Make America's Church Great Again, Part 1 Print E-mail

AWCF Presents...
Bishop Samuel Smith
The Chairman's Letter

Bishop Samuel Smith is honored among Apostolics across the globe as a modern day Apostle. His views and insights target the contemporary Apostolic Church's most pressing needs. Bishop is the General Chairman of the Apostolic World Christian Fellowship [AWCF]. He travels the world as a vibrant crusader for Christ and the Apostolic Message.

For a transcript of this and past articles from Bishop Smith click here

Make America's Church Great Again, Part 1
Bishop Samuel L. Smith

During this tumultuous 2015-16, political season, as the presidential primaries and election draw near, we hear the call, "Make America great again." That dramatic challenge has caught on, because deep in most American's hearts, we know that our country is not what it used to be. My declaration may disturb some; nevertheless, in many Apostolic's hearts we know that the Apostolic Church in America is not what it used to be.

I concede that the classical Apostolic Church, portrayed in the book of Acts, believed and practiced by congregations worldwide and still in many American Apostolic churches, remains triumphant and glorious. Sadly, those instances are the exception, not the rule. When one compares the average American church against the standard of the book of Acts, and revival churches in many parts of the world, we fall woefully short. The average American Apostolic church can no longer say, "Silver and gold have we none." Most of us worship in more than adequate facilities, and many, in extremely plush edifices. But, neither can we say, "In the name of Jesus, rise up and walk," (see Acts 3:6); ....and really, it is up to us. God said, "If my people will, I will." (See II Chronicles 7:14). Again, our Lord challenges us, saying; "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and I will show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not" (Jeremiah 33:3).

We can safely conclude from Holy Scripture, that God is willing; but, it is up to us, He has deemed to do nothing, except through His Church. First: We must return to the Rock. Peter, the apostle entrusted with the keys of the Kingdom, commissioned by Christ to introduce the New Testament Church to the world, declared that it was built upon the Rock, the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Lord Almighty, whose doctrine is uncompromised and methods, eternal; that even the gates of hell are inferior to the power and destiny of His Church (see Matthew 16:18).

This treatise is written to, and intended primarily for, adherents to the Apostolic faith, thus, there is no need to repeat our basic doctrine; one Lord, one faith, one baptism (see Ephesians 4:5), we are instructed in both the Old and New Testaments, not to add to or take away from His Word, otherwise we will be afflicted with the plagues described therein (see Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18-19). But, the irony is, that among many who say they love the message, their methods of church government, worship, personal disciplines, and preaching style, have deviated so far, that invariably, it has affected the integrity of the message they preach.

From where are we getting our sermon thoughts, inspiration, methods, programs, systems, and style; TBN, T.D. Jakes, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer? We have been called "Jesus only people." That accusation is intentionally derogatory and meant for a slur, and is doctrinally inaccurate; we do not deny the Father and the Holy Ghost, as our detractors accuse us, but rather we identify them, "it is all in Him," (see Colossians 2:9). But, for the time being, in this critical hour, what would happen if we did a mid-course adjustment, and for a while, left everything else alone; promotions, social activities, even benevolent programs, and just preached "Jesus only;" what he said, what he did, and what he told us to do? There is a literal treasure trove in the words and acts of Jesus, if only we looked for them. His revelations are not hid from us, but, for us, to find and to use; thus, we can move the world. Remember the statement of those who observed the ministry of Paul, "These are they that turn the world upside down," (see Acts 17:6).

Second: We need to return to church. Someone asked a friend of mine; "What can we do to get Bible reading back into the home;" he answered, "Let's get Bible reading back into the church". May I add; "Let's get people back into the church." The Bible warns; "Not to forsake assembling ourselves together" (see Hebrews 10:25). We need to get people to return to, and fall in love with: the Word of God, anointed music, real worship, and fervent prayer, and bodily back into the churches; then take it home with us, to our workplace, our schools, and wherever we go. It has to start in the House of God.

I remember as a young evangelist back in the 70's and 80's, seeing the motto over many church doors, "Enter to worship, and leave to serve." What are we waiting for? The signs of the times are all around us! Our beloved Lord Jesus was our example for urgency in the end-time, saying; "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work" (John 9:4).

Let's get our teens and children out of the gyms, entertainment and game centers, back into anointed church services. Recreation certainly has its place, but, not instead of, or take the place of, anointed church. There is a reason that a recent national survey revealed that among evangelical young people under 30, almost 40% see nothing wrong with same-sex marriage, and even abortion. Values, boundaries, and standards are critical. These must be taught, and reinforced with powerful preaching, in an anointed atmosphere, that only Holy Ghost saturated services can provide. Our youth will never receive a revelation of spiritual boundaries, biblical discipline, apostolic doctrine, and values while playing ping pong, basketball, and on and on, in the church gym. Divine direction for a Christian lifestyle comes from Heaven, to the pulpit, to the pew, and at the altar.

"The chief danger of the 20th century will be: religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, heaven without hell." - William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army).

Our Bible study, Sunday School and worship services, mid-week services, revival services, must once again be anointed, preceded by faithfulness, prayer, spiritual worship, and anointed preaching, with the afterglow of the Holy Ghost manifested in powerful altar services, where sinners are drawn to God, young people dedicate their lives to Christ; and everyone, saint, visitor, and sinner is saturated by the awesome awareness of the presence of Almighty God.

We should note, that each service has four components, and it will take each one, all brought together to make a complete service that indeed will minister to the needs of the people:

(1) Prayer: We need to start each service with an atmosphere of prayer in the sanctuary, calling upon the Lord, drawing near to Jesus, creating an atmosphere for God to come into and minister. We speak of "people friendly" church, we must make the church, "God friendly".

