Apr 19, 2005
By James Rutz
Author, MEGASHIFT: Igniting Spiritual Power
You are not who you think you are, the world you think you live in is not the real world, and the real future will be quite different from the one you expect. Unless you are exceptionally well informed, you are in for some shocks — pleasant shocks — that will rearrange your mental furniture.
Do You Believe These Famous Fables?
This article will attempt to puncture seven stubborn
myths. Stated far too briefly:
1. You are a sinner.
2. It is your duty to sit quietly in a church building every Sunday morning for a worship service.
3. The final, most important thing in life is to get to heaven.
4. Your chances of ever working miracles are almost nil.
5. Modern church practices are based on the Bible, and they are a permanent part of the church.
6. The church isn’t growing much.
7. The world is going to hell in a handbasket.
Yes, you can spot some partial truths there. But overall, these myths should come with a warning label: HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH. So let’s get started on the true picture, the great facts.
I’ll reverse the myths and state them positively …
Welcome to a New Life in 7 Dimensions
Here is the new reality in seven easy lessons:
1. You are a saint. I love to ambush my students by starting off fast, barking the question, HOW MANY SINNERS DO WE HAVE HERE?
Most of them raise their hands . . . while glancing around nervously to make sure they’re not the lone sucker to fall for a trick question.
I quickly inform them that it is a trick question—and they are relieved.
“When,” I ask them, “did Paul ever write a letter to the sinners in Ephesus? … or Philippi or Colossae or Corinth or Rome?”
It should seem natural to think of yourself as a saint. See how jarring it is when you yank out “saints” and insert “sinners” into these familiar verses:
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His sinners.”
“Greet Philologus and Julia … and all the sinners who are with them.”
“Do you not know that the sinners shall judge the world?”
“All the sinners greet you.”
“…to equip the sinners for the work of ministry…”
“Earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the sinners.”
“…golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the sinners.”
When the Scripture calls us saints, why do we insist on calling ourselves sinners?
We’ve had it drummed into us for so long that we are “sinners” that we find it hard to change our self-image.
We also have a hard time being brothers and sisters of Christ, even though the Bible tells us, “For those whom He foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29)
We even have a hard time thinking of ourselves as being, like Moses, a friend of God. (Exodus 33:11) Yet Jesus said, “I do not call you servants any longer … but I have called you friends …” (John 15:15)
Now, let me state strongly right here that Christians do sin. I have been a fascinated observer of church folks for over half a century, and—oh, baby— do we ever sin. Yours truly included prominently.
The difficulties come raining down when we adopt “sinner” as our main identity (instead of a former identity that is fading away). The damage goes way beyond a bruised self-image; the heavy damage is that the “sinner” label pulls the rug out from under our attempts at ministry. “Sinner” is a synonym for evildoer, lawbreaker, and other nasty words. How then can we be optimistic about the tasks of world evangelization and discipleship and Kingdom-building being completed by a global mass of transgressors, degenerates, reprobates, rebels, scoundrels, hellions, villains, and other good-for-nothing pond scum? You see the total semantic clash.
We’ve had it drummed into us for so long that we are “sinners” that we find it hard to change our self-image.
I touch on this topic in MEGASHIFT in chapter three and chapter four, section 23. There I make this comment on the fine line between a saintly sinner and a sinful saint:
Am I splitting a hair? I think not. This is a major issue. The whole Nicolaitan system of oppression was built [in medieval times] upon the creation of a permanent underclass of “sinners” who could be managed by an elite clergy, holy men wearing holy robes and giving holy sermons in a holy sanctuary on the holy day. Once you let the unholy herd realize they are saints, the spell is broken, freedom breaks out all over, and the whole man-eating superstructure of unbiblical traditions begins to crumble. Soon you could see a stampede toward something better.
2. It is not your duty to sit quietly in a church building for a worship service every Sunday.
Let’s see: Subtract two Sundays for vacation, that leaves you fifty sermons a year to sit through.
