June / July 2017 - Vol. 92
Pope Frances jopins Catholics charismatics
                      and Evangelical Pentecostals at Rome Conference in
Pope Francis joined with more than 50,000 Catholic charismatics and a number of Evangelical Pentecostals at the Olympic Stadium in Rome June 1, 2014. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

.   We Must Stand Together

by Dr. Vinson Synan

I am often asked the questions: What is God doing now? What is the now word for the church? What is the Lord trying to say to us today? Such questions seem to imply that I have a direct pipeline to the Lord, but it is my belief that it is possible for anyone to look around and discern what the Lord is saying. Conferences, world events, and prophecies given by tried and proven spiritual leaders are all sources of God's word to us.

Of course, what the Lord is saying today is not, as some critics suggest, claimed by Christians as new revelations on the same level of the Scriptures. But through word gifts God can inspire us, warn us, and draw us to his purposes for us. These gifts of the Spirit must have been in the Lord's mind when he said to the seven churches of Asia Minor, "I know your works" and then ended each message with the admonition "let him that has an ear hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches" (see Rev. 2, 3).

The Lord knows the condition of all the churches in all ages, and this scripture further indicates that the Holy Spirit is continually speaking to the current condition of the churches. It is through the gifts of the Spirit that we can "hear" and communicate what the If God knows our works and is speaking to us, we desperately need to hear what he wants us to know.

What many have been hearing in recent months is summarized in the name of the New Orleans Congresses: The Holy Spirit and World Evangelization. This title encompasses the whole purpose of God in raising up the Pentecostal and charismatic movements of this past century. For decades the Lord has been pouring out his Spirit "upon all flesh" (see Joel 3:1) with a veritable explosion of charismatic gifts and graces. The restoration of such gifts as healing, speaking in tongues, prophecy, the casting out of demons, and so on, has galvanized the churches into new growth, excited Christians in all denominations, and led to tremendous evangelistic breakthroughs in many nations of the world.

If God has said anything in this century, it is that he intends to pour out his Spirit "upon all flesh" in these days. And when the Holy Spirit comes, he distributes the charismata to believers as loving benefits for the body of Christ. We should never allow these gifts to become common or "old hat" to us. Paul warns us against "quenching the Spirit" by lessening the importance of the gifts in the church. He also tells us not to forbid speaking in tongues and not to despise prophesying. Evidently there were already some people in Paul's day who did just that.

Another thing God has said clearly in the last few years is that he wants the church to find a unity in the Holy Spirit that responds to Jesus' prayer in John 17:21. He prayed, "that they all may be one as I and the Father are one." In Kansas City, Missouri, in 1977, the hearts of the great throng at Arrowhead Stadium were broken by the poignant prophetic refrain stating, "the body of my Son is broken." The tragedy of the broken body is not so much in the broken fellowship of those who ache to be one in the Lord, but in the millions of unbelievers who refuse to accept Jesus as Lord because of the multitudinous divisions in the churches.

Jesus prayed to the Father that we would be one "that the world may believe that you have sent me." The world indeed sees our divisions and finds the Gospel incredible, especially when so many groups proclaim that they, and they alone, are teaching the truth. Unbelievers do not know who or what to believe. Thus the ultimate goal of Christian unity is not fellowship, as wonderful as that may be, but evangelization. I believe that the most important thing that the Lord has been saying lately is that we must take our gifts out of the churches and prayer rooms and into the streets of the world's great cities, using them to convince unbelievers that Jesus Christ truly is Lord.

The goal of winning a majority of the world's population to Christ in our time is a wonderful and worthy vision. This tremendous goal will not be reached, however, if the churches continue to use only the traditional methods of evangelizing that have been used in the past. Missiologists such as David Barrett predict that at present growth rates, an even smaller proportion of the world population will be Christian at the turn of the 21st century than in 1987. Dramatic breakthroughs for Christ are needed into the Muslim, Hindu, and communist worlds for us to change that direction. Unbelievers among these peoples will not be won merely through theological arguments, social programs, or traditional church-planting of forts. It is only through signs and wonders by the power of the Holy Spirit that these breakthroughs can occur. Furthermore, Jesus said that these results come only as a result of "prayer and fasting" (Matthew 17:21).

God has also been speaking a word about righteousness and holiness to the religious leaders of the world. The scriptures still cry out, "be clean, you that bear the vessels of the Lord" (Isaiah 52:11). The Lord seems to be cleansing his church and its leadership for the great evangelistic thrust of the next decade. He is reminding us that his soldiers should travel light and not be burdened down with the materalism and sensuality that characterizes this age. Holier leaders will make the church better able to minister to the lost and dying peoples of the world.

In the end, all Christians share in the call to holiness and righteousness and as individuals have a responsibility to discern the signs of the times in the light of the Scriptures. We all need now to redouble our efforts to win people to the Lord.

While reflecting on God's word for us, my mind has repeatedly returned to a word I received while ministering in Ridgecrest, North Carolina, at the National Leadership Conference. It was: We must stand together, or we will fall apart!

[This article was originally published in the July/August 1987 Issue of New Covenant Magazine.]

                                        of the Holy Spirit by Dr. Vinson

Dr. Vinson Synan is one of the leading authorities on the history of Pentecostalism. Writing and editing more than 18 books in his lifetime, he has contributed works such as The Holiness Pentecostal Movement in the United States, The Old-Time Power, and his most recent major work, The Century of the Holy Spirit. In addition to these publications Dr. Synan released his memoirs titled An Eyewitness Remembers the Century of the Holy Spirit in 2010. His work and writings are authoritative resources on the history of Pentecostalism and various other topics in the church. In addition, he was one of the founders of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS) in 1970.

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