Have you ever wondered how the early church survived? Not only did they face irrational and hate-filled opposition, they lacked almost all the structures we rely on in the modern church to, well, be church. Consider with me what they did NOT have:
They did not have buildings.
They did not have programs.
They did not have seminaries, universities, or clergy-training systems.
They did not have any organizational plans written down; no flow charts to follow.
They did not have committees or an organized leadership structure.
They did not have bank accounts or financial planning experts.
They did not have any favor with the government.
They did not have any succession plans concerning pastors or other leaders.
They had no history, traditions, or official headquarters.
They did not have a publishing concern, a hymnal, or a mission-sending agency.
They did not provide pensions, healthcare, or guaranteed appointments to clergy.
In short, there was no denominational structure, no institutional organization, no framework to fall back on. But the early church, as you know, not only survived but thrived in an amazing fashion. So what did they HAVE?
They were Spirit-filled and Spirit-led.
They had Spirit-anointed leaders and Spirit-anointed followers.
They were creative and adaptive to circumstances, as the Spirit led them.
They were quick to adjust to persecution, since they were not tied to property or history, but rather, simply to the Holy Spirit.
They were quick to adjust to favor, since they were not tied down to property or tradition, but rather, simply to the Spirit’s leading.
They were tied together by a common faith, not a common structure.
They were yoked together by the Holy Spirit, not by systems or structures.
They truly loved and trusted each other and allowed God to order their days.
They truly trusted the Holy Spirit to raise up leaders and for the Spirit to speak through them.
They were willing to live—or die—for the gospel, which they were not ashamed of.
The early church burned with a common Fire, the Fire of the Spirit, the Spirit of Unity, in a Family and as a Family that had little in the way of formal organization, but rather an abundance of deep relationship, deep love, and deep faith in God and each other. Relationship with God and each other was their “structure.”
What characteristics mark every revival movement over the centuries—even a methodical movement like the early Methodists? You guessed it. Strong in the Lord and in His Spirit, these movements were not encumbered by systems and structures of human origin, but rather were flexible and creative and transformative by the Spirit of the Living God! They thrived on Godly relationships, not organizational gods…
The Fire of God cannot be harnessed or domesticated or reduced to an organizational system. He is God the Holy Spirit and He is looking for people who will burn with Him rather than rely on a safety net of structures.