Take that times, say, 70 years if you keep your nose clean, and you have 3,500 sermons to endure. Whoa! What did you ever do to deserve that?
Get clear on this: We are kings, queens, and priests. If you have a problem with that, take it up with St. Peter when you see him! He’s the one who wrote, “But you are a chosen race, a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a holy nation, a people belonging specially to God, that you may make known the [multi-faceted] excellence of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9) See also Exodus 19:6.
Kings, queens, and priests should not have to stay seated as if they were second-class citizens of their Kingdom … or remain silent as if they had nothing to say about God’s multi-faceted excellence.
But even if you were an illiterate peon, you would still have an inalienable right to speak up: “Whenever you meet, each one has something to contribute: a song, a piece of teaching, some special information God has given him, a message in an unknown language or an explanation of what it means.” (I Corinthians 14:26) N.B.: “Whenever” includes the 11:00 A.M. “celebration time” that church leaders hog so zealously.
A fixed pattern of regular performances for an audience is unbiblical. This was even the conclusion of a 2002 study at Fuller Seminary on the topic of open, interactive meetings: “There simply is no other model for Christian church meetings found in the Bible. Strictly speaking, there is no Biblical justification, not even one passage, for conducting typical closed, non-interactive church meetings.” (cited in MEGASHIFT)
Yes, we should meet with other Christians: “…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the custom of some is, but encouraging one another…” Notice, though, that the idea is not mere attendance; it’s coming in order to encourage the others. Holding down a pew cushion does not qualify.
There is a lot in MEGASHIFT about miracles, church growth, new strategies, and new models of sainthood. But its most central topic is the house church, open fellowships where everyone participates and everyone gets help and encouragement. And when a committed team gets together in true freedom, meetings run approximately two and a half hours … because nobody wants to leave! Attendance once a week isn’t even an issue; the body life goes on 24/7.
The issue between open and closed church styles is not a matter of personal preference or denominational customs. It’s a matter of obedience to the Word of God.
3. Discipleship is a head-spinning ride, and salvation is your boarding pass.
So you’re a Christian now. Great! That means you’re going to heaven instead of hell, and you’re never going to die. That’s a very big deal indeed.
But having your name written in the Lamb’s book of life is not the end of your story. It’s only the beginning.
Salvation may look now like the end point of your spiritual quest, but it’s only the start point for a slingshot launch into an open-ended adventure that will rocket on beyond a trillion years, bringing you: “Things which the eye has not seen and the ear not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, such things as God has prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)
Jesus gave us these marching orders:
“Go therefore and make disciples [not converts!] of all nations . . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
So your goal is not just to squeak into heaven, but to progress from convert to servant to disciple to bondslave to overcomer. (Conspicuously absent from this list are functions like apostle or teacher and titles like archbishop or reverend or metropolitan.)
Take a look at these eight stunning promises:
1) To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)
2) Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life. . . . He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. (Revelation 2:10-11)
3) To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. (Revelation 2:17)
4) To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations . . . just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. (Revelation 2:26)
5) He who overcomes will … be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. (Revelation 3:5)
6) Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. (Revelation 3:12)
7) To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21)
8) He who overcomes will inherit all this [the New Jerusalem and the water of life], and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:7)
Seriously, would you like to sit on the throne with Christ and rule the nations? Can you see yourself receiving the other promised things too? If not, you’re shortchanging yourself in this great enterprise we call life.
Don’t settle for an economy class ticket to heaven. You have every right to go for the grand tour of the universe. Where to start? Right here at ground level. Read about the Spiritual Growth Cycle in your free bonus How to Stop Sinning and Keep Growing. And see chapter five in MEGASHIFT on “The New Meetings,” an explanation of what we actually do in open meetings—a topic not covered comprehensively in any other book I know of.
