REACHING THE UNSAVED
in the 21st Century
I was sitting down one evening with one of my friends, who is an independent Christian and former Pentecostal, discussing the state of the churches and how best to reach the unsaved in the new century that is almost upon us. We agreed that society has become so hedonistic and atheistic that the traditional church environment is failing to tackle the more important need for intimate fellowship which only small group ministry can provide. We agreed that church congregations were much too large and that there needed to be more of the small house fellowship-type ministry if any meaningful human contact would result. "You can join one of the mainstream churches," my friend said, "and not get to know anyone for several years."
Since the large upheavals which took place in the New Covenant Church in 1995 we have very much followed this policy of teaching, praying and worshipping with people on a one-to-one or on a very small group basis. It has become increasingly clear to us that the true Church of God in the new century is going to be small and characterised by congregations of perhaps no more than 20 to 100 souls. Our own revelations have said as much over the years though we seem somehow to have missed their import until now. In 1992 the Lord said:
The picture is very clear: in the day of the tribulation -- the last seven years of this dispensation before Christ returns -- the true Church will consist of the Church fellowship called the "New Covenant Church of God", of which this work is a preparation, and small groups of independent Christians wearing no particular denominational badge. The New Covenant Church will, by this time, have disappeared from public view, and be secreted in the twelve places of refuge around the world in the mountains. The remaining Christians will either be in hiding in the cities or, like the New Covenant Christians, be in hiding in the countryside and the great wildernesses.
"All churches will become corrupted in the last day and all institutions will be swept away; But I will preserve the New Covenant [Church] if she hearkeneth unto Me, and save her in the mountains of the north [and other places of refuge]. It shall come to pass in the days of the desolator that there will be no church organisations that belong to Me, saith the Lord, save the New Covenant [Church], but my people shall fellowship in small groups like unto the first Church of Christ in the days when she was persecuted. They will no longer be divided by creed and doctrine but will be united in the love of Christ, saith the Lord. And by this love and holiness they will know and be known, for each saint will be taught by the Holy Spirit and will not stand in need of human instructors [in the elementary principles of the faith]..." (NC&C 345:10-14).
This, however, is the future, though perhaps not quite so distant as we might suppose. But what of the time between now and then? Again, I am convinced (though will be happy to be shown wrong) that this Church will consist of very small local colonies, consisting for the most part of house fellowships which come together from time to time in larger units for conferences and fellowship. Most of the evangelism that takes place will probably be one-to-one, with investigators being introduced and largely nourished in these small house fellowships. The Olive Branch says that these are to congregate in the homes of members and not be larger than 24 souls (NC&C 139:2). They are to be led by Elders and Eldresses (v.1,6) or, in their absence, Deacons and Deaconesses (v.7) who are appointed by the Pastorate of the Local Colony (which itself will be, in effect, a network of house fellowships). The women are also to have their own separate house fellowships under the leadership of Eldresses and Deaconesses (v.10). The purpose of these house fellowships is spelled out very clearly as being "to retain and enhance the newness of life that cometh through [Christ]" (v.13) which is so easily quenched in larger congregational units:
Part of the problem of modern churches, my friend observed in our discussion, is their cliquiness -- there is no wholeness and no sense of family. Unity is largely artificial, build around (in the charismatic churches) imitations of the spiritual gifts. Their very size precludes intimacy.
"Let not your love for each other wax cold, but grow up into a Family of Christ, perfectly united, indivisible and whole" (v.14).
Our mission in the 21st century must be to bring searching souls into the embrace of our family life, both our nuclear families and the New Covenant Church family, and the wider Family of Christ which transcends all ecclesiastical boundaries. Nuclear family life is disappearing fast with millions of children growing up who have no idea what family life actually is. They have never experienced anything but strife, rejection, lovelessness and competitiveness. They need to see and experience an environment of acceptance where they may know true love and spiritual intimacy, where people are transparent enough to let them into their hearts and into a caring atmosphere.
My Christian brother, who works in the Norwegian capitol, shared his vision of reaching people in cities through Christian-owned restaurants where cheap but good quality food is served and where discussion groups, drama and old-time sing-songs take place in order to recreate what is by now an extinct way of rural life where people in a village would regularly gather together to celebrate life and God. They would discuss the environment, sport, current affairs and whatever is burdening peoples' souls and could stay as long as they like. People of all ages will be there, sharing wisdom and experience. Here people will be free to be open and honest about themselves in an atmosphere of good values and peaceful music. He has been nurturing this dream for some years ago and recently met a business man, a millionaire, who shared a similar dream and has offered to invest whatever is required to get such restaurants established around the country. The hand of the Lord appears to be on the project which we, as New Covenant Christians here in Norway, will be supporting. In such an atmosphere it will be possible to speak to people one-to-one in a relaxed atmosphere where they can come and go as they please without feeling they are being brought into a church building and into a net.
This is one project, one vision of evangelism for the next century, which I believe could be effective if it catches on. I believe that good old-time witnessing on the streets, through tracts, the media, Internet, and the like will continue, though principally it will be through personal contacts. As God's people surrender more of their lives to Christ and allow the Spirit to move freely through them, they will be led by inspiration to special places and people where their witness can be effective. I believe that electronic media like the Internet will become increasingly important, at least as the first stage of making contact, and those who are thereafter moved to go deeper can then meet up with other New Covenant Christians and explore the Gospel in a family context.
Society in the next century will be even more fragmented than before. People will be even more mistrustful as crime escalates and families disintegrate, to be replaced by Orwellian substitutes. We will again see the State acting as Father and Mother as parents abrogate more and more of their responsibilities. Human feelings will be fragile and insular. Therefore such media as the community restaurants I have mentioned and the InterNet will become increasingly important, all backed up by the humble House Fellowship. The big churches will become spiritual shells, institutions of religion but not of Christian life. The big churches will rapidly become appendages of the state and instruments of the dictatorship of the Babylonian New World Order. So I believe the day of evangelism in church institutions as we know them may well be coming to an end.
The Olive Branch reveals graphically the state of the churches:
I have understood since that these people have been placed in the churches by God to be a Light and a leavening influence until they are no longer welcome, are persecuted, and then thrown out. Then they will congregate with the New Covenant and with other similar groups. These people feel very lonely, isolated, and rejected. Many of them have deep spiritual wounds because they were rejected in what was supposed to be the House of God, but which was not. Both they, and unbelievers who are the spiritual beggars off the street whom Jesus said would be gathered in the last day (Mt.22:9), will form the living Body of Christ that will mark the true Church in the days immediately before, and during, the Great Tribulation.
"...I saw a vision of countless souls divided up according to the Christian churches of which they were members. And in this great mass of people I saw particular individuals who stood out from the rest, one or two per congregation of one hundred or more. Some were Pentecostals, some Baptists, some Catholics -- indeed, it seemed that most denominations were represented. And I perceived that all these souls, though unaware of each other, were nevertheless very much alike in nature. All radiated a loving warmth and an openness -- there was no evil to be found in them, and it became immediately obvious to me that these were the remnant of the 144,000 firstborn upon the earth. In looking upon them I realised that God saw the righteousness of these people and not the denominations or churches to which they belonged. They were numbered and sealed His because of their holiness and not because of their association with any particular church. I felt a desire to be with these souls, to fellowship with them, and to worship the Lord with them. It was a most peaceful and satisfying experience. The vision, which I saw twice, lasted no more than 5 to 10 seconds on each occasion" (NC&C 318).
This page was created on 10 April 1998
Last updated on 10 April 1998
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