The conversation was with a small group of charismatic pastors. We were discussing the confluence of two contrasting but not conflicting drives, or passions, I keep hearing of or seeing today among pastors who lead from a base of Holy Spirit fullness as a life priority. On the one hand: a near desperation quest for "the anointing," or "the new move of God," or "revival." On the other hand: an earnest search for "something that will last," or "a settled depth in God," or "substance."
I was careful to avoid letting them set those pursuits against one another. Still, I had to admit that to my observation, some very sincere leaders often press so hard seeking revival, they often get in their own way of finding substance.
For example, page through any charismatic journal, magazine or mailer. Surf your Christian television channels or the Internet and check out the essential "message" content in the promos, display ads, book titles or sales offers. At the bottom line, they offer good things but too seldom lasting things. Shooting at the moving target of what the Spirit is saying today, it seems too many end with short-term solutions, failing to grasp what God has said forever.
I invited the group to let me take them on an excursion--to the year 2020 A.D.
Politically, global humanity has resumed a relative normalcy following the holocaust of 2013, when terrorists exploded nuclear devices in New York City, London and Sydney, Australia. Fifteen million were killed in the blasts, but post-event radiation was almost nil due to a Nobel-winning physicist's discovery in 2009 of a means for "seeding" airborne streams of radioactive fallout with decharging waves of neutralizing particles.
In medicine, cancer has been vanquished as the human genome project applies its findings. However, AIDS still eludes a medical/biological solution. Thus, Africa's population has been halved by AIDS in 20 years. The world's population has dropped below 6 billion for the same reason.
Sociologically, the exploration of hyperspace has supplanted excitement over probing outer space. Specialized, tailor-made fields of interest for each person have reduced human communication. From neighbors to cultures, the polarization of humanity has become a mega-fragmentation more than merely a two-, three- or four-way division.
Spiritually, most religious systems continue with only transient variations. The New Age fadism ending the 20th century is now called Cosmic Wisdom (claiming touch with "star-minds"). Theologically traditional but visionary popes are leading Catholicism in a renewed zeal for evangelism.
Eastern Orthodoxy continues separatist and unchanged. Liberal Protestantism now urges the adoption of a creed called "Christo-consciousness": a quest to bring an acknowledgment of all spiritual pursuits as valid and all four forms of "humanity"--female, homosexual, male and animal--as deserving equal respect and privilege.
Reactionarily, most secular and civil institutions have virtually isolated the public voice and neutralized the media presence of individuals and agencies proclaiming the gospel or teaching the Bible. Three forces combined to bring this about: (1) change in government policies on the taxation of church properties; (2) public rejection of the "intolerance" of all who fail to accept cultural normalization of nonbiblical morality; and (3) the incredible diversity of new means of media.
Beyond cable and the Internet, "solo-net" has appeared: the capability for everyone to home-produce near neatwork quality broadcasts of their own ideas. Broadcasts have proliferated so the potential audience has splintered a million ways. People surf or select from innumerable broadcasts, most usually watching their own.
Significantly, among other than the "Christo-conscious," lines between Christians formerly segmented as evangelicals, Pentecostals, charismatics, fundamentalists, Reformed, Bible Church, and so on, have vaporized. Persecution birthed a prayer-begotten unity, plus the Holy Spirit outpouring upon youth (the "Hyper-Jesus" awakening of 2003-2007) precipitated this uniting force. It was the vigor, passion and honesty of these young people that faced the church with a crisis: The new generation of young leaders refused to sustain past separatism in the body of Christ. Still, with humility, they embraced the wisdom of pastors and leaders who focused "The Way"--essential biblical truths for proclamation and discipleship.
Penetratingly, an informal but dynamic union of believers has emerged, calling all humankind to "Living Faith in the Living Jesus." The fruit of Spirit-empowered evangelism; the removed dependency of the church on media, stadia, arena and entertainment events; the effectiveness of manifest kingdom grace, love and power by believers in the workplace--all brings multitudes to Christ from among the general populace.
Though nearly invisible to society because of the varied types of locations where they meet, churches are increasing both in number and attendance, solid durability marking their growth. Without political clout, and deemed inflexible or born-again-narrow due to their lifestyle of commitment to marriage, family and morality, the "Living Faith" movement advances.
Regrettably (but predictably), notwithstanding the massive moving together among so many Christ-honoring believers, a small but insistent, separatist band calling themselves "The Righteous Remnant" refuse union in the deception of those who have so lowered standards as to permit such unity. Their basic tenets are not so unorthodox as they are opposed; usually criticizing the "undiscernment" and "extremes" they see in the worship, miracle faith and spiritual dynamics of the "Living Faith" movement.
"If that's 2020 A.D., how will you be doing ministry?" I asked the group I was conversing with. They asked, "Jack, do you really believe that scenario?" My answer: "Most of it, absolutely! Parts of it...well, we'll see."
But in any case, let's face it now! However close or not, the above isn't cheap speculation or sci-fi guesswork. It's a shot at getting real about the future, an effort at "time warp shock therapy," hoping to shake out a dependency on the temporary. It's what leads to what the pastors I was speaking with see today: dependence upon style without substance, providing excitement without durability and promoting glitz and gimmicks without God.
They confirmed what I believe--that there are tens of thousands of pastors:
1. Looking for a pathway to more than transient blessing. However dear the realities of blessings may be, finding the Fountain is far more desirable than only experiencing a shower.
2. Longing for a pattern to mold a vital, stable congregation. There is such a thing as revival that becomes a way of life, rather than but a season of refreshing followed by either disillusionment or another dry spell.
In short, I'm wanting to call together pastors--shepherds of sheep who are tired of running to keep up with the passing parade of the supposed latest prophecy coming down the pike; shepherds who want to lead with substance, Holy Spirit-filled dynamic and biblical durability for the long haul. Such a call to "the durable" is not new, but I don't think it's ever been more needed.
Honesty with my last 40 years of pastoring--especially the last 20--has convinced me that today's church leadership must be retargeted for 2020 A.D. Why? Because too many good and godly leaders are pressed and preoccupied with forces that compel short-term means. Every pastor and church worker is surrounded by pressures to "produce," and too often the result is a rush to: (1) Someone with a plan for church growth; (2) Some place where "the power" is moving, hoping to catch it; or (3) Some way a technique can solve problems.
Too many are driven by short-term goals born of sincere desires to "get in gear with God," to "grow the church," or to "get the anointing." Though worthy the hunger, there is too little in the system to sustain the pursued results if and when they are reached. Too few are helped to focus on what is going to abide.
The weight of learned experience and discoveries are too great for me to overlook. A lifetime of pastoring and the joy of being with tens of thousands of pastors annually for the last 20 years join to my discoveries of the last three years. You discover a lot, spending full weeks at a time with small groups of pastoral leaders like those who have come to consult with me in the Jack W. Hayford School of Pastoral Nurture (there have been nearly 900 participants representing more than 40 denominations, all size churches, all ages of pastors, in groups of 35 to 45 at a time).
All this has persuaded me that most leaders have not been given resources for cultivating long-term, durable, trust-begetting, people-growing ministry. Though I'm neither cynical about the present or critical of anyone's approach, I am convinced that we charismatics/Pentecostals are on the edge of losing a clear definition of the church's discipling mission, and thereby its long-term self-understanding.
And there's more to come. The conversation I mentioned earlier didn't end there.