I ran into a wild eyed gentleman the other day at a religious meeting place. He was middle aged and healthy looking. After inviting him to a gathering that we have, he told me that he was involved in a 4 hour prayer meeting that day of the week and that he wasn’t sure if he could make it. It turns out that it was one of two 4 hour prayer meetings that he attends a week. He said that he spends so much time in prayer so that through his corporate devotion God was going to unleash the gifts on the earth. He began to tell me about how we needed a 24 hour prayer ministry in Charlotte. “This is what God is doing in the earth.”, he said. He spoke of the profound thing that was happening in Kansas City through IHOP, a ministry I’m familiar with.
A harmless and insightful perspective, right? A few years ago I would of been in some kind of agreement with this man’s accessment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to bash this guy, 24-7 prayer movements, IHOP, or any of the like; but that day it occurred to me that a religious system could not replicate, replace, or contain the Kingdom of God. In other words it became obvious that the “prayer movement” was not the only thing God was “doing in the earth”.
The problem we have as humans is that we like to control wild things. We see a wild animal and we want to tame it. We see a raw untapped source of energy and we develop technology to utilize it for our best interest. There is no limit to this domineering gene in our humanness. The sea, the universe, our money, our reproductive systems… and my point is that we do the same with God and the expression of church on earth. The young monk Martin Luther had such a desire to live in relationship with God that as he discovered how to actually reach God he was willing to die at the hands of the current “church leaders” so that others might have that same access.
Martin Luther started to break through and teach others to break through in an honest desire to know God, then it became an organization and a system where others, just like the young Martin Luther, would be held captive by a system that men controlled.
And so it is today. The whole idea of “What God is doing in the earth” is simply an exchange program that happens generation after generation. The “church” that worked in the 90’s to produce satisfied religious people is exchanged for a new “church” that meets the religious needs of today’s devout. Changing the “old wine skin” with another “old wine skin” does not work (link). Jesus spoke of a new wine skin- a new place in the heavens that He was preparing for us (link), a place not built with human hands (link), for our citizenship is in the heavens (link). You know, the Kingdom, the thing that Jesus couldn’t shut up about. Not just the future reign, but the present reign.
Just in case you think I may be saying that we should quit community. All of the New Testament screams the importance of community, and no-one can ever justify independence from the family of God . It’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that man-centric organization religion is the enemy of the Christian Church. Jesus said “I also say to thee, that thou art a rock, and upon this rock I will build my assembly, and gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
Plainly the New Testament is about the presence of the King in our midst. And He appoints undershepards to express His love and His care. But He does not release His government to be led and domineered by them, that is clearly Mosaic Old Testament religion, not the Kingdom of God. Jesus set in motion a Kingdom where the least is the greatest and the King Himself washes the feet of the Disciples and lays down His life so that each person can know and be in relationship with Him.
The new wineskin is the Kingdom that is landing on the earth in the bodies of those redeemed. The Church is a group of blood bought people who go throughout the earth sharing His love and His life. Factions, separations, cool-clubs, distinctions among people is not from God, but a sad attempt to bottle up what could never be bottled, the presence of The Holy Spirit wildly and effectively infiltrating this planet through those who have accepted Jesus as their King and Lord.
Thus, it’s my conclusion that man’s attempt to capture and sell the Kingdom is the biggest adversary The Church has ever faced. Thankfully what He is establishing will not be defeated, but the faux replica will.