiritual gifts and have been almost afraid of the more miraculous spiritual gifts. Perhaps this arises from our concern not to be deceived by the counterfeit. However, we must not be so frightened of the counterfeit that we reject the genuine outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Such a rejection would be even more amazing because of the heavy emphasis early Adventists placed on spiritual gifts─especially the miraculous gift of prophecy manifested in the writings of Ellen White.
For a church that was so blessed with one spiritual gift (prophecy) in its early days, it is strange indeed to be overly concerned today about the manifestation of spiritual gifts in our midst. We pray much for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain. But what is the latter rain but an intensification of the early rain of Pentecost? In this first explosion of the Holy Spirit's power, the Holy Spirit manifested Himself by pouring out spiritual gifts upon God's church, including the more miraculous gifts. Should we not expect that the latter rain will witness the same thing?
If we are to be ready for this final outpouring of the Spirit upon the church, we need to restructure our churches for the reception of spiritual gifts. Then, as the Holy Spirit is poured out upon God's last-day church, our congregations will be ready to receive all the gifts that God sends.
In addition to dispensing spiritual gifts, the Holy Spirit empowers God's church through the fruit of the Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Gal. 5:22, 23, NIV).
The fruit of the Spirit as well as the gifts of the Spirit enable the church to accomplish its mission in Pentecostal power. The difference between the charismatic emphasis on spiritual gifts and the function of spiritual gifts as set forth in the Bible is that charismatics tend to see the gifts as primarily for producing feelings of spiritual ecstasy, whereas the Bible describes these gifts as given for the accomplishment of mission. Remember, Pentecost resulted in tremendous church growth; so will the last-day Pentecost. Any manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit that does not result in souls won to Jesus is a counterfeit.
While the supernatural gifts of the Spirit call the attention of the world to God's people, the fruit of the Spirit demonstrates through them the perfect character of Christ. God cannot call the attention of the world to the remnant as long as they are fighting one another. This can happen only if they reflect the character of Christ. Ellen White graphically stated it this way: "Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 69).
The Bible declares God's character to be love (1 John 4:8). Love is the firstfruit of the Spirit. The result of God's people reflecting the character of Christ─a loving and lovable people of God─is the fulfillment of the mission of Christ.
Notice as Ellen White continues: "Were all who profess His name bearing fruit to His glory, how quickly the whole world would be sown with the seed of the gospel. Quickly the last great harvest would be ripened and Christ would come to gather the precious grain" (ibid.). And "if we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful, there would be one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one" (Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 189).
The greatest need facing our church today is to receive the Holy Spirit. To receive that Power will do two things for the church: it will produce the fruit of the Spirit, and it will empower the church through the gifts of the Spirit.
Yet we must not wait until some future time when the Holy Spirit will be poured out in latterrain power. If we are not now receiving the Holy Spirit so that our lives manifest both the fruit and the gifts, we will not receive the latter rain when it falls.
Could it be that somehow in the way we conduct church today we are making it difficult for the Holy Spirit to perform both of these works in His remnant body? It is this author's contention that it is time for a total restructuring of how we "do church" on the local level.
It is the author's contention that this return to a biblical model of the church will help unleash the baptism of the Spirit and help free the church to become the channel for the final display of the character of God to the world.
Russell Burrill is the director of the North American Division Evangelism Institute in Berrien Springs, Michigan. He has served as a pastor and evangelist. This article is taken from his book Revolution in the Church, published by HART Research Center, P.O. Box 2377, Fallbrook, California 92088 (1-800-487-4278).