Originally published in March 2011...

Q & A:
     Pastor Charles, In view of the worldwide economic and political crisis please comment on what you foresee coming to the church in America? B.J.

     CC: In answering the question let me begin with these observations:
        - In the past ten years some 37,000 American churches closed their doors.
        - Churches in the U.S. lose about 2,765,000 members each year as “drop-outs”.
        - For various reasons, 18,000 pastors leave the ministry annually.
        - Only 2.2% of churches in the United States are growing by conversion-increase.
        - At the same time the church is losing ground, the Muslim population in North America increased by 91%. That was a growth from 1.8 million to 3.5 million.
        - In one year--2005–nearly 96,000 people from Islamic countries became permanent residents in the United State. 
     Hear this carefully: In 1970 there were 100,000 Muslims in the United States. Today there are 9 million. Within 30 years there will be 50 million. You do the math. You predict the future.
     In Europe, statistical studies show that the 52 million Muslims there will double within 20 years to 104 million. France already has more mosques in the south than churches and that nation is predicted to become an Islamic country within 35 years. Germany will capitulate sooner than France. Are these new residents friendly to their adopted country? Last fall, immigrant Muslim youths torched tens of thousands of cars in cities across France. They created more havoc and fires than has been seen in France since World War II. During New Year's Eve, immigrants set fires to another 425 cars in cities around France. Earlier, they bombed crowded subways killing many innocent victims.
     This past year I met a Christian brother who lives in a totally-dominated Muslim country. His congregation meets secretly in an insulated, sound-proof room so their worship cannot be heard. When Christians are chopped-down in the streets of his country there is no one to plead for them or challenge their murder. Do I believe the Anti-Christ will rise out of Islam? Absolutely. There is no question in my mind about it.
     With America’s economic crisis, the church’s decline, and the Muslem invasion, I foresee very dark days on our horizon–politically–economically–religiously. Even so, I am happily excited for the future! I believe the American church’s greatest days are yet ahead. Frenzied, wild-fire Revival will hit the streets of the U.S. in spite of Islam, bank-failure, and political crisis. Millions will be saved. The Nation will shake with a Holy Spirit-empowered gospel. But before those days can come, the church must be cleansed of silly religious attitudes and restored to the pattern of the first century. The modern Church only vaguely resembles her pattern in the Book of Acts. In the process of correction much of what we have redesigned as “church” will be shaken and changed. Sheep will be separated from goats, wheat from tares, and true believers from impostors.
     Millions of Christians today naively presume that they–and their church–still maintain the historic principles of their ancestors. Not so. In many cases, only the name remains unchanged. The chimney is still there but the fire is gone. Almost imperceptibly, religious movements that begin in glory slide back into coldness and spiritual death. These urgently need restoration. In the past, when someone appeared on the scene with new anointing, holy energy, and tried to change that condition, church people got very disturbed. They protested loudly, fired the pastor, arranged "block" votes to protect their deadness and keep the congregation in darkness. In the days before us such opposition will not matter to God. When He says, "I am taking back My church!," believers will do well to step out of His way. Their only option is to get trampled in the road of Christian history. The Holy Spirit never causes church disasters–that happens when members resist His will and abortively demand their own way. That action always brings bedlam. I anticipate a pattern here identical to the Church in China. In the Communist purge of believers in the 1950's the Christian population was reduced from millions to less than 50,000. These escaped by going “underground”. Today, in spite of fiery persecution it is estimated that Chinese believers now number more than 100,000,000. Incredible! But, persecution has always been Christianity’s best friend.

      Here is what I predict will happen: The Holy Spirit is going to bring believers back to a “Jesus-identity”–as opposed to their present Baptist-identity, Pentecostal -identity, Lutheran-identity, Catholic-identity, etc, etc. These powerful denominational-identities have evolved over the centuries to the point that the true nature of the church has been long forgotten. I speak rhetorically but John Wesley, John Calvin, John Knox, would come out of their graves screaming if they could see how apostasy has gutted the once powerful Christian movements they began. Seeing that abuse of the church, God has no other choice but to force us into radical change! There will be a “dismantling” of thousands of congregations across America. It is only a matter of time. We have not voluntarily submitted to that part of the will of God. So, He is going to force it upon us. With some that change will come as church finances collapse, mortgages default, banks reclaim church property and close their doors. When this happens there will be a scriptural rearranging of church structure.
     By God’s own demand, the church in America will enter an era where denominational strength will vanish like feathers in the fire. Difficult as it is to believe, at a recent Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the anticipated growth-statistic indicated that the SBC will be gone in just five generations. Unthinkable! Will the Convention change its ways, receive the Baptism in the Spirit which Jesus promised, and allow their churches to explode in growth again? The outlook is not bright. In recent years the Church of England permanently closed more than 600 churches. Many were historic, beautiful buildings that were converted into Mosques. But! Cheer up! At the same time, thousands of new house-churches sprang-up all across Great Britain. Most of these preach and minister in the power of God. The church is not dying–it is simply under-going needed change.