(2) Praise: The Lord abides in the midst of praise, (see Psalm 22:3). True biblical praise draws God towards us, and us into his presence. Praise is not a time for entertainment. Praise leaders are not performers, and the congregation is not an assembly of mere spectators.

"When ministry becomes performance, then the sanctuary becomes a theater, the congregation becomes an audience, worship becomes entertainment, and men's applause and approval becomes the means of success. But when ministry is for the glory of God, His presence moves into the sanctuary, even the unsaved visitor will fall down on his face, worship God and confess that God is among us."

3) Preaching: "Oh, the need there is for present-day preachers to have their lips touched with a live coal from the altar of God!" - E. M. Bounds. Something divine happens when a man of God seeks the face of God for a message truly sent from Heaven for his congregation. The Lord has chosen the foolishness of preaching, (see I Corinthians 1:21), to save them that believe. Paul is not excusing foolishness in the pulpit, but, he is making the point that it does not compute to the rational mind, it does not make sense, it is foolish to think that a mortal man standing in front of a group of people can become the mouthpiece of God.

"Preaching....Hell fears it. Earth requires it. Heaven ordains it." - Hamish Mackenzie

"Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth."- John Wesley

(4) The afterglow: We can never again settle for a traditional ordinary program and then -- just dismiss. Somewhere, somehow, something has got to transpire during the service, be it Bible study, youth service, Sunday School, Sunday night evangelistic service; that at the conclusion, souls come forward for salvation, the sick have their faith so increased that they come forth for healing, and at the very least the membership draws near to the altar for a closer walk with God so that they leave to better serve. Each service must conclude with a bold exclamation point--not a weak period.

The typology displayed in the "Tabernacle in the Wilderness," given from God to Moses, revealed that the tribes of Israel were to camp around the Tabernacle. The first thing they saw in the morning, leaving their homes, and the last thing they saw at night coming home, was the House of God, where they centered their lives around the things of God, and where His Holy presence dwelt. History records that throughout time until now, the great movements of the Holy Spirit, where Christ has mightily revealed Himself, and spiritual awakening followed, were experienced by those who found reasons to go to church and focus upon His Word, and His work. David said it first, and Jesus confirmed it, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up..." (see Psalms 69:9 and John 2:17).

The great reformers and revivalists; Luther, Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Jeremiah Lampier, Whitefield, and Finney; the great awakenings, Cane Ridge, Kentucky; Topeka, Kansas; Azuza Street, Los Angeles; all were the results of zealous followers of Christ, gathering for prayer, praise, and preaching. God showed up, and thereafter they took Him wherever they went. Subsequent to every dramatic historical awakening there followed multiple worship services throughout the week, prolonged nightly revival meetings, and Sunday was all day at the House of God. We could still do the same, if we were not so busy with TV, sports, second jobs, entertainment; so many places to go and so many things to do. "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion," (see Amos 6:1). Jesus said he would "spue," (vomit) the lukewarm out of His mouth, (see Revelation 3:16). Simply stated; lukewarmness makes God sick! Apostle Paul stated; "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever," (Hebrews 13:8). It is fair to ask; "Is the church the same yesterday, today, and forever?"

When I was a child, I remember multiple church services throughout the week; it was common practice, even among denominational churches. I remember my Apostolic Mother taking me with her to visit their revival meetings; even the denominational churches were full on week nights and the preachers were on fire. It was a time when Ringling Brothers, and Barnham and Bailey traveling circuses, before scheduling a circus, would check the schedule of the area's churches to determine if there would be any nightly revivals in the community, knowing that they would likely not draw as large a crowd if they had to compete with revival meetings. Isn't it strange that they, the denominational churches stopped first, and now many Apostolics have done the same? I always thought we were supposed to be different? It is now accepted among many of our Apostolic churches, after one service on Sunday, the rest of the day is spent at leisure. One young adult, grown up with an Apostolic heritage when asked about the revised schedule, one service on Sunday, answered, "It is easier this way." Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, (the church).

The whole world is consumed in violence and turmoil. Apostle Paul warned of a time when all creation would groan for relief, (see Romans 8:22). Jesus foretold of a bleak period in the last days that He called "the beginning of sorrows" (see Matthew 24:4-8). The daily news is depressing, war and strife all over the world; terrorism. unbelievable cruelty, beheadings, burnings, even crucifixions; the catastrophic effects of climate change, violent weather, storms with wholesale destruction, even earthquakes; just as the Bible prophesied; "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come" (II Timothy 3:1).

Our nation is rapidly deteriorating before our eyes. TV commentators and noted political-analysts lament the decline of America and voice their fears for our uncertain and desperate future----and our churches are dark on Sunday nights, the Lord's Day evening! From midnight Saturday until midnight Sunday, it is the Lord's Day. Something grieves my spirit when churches are dark on Sunday evening, while the world revels, and Apostolics sit home and watch their favorite helping of decadence on TV, or even as some, go out for dinner and attend a movie. Money spent, that allows multi-millionaire movie stars, to become even richer, enabling them to sink deeper into their promiscuous life-styles of drugs and decadence; thus, inevitably providing them a broader platform to further deceive our depraved age with their glamorous, but in truth doomed life-style. If we must give an account for every idle word (see Matthew 12:36), I believe we will have to give an account for how we spent our time and money.

"America is entertaining itself to hell." - Leonard Ravenhill

"Religion today is not transforming people; rather it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society; it is descending to society's own level, and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smilingly accepting its surrender." - A. W. Tozer

End of part one, "Make America's Church Great Again." Part two coming soon.
 
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