December 11, 2017

A Fresh Focus on Holiness*



There has never been a time in greater need of the message of holiness. Pastors and leaders are seeking ways to revitalize their congregations, and it's not working. Churches are in decline. In my church group, Church of God (Anderson, IN), there are half as many congregations as there was twenty five years ago (in my state of Oklahoma). The power and health of churches have been drained by the continual search for a better way of doing church or newer and bigger programs. In the process our people have become ineffective and have fallen prey to the effects of the world around them. Churches are terribly in need of a clear, compelling message as their focus instead of chasing church growth methods.

Many church leaders have become hostages of various kinds of culture-driven success mentalities that are concerned more with "how" to do church instead of the more important matter of "what" the church is all about. In the process our leaders have lost the ability to lead, because they have no compelling message. Many know they've lost their leadership and long to find a message that makes a difference. More than ever, they long to have a deep understanding of God's call to holiness. They want a mission. They want a message!

The people of our churches, especially in my church group, are looking for a future without having to live in the past. They are looking for a way to get back to the blessed old Bible and the light of its word without returning to what has been, but by returning to the Source of that which has been. They need to take a walk in the woods like one young minister named Daniel S. Warner did on December 13, 1877. He wrote in his journal, "The day was mild and fair. Took a walk in the woods to commune with God. Thought much about the words of God, 'I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel ... they shall be my people.'" (Jeremiah 31:31,33) Then he wrote, "Amen, LORD. I am Yours, forever. Fill me with Your presence, now. LORD, reveal Yourself in me. At Your feet I humbly bow to receive the holy seal." That day he found the core, the center, the essence of God's call. And he spent the rest of his life passing it on to others. It's the Source of our call today. That is our message. That is our mission!

People are tired of petty lines of division that create denominations and institutions. They long for a clear message that transcends differences among the followers of Jesus Christ. They want to know the unifying power of God. They want to see the awesomeness of God's holiness that moves us to oneness in the testimony of God's power. They accept diversity among Christ's followers, but they want to know that churches and leaders believe that we in the church of God are one. They want a message that is unifying, that comes from God who is the essence of unity in diversity. They want a fresh focus on holiness - the heart of the Bible for all Christians of all times ... even ours!

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* This post was spurred on by a 2006 document entitled "The Holiness Manifesto," written jointly by church leaders and scholars representing various Wesleyan, Holiness and Pentecostal traditions of Christianity. It can be found in the 2008 book by that name, edited by Kevin Mannoia and Don Thorsen and published by Eerdmans of Grand Rapids.


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