Today I share the introduction to Terry Virgo’s outstanding book The Spirit-Filled Church. Please buy the book, and consider attending the next 300 Leaders conference where Terry will be teaching material from it. This really sets the tone for the book, which is like a personal manifesto from a master-builder to the global church. You will not have to agree with every word of this book to benefit from reading it.
I am sometimes asked if I am a conservative evangelical. My reply is that it depends what you mean by “conservative”. If by conservative you mean “cautious”, then I guess I am not, but if you mean that as an evangelical I want to conserve biblical Christianity, I most certainly am.
I have occasionally been asked to fill in a questionnaire in which I am required to state whether I am a charismatic or Reformed evangelical Christian. I don’t want to confuse people but, like the apostle Paul, I aim to be both! I believe in an awesome, sovereign God and see no reason to suppose that spiritual gifts as described in the New Testament have been withdrawn from the church.
It is my conviction that local churches hold the key to world evangelization. The early apostles, told to go and make disciples, instinctively went and planted churches where discipleship could take place in a community of love cared for by called and gifted elders. The promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit galvanized them into action. Soon they gained the reputation that they were turning the world upside down!
The gospel of the grace of God set people free and formed them into communities of believers shaped by apostolic doctrine and energized by God’s empowering presence. It is my conviction that the model of the early church still holds the key to 21st-century world evangelization.
The worldview of the average man or woman in the West has been radically transformed in the past century, making the modern mission field look very similar to the one which Paul and the early apostles encountered as they travelled among the nations. Christendom, with all its vague endorsement of Christian values, has gone. Secularism rules, sometimes urged on by aggressive atheism. The church has to rediscover its early zeal, power and gospel clarity. Local churches will need to be seen as relevant to this generation, providing genuine answers, not merely religious platitudes.
Can God be known? Can He be experienced? Are there people on the planet who are genuinely experiencing Him? Few enquirers into Christianity anticipate that they will meet such people. They tend to regard us as merely religious types who have opted out from the real world and embraced a pre-set formula of rules and regulations. Most are unaware of churches filled with people who themselves were formerly unbelievers but who have encountered God, experienced the lavish outpouring of His Spirit and been built into loving communities.
May God help us to continue to make the gospel known to our generation and build relevant churches for His great glory. The following chapters highlight some experiences and biblical principles which have been impressed upon me over the last few decades and which have resulted in the planting of hundreds of churches in many nations.