John encourages church leaders and laypeople alike what can happen when the Church “catches on fire,” courtesy of Alliance Corporate Vice President and Metro District Superintendent Kelvin Walker.View Transcript
– [John Stumbo] I’m excited to bring to you a message from Kelvin Walker, our Metro District superintendent and corporate vice president. You’re gonna be impacted by what he has to say. Earlier this year, Kelvin Walker was invited to speak at Exponential, one of the larger Christian conferences in America. Because of the significance of his message, I’ve chosen to extend the normal 12 minutes of this video blog and show that message in its entirety.
First, let me make you aware that Council registration is now open. Spokane 2023 is gonna be a significant event for the Alliance family under the theme “Expectant.” God always meets with us as individuals, as we hunger for Him, but when we come together corporately, there seems to be a unique work of God in our midst that I don’t want you to miss. This year, we will have a return of our exhibit hall. We will have the privilege of returning to the national conversation on the Statement of Faith and men and women in leadership. There’ll be ministry for children, an event for youth workers, and a film festival as part of the week. So, please mark your calendars for May ’23, and register today for Council. Now, here’s Kelvin.
– [Kelvin Walker] For our time together today, we’re gonna look at 1 Corinthians 12. And while we’ll be looking at verses 1-11, for the sake of time, I just wanna read together verse 1, verse 7, and verse 11 that say this: “Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.” Verse 7: “Now to each one, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. All these are the work of the one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one just as he determines.” If I were gonna put a title on this message, it would be this: “When the Church Catches On Fire.” “When the Church Catches On Fire.”
There’s an old African proverb of which I was reminded this week as I was talking to a friend. And the proverb goes like this: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Going alone, you’ll get there quickly, you’ll get there unencumbered, you’ll get there uninterrupted, you’ll get there unhindered. You might even get there in the most expeditious manner that you can think of. But I submit to you that the problem with going alone is the getting there. You see, when you go alone, you get there, but it’s solely dependent upon you. And though you might arrive quickly, you arrive alone. And no matter how well you do, and no matter how good you feel about what you’ve done, there will still be something lagging in the result. But there is something about going together, something about building together, something about discerning together, something about creating an environment where everyone gets to contribute, where everyone gets to play, where everyone gets to be a part that brings an outcome of greater, that’s far greater, far more expansive, and far more joyous than anything that anyone could ever imagine. It may take some time. There may be some frustrating moments that you have to walk through. Going together might not be as expedient or efficient, but the outcome of going together will be far more efficacious for the Kingdom. You want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
You see, in the Kingdom, we aren’t called to go fast, we’re designed to go far. In the Kingdom, we aren’t called to go alone, we are designed to go together. In the Kingdom, things aren’t ever meant to be built upon the gifts and the anointing and the empowerment of one individual; but rather in the Kingdom, it’s designed to advance through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, so He releases gifts and empowers the Body. And empowered leaders, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, are called to build a culture of an empowered Body. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Here’s the other thing about going alone. You can easily become convinced that it’s about you, and you can easily do it in your own strength. But not so when we go together, for we quickly realize that in order to keep things together, in order to keep things moving together, in order to keep on the same track, in order to keep the same vision, we need a strength that’s not our own.
And so dependent is the Body to be on the move, on the filling, on the anointing and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, that everything done outside of Him will seem strange and incomplete and laborious and wanting. And though it might seem excellent to you, it is noticeably empty and devoid of authority because you know you’re doing it in your own strength. The late Dr. A. W. Tozer said it this way: “The Church was never intended to be a natural and intellectual organization, but a supernatural instrumentality wholly dependent upon the power of God.” Not in our own strength, but in His strength. The New Testament Church got this. They understood and practiced three clear things. They practiced this: Empowered leaders empower the Body. They practiced this: The Body advances the Kingdom together. They practiced this: The Holy Spirit is our only source for empowerment. But further, because they understood these things, the New Testament Church was an empowered Church on fire. The Apostle Paul was an empowered leader who understood the importance of an empowered Body when it came to advancing the Kingdom. He also understood the importance of making sure that everyone’s gifts were deployed in the work of the Kingdom.
There’s an overarching message that Paul wants the Church at Corinth to know. No community of believers is complete unless the gifts of the Spirit given to the Body can operate in full capacity. And while he may be correcting some of the misuses of the miraculous or signed gifts that were going on, I want to submit to you that the principles Paul is teaching to the Church of Corinth apply to all the gifts of the Spirit that we can see in Romans 12 or Ephesians 4 or 1 Peter 4—the gifts of service, the gifts of leadership, the gifts of administration, the gifts of generosity, the gifts of faith. And in the few moments that we have left together, this text begs a question about which we must inquire: What does Paul intend for us, as empowered leaders, to learn today about the galvanizing power of the gifts of the Spirit for the entire Body of Christ? Or should I say, the empowered Body of Christ?