4. You now have a green light to do greater things than Jesus did.
So far, my research has found 52 countries where God has raised people from the dead, mostly in the past 15 to 20 years—all duly footnoted in MEGASHIFT. And that’s only the tip of a gigantic iceberg of healings and other miracles too vast to catalog.
Needless to say, this sort of thing was not going on regularly before our time. In fact, some early centuries had a marked drought of the miraculous. But suddenly, for reasons I don’t fully understand, God has opened up the floodgates, pouring out the authority to work miracles all over the world. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me can do the same miracles I have done, and even greater things than these shall you do because I’m going on to my Father.” (John 14:12) That word is being fulfilled in spades right now, so you’ve showed up at the perfect point in history. From now on, you can be doing things that even your mother never thought you could. And I think you’ll enjoy the adventure of life as never before.
Now if I may tread delicately on some dangerous ground, I’m finding that the Lord is widely delegating authority that in the past was seen only in a few Bible figures and other stellar saints. In numerous ways, this empowerment extends to “taking command” in spheres like economics, public health, government, crime, agriculture, and non-Christian religions. (Go to www. sentinelgroup.org and be encouraged by their opening video. And order their Transformations, a video/DVD on this topic that can only be described as world-shaking.)
Such a megashift of power could be abused, as you can imagine, but it’s hard to avoid the facts: Many hundreds of cold-body resurrections (not near-death experiences, but the real thing) and uncounted millions of other miracles are being done in the name of Jesus Christ today. By whom? By a huge army of nobodies—nameless, faceless saints who are unqualified except by their burning desire to be used of God in making His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
5. A new Christianity has appeared, and it is destined to supersede the old.
You have an opportunity today to take a strong role in the biggest church revolution of all time. It is this:
Worldwide, God is restoring responsible Christianity, a style of life where every believer takes a truly active role in ministry and meetings rather than dumping all the work onto pastors, elders, missionaries, committee chairmen, and the ultimate dumpee for all the church’s messy details, the church secretary.
I’m not talking about any new doctrines here. The Megashift brings no theological novelties. I’m talking about a complete 100% change in how we do things. (This is covered in more detail in chapter four of MEGASHIFT, “The New Church.”) The church’s center of gravity is shifting from large audiences to small open fellowships, from spectator Christianity to team Christianity. You will want to be on one of those small teams after you read MEGASHIFT: Igniting Spiritual Power.
In early 1993 I was having lunch at the CBN cafeteria in Virginia with Dr. C. Peter Wagner, often recognized as the leading authority on church growth today.
As we discussed church progress, he said to me, “The biggest turning point for the church in this century was 1972.”
I stared at him blankly. So he continued, “…when Body Life by Ray Stedman was published.”
I was astounded at the insight. But he was right. Ray did break the ice when he wrote about how his large church got such great results by opening the floor to all present. And since 1972, God has drawn millions of Christians into interactive small groups worldwide. Nothing has been quite the same since.
Even more startling than Peter’s comment to me is the megashift being made by a few top pastors and denominational leaders in North America. In a word, they’re coming out in favor of house churches. To house church veterans, that sounds kind of like the Pope endorsing Luther!
For example, John Arnott, well-known pastor of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, wrote a lead article in Spread the Fire, TACF’s magazine (Issue 5, 2004), entitled “Let’s Get Back to Supernatural Church!” Some quotes:
“If we are going to reach this world for Jesus, we need a completely new model of ‘doing church.’ I don’t know why we can’t have ‘church’ in homes, offices, schools, coffee shops, or even outside for that matter. Why can’t we have church meetings that are facilitated by an army of non-professional yet anointed Christians and have them meet whenever and wherever it works for them?…
“…I believe that the Church fulfilled the mission of Jesus better when it was unorganized and decentralized and even persecuted…. But once Christianity became acceptable and developed political status, a man-made hierarchy developed and religious form began to replace its dynamic, supernatural life….
“What is happening [today]? It is His Church, without walls, without central government, moving in His authority and power to see supernatural miracles and conversions happening at an unprecedented rate….