What Else Will Happen?

I predict you will soon be hearing of pastors receiving an inescapable command from the Lord to pack-up and move. Famous ministers in huge churches, at God’s instruction, will walk out of their pulpits, abandon their flocks, and leave congregations screaming for help. Chaotic? Yes! Frightening? Yes! Disastrous? Yes but–only to that part of the church God wants changed. Our base of allegiance must be re-directed from the church to God Himself. Believers will be forced to identify themselves with Jesus and His Kingdom–and then with each other. We will have no other reliable guide but the Holy Spirit. Hear me! We must re-establish a viable, living relationship with the Holy Spirit that operates in full power without reliance on the traditional church. I realize this point needs careful explanation: We will always need the church! Yes! But the contemporary church does not meet the need. This is what I mean when I say that we must re-connect to a “Jesus-identity”.

Hear me carefully: I love the contemporary church! I love Episcopalians, Methodists, Mennonites–by whatever name they are called. God loves them! And I realize I need to be changed as much as those of which I write. I want to be transformed to the pattern of the first century. Above all else, I want to be identified with Jesus and His Kingdom. In the gospels Jesus spoke the word “church” only three times but He spoke of the “Kingdom” more than 130 times. His focus was on the Kingdom. He loved the church, gave Himself for the church, so must we! But if we try to survive with only a “church” relationship we will experience shipwreck. We must be personally identified with Christ by a living, active relationship with the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom of God. What will happen if American Christians are forced to hide like moles in the ground? As in China, believers will end up in secret house churches where denominationalism will become a hollow memory of the past. The Holy Spirit will find a fresh welcome in these places and He will visit them with “signs and wonders”. I can imagine someone now saying, “Pastor, you are scaring me!” I understand. That is why I encourage you to read to the end. Don’t stop here.

Interestingly, the best Scriptural example I can give of change coming to the American Church is found in the Old Testament’s Book of Samuel, Chapter 3:1.

"Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see, and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down, that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, 'Here I am!' So he ran to Eli and said, 'Here I am, for you called me.' And he said, 'I did not call; lie down again ... Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, 'Samuel! Samuel!' And Samuel answered, Speak, Lord, for your servant hears." I Samuel 3.

Eli represented the old order of religion in Israel. That order was God-ordained, genuine, but by Eli's day was surviving wholly on the revelation of its past; it had no fresh word from Heaven, no life-giving inspiration, and had replaced "its first love" with doctrine, formalism, and ritual. Like America’s liberal churches, Eli’s priestly sons were committing sexual sin and encouraging evil in the people they served. Seeing that, God said, "It is time to shut this down and begin a new era." That night, before the lamp of God “went out” and spoke loudly to the boy: "Samuel! Get up! I am making changes!"

Samuel represents God's provision of new life to Israel. As with renewal in today's church, that life was radically different from the one Israel had known in the past. It was in the past. It was Samuel fell into the same slumbering condition as Eli, God prophetic. That new era was confrontational, challenging, confusing. Because of it, Israel's days of uninspired, liturgical worship were ended. Times like that are always painful. People who are spiritually asleep resist such changes--and the insidious thing about sleep--natural or spiritual--is that a person doesn’t know he is asleep until he wakes up.

The spiritual change that God introduced through the boy Samuel has a parallel in the New Testament day in Acts, chapter 2. On the day of Pentecost when Jerusalem was crowded with “devout Jews from every nation under heaven,” (these were the best Jews God had) but these pious men were challenged by what they saw. Pentecost had three strange effects on them: They were “confused, amazed, and perplexed.” To them, these people were drunk–overcome with “new wine.” Their behavior was strange, totally unlike any previous God-encounter the Jews had known before.

Similarly with Eli and Samuel, like it or not, God was making changes. Note that God did not speak to Eli. He had done that earlier and had been refused. Identically, there are denominational boards, church leaders, and pastors today, to whom God has spoken, been refused, and to whom He will not speak again. As with Eli, He is finished with them. Instead, He may speak to the church janitor, a deacon, or Sunday School teacher, fill that one with the Holy Spirit, excite him with visions and dreams, and use him in power-ministry. Acts 2:17. In the past, such men have been forced out of their church, begun a new congregation, and in time exploded in power. Nearly 20 years ago, of the 500 fastest growing churches in America, 450 were not mainline denominational churches. Why? You already know the answer.

