Evangelical Essentials

Some of God’s greatest work is done outside the confines of our religious structures.

There are glorious exceptions, but I take the view that God's glory is usually found "outside the camp," as in Hebrews 13:13: "Let us therefore go forth unto him outside the camp, bearing his reproach" (ASV). I would define God's glory in this case as His immediate approval—even if it is not recognized by the "camp." I would define "camp" in this column as the traditional establishment, where the power and influence largely prevails—as in a denomination or fairly organized movement.

Most denominations that once experienced the anointing of the Spirit can trace their early growth to a movement outside the camp. They often began as a small, often despised, group—sometimes nicknamed a "sect."

The very church of God was exactly that in the book of Acts. Three thousand may have been converted on the day of Pentecost, but it was an extremely small percentage of the Jewish population in Jerusalem. Paul acknowledged that it was spoken of as a "sect" by his Roman contemporaries (see Acts 24:14). In the course of church history the distinction was often drawn between the "given" congregation (established religion) vis-à-vis the "gathered" congregation.

What must not be forgotten is the stigma—offense—that was attached to the group outside the camp. It was almost always despised, scorned and underestimated at first. Those outside the camp usually encountered a sense of embarrassment since they were always looked down upon. The stigma always hurts. Perhaps the best way to understand this stigma is that it is embarrassing!

But why would God's approval be on those outside the camp (assuming of course that they were truly spiritual as well as biblically and theologically sound)?

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The answer is, God is unhappy with the religious establishment—even if it remains theologically sound—when it becomes smug, rich, prestigious, powerful and in need of nothing. This dynamic is vividly illustrated in Jesus' letter to the church at Laodicea—a church He threatened to "spew" out of His mouth in disgust (see Rev. 3:16). God loves to show His approval on those who seek the honor that comes from Him alone rather than the glory that comes from one another (see John 5:44).

When I first preached for John Arnott at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship I had a most embarrassing experience. I couldn't preach! I chose an old sermon that I knew backward and forward but could not put two sentences together. The crowd of 5,000 laughed their heads off at me, but it wasn't funny to me.

It was the nearest I ever came to experiencing the "Toronto Blessing." After 15 minutes of agony I felt that the Holy Spirit prompted me to turn to Hebrews 13:13, not knowing then what it was. I gave up on the old sermon and began preaching with tremendous freedom on going outside the camp.

The laughing subsided. You could hear a pin drop. Hundreds (many ministers and church leaders included) flocked to the front when I gave the invitation. It was a memorable evening. I soon found out that on the very day I preached that sermon on Hebrews 13:13, they changed their name to Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. It turned out to be the first sermon in the new church after they had been disenfranchised from their own movement.

In my book The Anointing: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Charisma House) I argue that if the Holy Spirit were completely withdrawn from the church today, speaking generally, 90 percent of the work of the church would simply carry on as if nothing had happened.

Do you find yourself "outside the camp"? Be encouraged. You are following an ancient pattern that could mean you have God's approval far more than the establishment that may look down on you. But be careful. Don't get smug too. What is outside the camp today usually becomes the camp tomorrow.

R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is the author of numerous books, including Total Forgiveness, The Anointing, The Word and the Spirit and most recently, Just Say Thanks. His Web site is www.rtkendallministries.com.

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