“I recently heard a report of a young Chinese girl, seventeen years of age, who pastors a church of 20,000 people. How is this possible? There is no central system to tell her ‘no’… [emphasis added]
“All of us can be ‘little anointed ones’ carrying God’s Kingdom wherever we go to whomever we meet. This is the real Church He intended, His Church, His body of called out ones, moving in His anointing and power. And indeed, this is the phenomenon that is now sweeping the world….
“It is time for those of us who live in the West to take a reality check. Church as we know it is not really working here.”
That, from the pastor of a church which has attracted three to four million visitors in recent years!
The church without walls that Arnott described is back again--for the fourth time in 2,000 years.
The first time it broke out was in Jerusalem--rapidly, from house to house. It spread rapidly to every outpost of the Roman Empire.
But in 313, persecution came to a halt, and Christianity collapsed as the church changed from a warm, interactive family to a passive audience of powerless victims of a government-backed, clergy-run hierarchy.
When Emperor Constantine took over the church in A.D. 325 and turned it into a professionally-run institution, the church without walls broke out again-- underground. The Roman establishment called all non- Catholics “heretics” and pursued them with the sword. For a thousand years, house churches existed by the skin of their teeth.
Then in the years before the Reformation of 1517, they popped up again. This time, they were called Waldenses, Anabaptists, Moravians, Mennonites, and a whole string of more colorful names: Stabler! Catharer! Winckler! Rottengeister! (none of them very nice).
Reformers like Luther and Calvin got their early inspiration from these “heretics” but quickly turned against them and sided with military/state powers that could protect them, powers that preferred to preserve the structures of a professional clergy-dominated church. While they bravely fought the Catholics on one front, they stomped the apostolic-style church on the other.
And they prevailed. They purified our doctrine but left us with all the rest of the relics of the Middle Ages.
Since their time, we have witnessed hundreds of attempts by the Spirit of God to reach out to a hurting world through His vast army of laymen. The most notable among them were the trial bands, class meetings, band meetings, and select bands of the Wesleyan part of the Great Awakening. But every effort, right up to the Jesus People movement of the 1960s and ‘70s, was pushed aside or gobbled up by the ecclesiastical establishment.
In our lifetimes, we have seen some remarkable moves of God: the Pentecostal revival, the strong stand of Fundamentalism, the rise of neo-evangelicalism, the Charismatic movement, the parachurch explosion, and more. But now, in approximately the last 15 to 20 years, we have seen the rise of the broadest movement of them all, the fourth resurgence of laity-driven assemblies. And this time, the move has extremely broad backing from a highly informed laity and a few pastors. It will not be contained. Already, 85% of America’s churches have small, cell-type sub-groups that meet in homes; they aren’t independent house churches, but they are an earnest effort to bring open participation and body life to traditional church people.
Make no mistake: The real church is the Body of Christ—with believers acting as a body under Him as the Head . . . not just an organization with believers acting as an audience of spectators while overworked clergy burn themselves out trying to do what the whole church should be doing. It’s the church right-side-up, with the work being done by empowered nobodies.
After 1700 years of wandering in the institutional wilderness, the Lord’s people are finally beginning to enter the promised land.
6. True Christianity is a massive snowball.
Boeing never had a 707 that moved like this: I have pinpointed the growing heart of the evangelical Christian faith, and it’s 707 million believers who are growing at 8% a year. If that isn’t a major announcement, I don’t know what is!
Until now, the worldwide picture on church growth was clouded by one confusing factor: Major parts of the church in North America and Europe are dying, so when you mix in their declining numbers with the rising numbers of the 707 million “core apostolics” (as I call them), you water down a remarkable growth story.
That story is told in MEGASHIFT, especially in endnote 15 in chapter one. But in case you weren’t fond of algebra in high school, the basic point is that a growth rate of 8% a year, if continued precisely, would soon cause our 707 core to exceed the population of the whole world.