Samuel's first reaction to the Voice was to run to Eli for an explanation. In effect, he was asking the "old order" to explain the mystery of God's "new order." That was a mistake. The old order cannot explain what it does not understand. Eli's response was, "I heard no voice. Go back to bed." This is exactly what is happening in the modern church. In many cases, the old church says to its children who have been caught-up in renewal, "You are disturbing my rest. Go back to sleep! Be quiet, remain in the dark, like the rest of us." As an obedient son, Samuel tried to submit to his elder. But the Voice called again. And once more, Samuel returned to Eli. And again, the old man's instruction was, "Go back to sleep!"

The problem is this: When you have heard the Voice of God, you cannot "go back to sleep." That was especially true with Samuel. God's word to him was radical and frightening. It spoke of coming judgment on the house of Eli; "his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them." Correspondingly, some major denominations accept homosexuality in their clergy. Those who disagree are ridiculed as being "unenlightened." When God's message to Samuel had finished, the boy "lay down until morning and opened the doors of the house of the Lord." Scripture indicates that he did not go back to sleep. At daybreak, Eli said to him, "What is the word that the Lord spoke to you. Please do not hide it from me ..." Vs. 17.

Boldly, Samuel told the old man everything--even though it foretold the deaths of Eli, his sons, and his daughter-in-law. 4:11-22. Eli humbled himself and said of the prophecy, "It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him." Vs. 18. Unlike Hezekiah, who, in a similar circumstance "turned his face to the wall and prayed," Eli made no such petition. Faith was gone, fatalism had taken over. But the issue in many churches and denominations is not about people "making themselves vile." Usually, the resistance to God's voice centers upon pet doctrines, religious hobbies, and iron-hard determination to protect denominational-identity.

Hear me carefully: Whether the issue is morality or misappropriation of Scripture, God has not given us the choice to deviate from His Word. Eli's spiritual-eyes may have dimmed with age--but his most pressing concern was to be left undisturbed and to rest in familiar surroundings of the past. Like modern Christians, he wanted things "as they used to be." That deception caused him to ignore God's warning about his sons and Israel's need for spiritual renewal. 3:13. He made the same mistake which numerous others have made: Pride would not allow him to admit his reign was inferior to other High Priests. He assumed that Israel's spiritual life had always been as it was with him. There is no more perfect illustration of church degeneration than with John Wesley. Wesley was a young "Samuel," had the anointing of God upon him, preached in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit, and saw thousands miraculously transformed and saved. Tragically, today, his denominational successors do not even know his language--much less the flaming glory of his ministry.

Arthur Burt, a 98 year-old Welshman who still preaches around the globe--and knew Smith Wigglesworth --received a prophecy in 1934. The prophecy forecasts world-wide Revival and I am happy to share it with you. I believe we will see this powerful move of God come to pass soon after the church’s cleansing and its re-identification with Christ. Speaking under the leading of the Holy Spirit, Arthur said: “It shall come as a breath ... and the breath shall bring the wind ... and the wind shall bring the rain and there shall be floods and floods and floods ... and torrents and torrents and torrents. Souls shall be saved like falling leaves from mighty oaks swept by a hurricane ... and there shall be no ebb.” I add, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus"!

Finally, I return to the question above, “In view of the worldwide economic and political crisis” what do I see coming to the church in America? Hear this: There is good news in Zion. Weep not! In spite of Eli's declining health and drowsy eyes, Samuel is alive and well. He has refused the old man's order to "go back to sleep." Music and dancing come from his part of the Tabernacle. The saints in his care are happy– experiencing the “demonstration of the Spirit and power." I Corinthians 2:1-5. If you don't know where Samuel is, find him! Love him. Support him. Be blessed by him. And pray for others like him, young and old, who are hearing God's voice in the night, whose response is, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening!" These courageous ones, regardless of age, will fan embers in the Church’s cold hearth and hearth and bring roaring fire back to the Body of Christ. Be one of them! Get out of bed! Get ready for the power to seize you! Get ready to run through the camp of Israel with God’s prophetic word! Remember the words of Jesus: "And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; mens hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near!" Luke 21:25-29. Hallelujah! “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus”! Let’s celebrate! Our destiny is not tied to the fate of the world!
CC