The North American Church has been limping along, stagnant or declining, while in other parts of the world, tens of thousands are coming to Christ each day. What makes the difference?
Writing from his own considerable experience as a church planter, pastor, and university professor, Dr. Steve Elliott* points to one fundament difference: where the Holy Spirit is welcomed, people are finding Christ, God’s presence is being experienced, and the church is growing. Where the Spirit is neglected, the church is losing ground.
In his recent monograph, By Signs and Wonders: How the Holy Spirit Grows the Church (Franklin, Tenn.: Seedbed Publishing, 2016), Dr. Elliott challenges the North American church to re-evaluate how it goes about doing evangelism. While Steve is not Pentecostal, he believes and clearly explains why every church and denomination needs to welcome the Spirit, including the miraculous power of the Spirit.
“Biblical, historical, and contemporary evidence all point to power persuasion as His [the Holy Spirit’s] primary method for bringing about revival on a community-wide or national scale. While all forms of evangelism are to be valued and utilized, if the church continues to insist on using non-miraculous evangelism efforts as its primary, and often only, method for winning communities to Christ, and if the church in North America continues to unintentionally avoid or underemphasize the important and powerful ally of the Holy Spirit, the church will continue to reap the same evangelistic results—pathetically little” (145-146).
Welcoming “signs and wonders” fits uncomfortably, even in churches that affirm the ongoing work of the miraculous. Dr. Elliott offers a very balanced view, avoiding both fear and fanaticism. His chapter on “Application to the Local Church” alone is worth the price of the book.
A post-Christian 21st century will not be reached with ministry as usual. That’s why, at Kingswood, we are seeking to develop Christ-centered, Spirit-led, ministry-makers. We want them to graduate with a firm and balanced belief in the work of the Holy Spirit. We want them to really believe that God listens when they pray, likes when their prayers are audacious but not presumptive, and wants to answer those prayers. Teaching from Dr. Elliott will help insure they get this message.
* Full disclosure: Dr. Elliott is Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Campus Pastor at Kingswood University, where I also serve.