Of course, straight-line projections never, never go in a straight line, so you can’t get on a soapbox and preach about the end of the world by a certain date. But below is a very encouraging timeline of where we’ve been, courtesy of the U.S. Center for World Mission:
Ratio of Non-Believers Worldwide to Bible-Believing Christians
Year -- % of Believers Worldwide -- Ratio of Non-believers to Believers
100 -- — -- 360:1
1430 -- 1% -- 99:1
1790 -- 2% -- 49:1
1940 -- 3% -- 32:1
1960 -- 4% -- 24:1
1970 -- 5% -- 19:1
1980 -- 6% -- 16:1
1983 -- 7% -- 13:1
1986 -- 8% -- 11:1
1989 -- 9% -- 10:1
1993 -- 10% -- 9:1
1997 -- 11% -- 8:1
2000 -- 13% -- 7:1
If you don’t enjoy rows of numbers, what they’re saying is this: We’re only outnumbered seven to one now … and Team Jesus is on a roll!
Do you see the picture? Can you feel in your spirit the excitement of what the Lord has done over the centuries? Like ripples from a stone thrown in a pond, the redeeming power of God has spread from Ur in 2000 B.C. to most of the nations and cultures of the world.
Back in the “golden days” of early Christianity, we were outnumbered by 360 pagans for every believer. That’s pretty intimidating. Today, we are over 13% of the world. (That’s counting more than our 707 million core apostolics; it’s counting all whose beliefs are based on the Bible rather than a church tradition that significantly distorts basic, historic Christianity.)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: If you’re choking on the valdity of these growth numbers, remember the current shift to small teams instead of huge congregations. When a house church with ten people doubles in a year, that’s easy to believe. Happens all the time. But for a megachurch of 2,000 to double in a year . . . yow! That would be a stretch. Moral: To grow big, get small.
7. The Christian faith is displacing all other religions.
We’re winning! You will probably live to see a world that is over 50% Christian, at least in name. If you’re young, make that closer to 100%. And you may play a major role in that shift. If you start asking God for such a role and begin using the principles in MEGASHIFT, you and your team could soon be growing as fast as the Christians in India and China.
I’m not an eschatologist (a student of end times), but I read more than my fair share of news, and from my seat in the bleachers it looks like history is heading toward a mighty fast finish.
I could rattle on for a hundred pages about the megaforces pushing humanity toward Paradise—or the Pit. I know you’ll forgive me if I skip the Pit side of the picture. What you probably want to know today is the Paradise scenario. In a nutshell, it’s this: The Lord Jesus Christ is rapidly taking over the world.
As I said in the main article on this site, my statistics show Islam, Humanism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism being rapidly displaced by that growing core of 707 million dedicated disciples (who account for 89% of the total Christian growth). By popular acclaim, the world could soon be almost all Christian. Look at the horizon from atop a mountain of history and through the spyglass of Scripture, and you will see that Islam is doomed, Hinduism is failing, and Humanism is on the ropes.
I don’t have space to discuss the collapse of each world religion, but since Islam is in the public eye, I’ll close with a couple of pages about the religion of Mohammed. . . .
What you saw on September 11, 2001, was not just the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, but the start of the collapse of Islam.
Satan has overplayed his hand again. God gave him enough rope, and he has hanged himself. The Devil so loves suffering that he keeps doing dumb things—like driving the early Christians out of Jerusalem in order to eradicate Christianity. (All it did was spread the gospel all over the Mediterranean.)
Contrary to the PC mantra being recited in Washington, Islamism (the militant segment of Islam) is the enemy. People are now realizing that. Out of the two dozen armed conflicts around the globe today, most involve Islamists, mainly as aggressors. About 30%- 40% of Muslims worldwide are sympathetic to the Jihad against America.
