More than 25 years of ministry have taught me that a strong foundation must be laid before people are ready to be released into ministry. My wife, Kathy, and I built a foundation for 12 years prior to the revival known as the Smithton Outpouring. This groundwork is what put the people in our congregation in a position to carry the move of God.
The foundation needed for equipping and releasing people includes three components:
1. Adjusting priorities. When we realized the Lord was in our midst in a new way, we came back the next night, then the next night and the next. Before I knew it, we were meeting six times a week. The resulting growth required a whole new level of commitment for church members, volunteers and staff.
But the congregation had heard 12 years of preaching that emphasized forsaking your life and carrying your cross to experience true abundant living. These messages planted seeds in their hearts to embrace a move of God. As people adjusted their priorities by putting the kingdom of God first, they experienced restored relationships, financial miracles and deliverance from drugs and alcoholism. Suddenly they lost interest in those things they had wasted their lives on when their attention was fixed on God.
2. Flowing in the "power of all." America's cultural emphasis on individualism opposes the Jewish culture that initially received the gospel. The culture Jesus grew up in emphasized the group as opposed to the individual.
Unfortunately, our cultural emphasis on individualism has infected the church, making it hard for leaders to get people to move as a group. Kathy and I spent years teaching our church how to pray as a group. Instead of always praying for individual needs, we would take time to concentrate on what the Lord wanted for us as a church.
As we responded as a group to God's heart, people's individual needs were met. They learned the principle of putting the kingdom of God first, which results in things being added to you.
3. Responding to God. When people adjusted their priorities and learned to flow as a group, we began to experience the power of God on a consistent basis. The people responded to the power of God by desiring to be changed and used for His purposes.
Responding to God is one of the greatest challenges for Christians. This struggle is aptly illustrated in Luke 8:35-37, where we read about how the townspeople saw one of their own--a man who had been demon-possessed--set free and in his right mind. But instead of rejoicing, they pleaded with Jesus to leave because they were overcome with fear. They would have preferred that man to remain full of demons, naked and chained. They had become accustomed to demons and fearful of the power of God.
This fear of the power of God is one of the greatest hindrances to effective Christian service. If people could learn to flow with His power, we would see the greatest works of ministry.
For the power of God to empower Christians for service, they must learn how to respond to it. Instead of being afraid of seeing people miraculously set free, we should fear gossip, greed, betrayal, disloyalty and many other sins that are a standard part of church life. But we should never fear God's power.
Our church found that the more people responded to God, the more He would do in our midst. Healings, miracles, signs and wonders became a regular part of our church life.
When a church experiences the power of God, you can't stop people from serving. You will have many willing volunteers. And together you will reap a great harvest. *
Steve Gray and his wife, Kathy, pastor World Revival Church in Kansas City, Missouri. His book, Follow the Fire (Charisma House), is available at www.charismahouse.com.