I’d like to submit to you that the first lesson I see here is this: The gifts of the Spirit for collective equipping. The gifts of the Spirit are for collective equipping. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone, it is the same God at work. Maybe another way of saying it is this way: The gifts of the Spirit are for everybody, and everybody gets to play. They’re for everybody, and everybody gets to play. I have looked at, as I was preparing for this, this phrase in the Eucharist that’s spoken in a lot of liturgical churches as they are celebrating together around the table: “The gifts of God for the people of God.” And when I see that phrase, I’m constantly reminded of the gifts of God that they’re talking about, the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. But as I reflect on this, and I think about the gifts and the Spirit and the Body, I think the gifts of God for the people of God would apply here also. Everybody gets to play.
Second, the gifts of the Spirit, He owns them; we steward them. He owns them; we steward them. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given.” And what we do is we look for the particular gift, but they belong to Him. He owns them. The gifts of the Spirit belong to the Spirit and are given by the Spirit to those who walk in the Spirit. Let me say that again. The gifts of the Spirit belong to the Spirit and are given by the Spirit to those who walk in the Spirit. They’re not my gifts, they’re not your gifts; they are His gifts, and we steward them when we build an empowered culture.
Third, the gifts of the Spirit are meant to unite and not divide. They are meant to unite and not divide. And friends, in building an empowered culture, we spend too much time arguing over the gifts rather than trusting the Spirit to pour out His gifts. They’re meant to unite us, to get us on mission together so that we go together. And here’s something else, maybe we have a struggle with receiving all that the Spirit has for us because we look at the gifts in terms of the package that they come in. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about His empowerment, building the Body, us moving together.
And then finally, the gifts of the Spirit: Empowerment for all who are on mission. Maybe another way of saying it is this: The gifts of the Spirit released in an empowered Body where everyone is working together and moving together and partnering together and taking their place and making the Body complete together is evidence that God is on the move, the Kingdom is advancing, and the Church is on fire. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
So, what about this title, “When the Church is On Fire?” Well, I grew up in Oyster Bay, Long Island. My dad was an associate pastor in what I would call a “bapticostal church.” And one of … yeah, I know, right? A “bapticostal church.” We were Baptists that worshiped like Pentecostals. How’s that? And one of the songs that we would sing in what we call devotion, that time of praise and worship before the service began, was this song:
♪ Well, I wish somebody’s soul would catch on fire ♪
♪ Catch on fire, catch on fire ♪
♪ Well, I wish somebody’s soul would catch on fire ♪
♪ Burning with the Holy Ghost ♪
If I were going to write a second verse to go with that first verse, it would be equally as simple: “I wish somebody’s church would catch on fire, burning with the Holy Ghost.” You see when an empowered leader’s soul catches on fire, and he or she catches a vision for going far rather than going fast through building and empowering the culture where everyone gets to use the gifts of the Spirit as pour out on them, then the Church catches on fire, burning with the Holy Ghost.
When an empowered leader builds an empowered culture, the leader doesn’t have to be the only one laying hands on the sick and praying for healing. The Body is equipped and trained and empowered to lay hands on the sick and pray for healing. And the sick become well, and the Church catches on fire, and everybody gets to play. When an empowered leader builds an empowered culture, the leader doesn’t have to do all the administration, those who are gifted with administration will be freed up to step forward and say, “Let me take that off your hands.” And the administration gets done, and the Church catches on fire, and everyone gets to play. When an empowered leader builds an empowered culture, the leader doesn’t have to be the only one discerning the next steps that the Lord desires for the church to take. He or she can call together to discerners in the Body, and together they discern the will of the Lord for the Body, and the Church catches on fire, and everybody gets to play. When an empowered leader builds an empowered culture, the leader doesn’t have to be the only one praying to receive a prophetic word for the Body. She or he can bring together the prophets in the house to lean in together and ask, “Is there a word from the Lord?” And the Lord gives a word, and the Church catches on fire, and everyone gets to play. When an empowered leader builds an empowered culture, he or she doesn’t have to be the only one who has to have faith to see that God moves together. He builds the community of faith and calls on those who have the gift of faith, and together they believe in faith. And the power of faith rubs off, and the Church catches on fire, and everyone gets to play—the gifts of the Spirit for the equipping of the Body.
The gifts of the Spirit—He owns them; we steward them. The gifts of the Spirit are meant to unify, not divide. The gifts of the Spirit are empowerment for all on mission. Brothers and sisters, if the work of the Kingdom is dependent on your gifts and not the gifts the Spirit gives to the Body, then it’s all done by you, is all dependent on you, and ultimately it will end with you. But if the work of the Kingdom is built upon the leading and the filling and the ministry and the gifts of the Holy Spirit as He empowers the Body, then the world will see that God is on the move, the gospel is being preached, Jesus is being exalted, the Kingdom is advancing. Empowered leaders are empowering the Body, the collective community is going far because they’re going together. The Holy Spirit is the power source, the Church is on fire, and everyone gets to play.