You’ll notice I didn’t say that all Muslims are the enemy. Over the past 40 years, I’ve been enriched and blessed in spending many an hour with wonderful Muslim friends. In the main, they are more hospitable than Americans, more loyal, more moral, and their kids make ours look like brats! In fact, freedom-loving Muslims are, in many nations, the #1 victims of these slaughter-focused maniacs. They can tell you heartbreaking tales of losing friends and family to radical assassins in their own homelands.
But the true enemy is within radical Islam, deeply entrenched in the hearts of 300-400 million envy-driven, America-hating Islamists from Indonesia to the Gaza Strip. That’s why the governments of the world have no solution to this problem; only praying Christians do. A thousand terrorist cells are no match for a thousand rings of committed Christians who know their Lord and know their charge to disciple the world.
The Lord brought down Soviet communism in 1989. Since then, He has brought down spiritual strongholds of evil in many other nations, greatly increasing the response to evangelism. And now, God has caused Islam to implode.
Christ is so eager to bring Muslims into the Kingdom that He has taken the unusual step of doing much or most of the grass roots evangelism Himself. In person! Guesstimates are that Christ has recently appeared to over a million Muslims in a dream or vision. In about 70% of cases, He appears as (don’t ask me why) a white man dressed in a white robe, and He speaks some variation of John 14:6: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” Whole villages have turned to Christ, sometimes because a majority (or all) of the people receive the same vision on the same night! Further aided by Christian radio broadcasts, many underground open churches have sprung up in homes across North Africa and the Arab Crescent. The Supreme Spirit of Islam is now on a direct collision course with the Alpha and Omega.
You can see that we are not living in normal times. Today we are still losing about 450 Christians a day as martyrs—killed mostly by Muslims. But the Islamist Pearl Harbor of 9/11 was a declaration of war, and the eventual outcome of that war is certain. God is a winner, not a loser, and He has been invading the enemy’s camp deeply for over a decade. September 11 was really just a desperate counterattack—and the beginning of the end for the Ruler of Islam (also known historically as the moon goddess, Queen of Heaven, etc.)
I realize that tomorrow morning could bring a coordinated attack on a dozen major U.S. cities, killing millions with biological or nuclear mini-weapons. We may suffer a lot before the assault of blind anger is vanquished. But in the long run, love will triumph over hatred, and God is love.
I could recite similar words of doom for the other major religions. But let’s close with this:
There is now a parallel universe for you to inhabit. Participants in the new Christianity are living in a new world where the old, ordinary limits are fading fast. Pushing the envelope of faith is our lifestyle.
We invite you to hoist your anchor, push off, sail to the deep, uncharted waters, and cast your net on the right side of the boat.
Let the wind of God’s Spirit blow you toward a new future. There will be storms and trials, but your faith can create new worlds—of which you will be both inventor and discoverer.
It’s not quite so simple as in myths and movies, of course. You can’t just step through the looking-glass… or go further into the closet till you reach Narnia … or take the red pill instead of the blue pill … or set the flux capacitor on your DeLorean time machine ahead 30 years. But take heart: Neither will you keep waking up to endlessly relive Groundhog Day. That new future you’ve been longing for is really here.
May you live to see the faces and to hear the grateful stories of thousands whom you never knew, who will be forever blessed because you set sail into the deep, uncertain waters and drew into your Kingdom net a precious few … who drew more … who drew more.
ORDER HERE: MegaShift ($14.95)
About the Author ...
Jim Rutz is the leading U.S. spokesman for open Christianity, a startling innovation on the traditional church that is laying a whole new basis for civilization. As the author of the 1992 best-seller The Open Church (230,000 sold, counting all editions), Rutz appeared on more than 80 TV and radio stations, up to and including TBN and CBN (Pat Robertson on The 700 Club). He is chairman of Open Church Ministries and has been a full-time writer for 31 years. Rutz (rhymes with klutz, he says) has an endless stream of astounding but documented reports of varied miracles from around the world in his new book MEGASHIFT: Igniting Spiritual Power.