Can the Body of Christ Reconcile?
In his new book Blind Spots, Coach Bill McCartney (Promise Keepers) asks this question, and then shows that if the body of Christ is to reconcile, that reconciliation must begin between the ancient divide in the body of Christ pointed out in Scripture, the divide between Gentile and Jewish believer in Yeshua, Jesus. I believe I have found just exactly where that reconciliation must begin. Interested? Read on.
Two very interesting and genuine movements of the Holy Spirit came out of the early 1970's. The Calvary Chapel movement of the Holy Spirit is about 30 years old, and a corresponding movement of the Holy Spirit started rolling about 30 years ago--the Messianic movement. The two movements are spiritually quite similar--alive and vibrant spiritually. As we'll see, both spread first all over the United States, and are now going worldwide in their scope. I was a part of a local Calvary Chapel for two and a half years as it grew from 12 to 125 members, and is now about 400 in attendance. Now I have attended a Messianic Jewish congregation for about a year, so I've seen both from the inside and know they are both Holy Spirit filled, led and inspired. Calvary Chapels and Messianic congregations are both spreading around the world. Calvary Chapel congregations tend to grow large (depending on the receptivity of the people and the area), while Messianic congregations tend to stay small, while the number of congregations in a given state is larger. From what I have observed, each movement of the Holy Spirit--Calvary Chapel and Messianic--is complimentary to the other, i.e. the knowledge each has been given by the Lord would tremendously aid the other. Coach Bill McCartney brought out in his new book Blind Spots that the healing of the great divide in the body of Christ must begin with the historic breach spelled out in Scripture, between Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus Christ, Yeshua of Nazareth. In the area of reconciliation of the body of Christ, looking at it from a military point of view, this is a terribly tough bit of ground to conquer and take. But it is the key, as Coach brings out, to the whole reconciliation picture. If this hill is a tough one to take, then, in the military mindset, you have to look for the easiest or friendliest part of the hill to go after. I think I've found it, two movements of the Holy Spirit that basically started out at the same time, one in the Gentile Christian Church and the other amongst Jewish believers in Yeshua of Nazareth. Both closely share a common belief in the pre-millennial interpretation of prophecy, and belief in the kingdom role of Israel during the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ, and both share a total aversion to "replacement theology." I.e. These two groups share common ground doctrinally in some important areas where theological divides often separate other believers. My observation is this: A unique opportunity exists here between these two movements of the Holy Spirit--the Calvary Chapel's and the Messianic congregations--to reach out to each other in each and every community where they dwell together--forming sister church alliances--getting to know each other, attending each other's services--forming pastor/rabbi friendships and even sharing of ministries where possible. How far this is taken is solely up to each pastor or rabbi, but the sky's the limit as far as God is concerned. The unity that should exist between Gentile and Jewish branches of Christianity has been looked at by some of the Messianic pastors like this, it's sort of like the union between a man and a woman in marriage, where each is separate and different, yet form "one flesh", a physical-psychological and even spiritual union. Each remains separate, but at the same time united to the other--united in love, purpose, goals, what-have-you. Yeshua, Jesus has basically spelled out those goals (Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20). But right now that unity is like a married couple on the verge of divorce. Coach McCartney says that if we get the Gentile and Jewish division solved, the rest of the unity problem will fall into place. Sort of like the Jewish/Gentile unity problem is the top button on the shirt. Button that first button, and all the others line up. So what follows are quotes from Pastor Chuck Smith's book Harvest and David Chernoff, in the spring 2002 SPIRIT OF MESSIAH magazine. These quotes describe the two movements, and show definitely that they were and are movements of the Holy Spirit. First, Pastor Chuck Smith in Harvest says:
"As I describe to you the explosion of church growth that happened in the Calvary Chapel movement, I speak as a spectator. If there is any credit to be given, it belongs to God alone. If you understand this perspective, then when I describe to you my difficult years, my desert years, you will know why I stand in awe at what God has done. And you will celebrate with me the awesome symmetry of God's design. It leaves us all stunned and amazed.
Those pictures in Look, Life, Time, and Newsweek magazines of our massive Calvary Chapel baptisms in the Pacific Ocean resemble a human harvest field. Literally thousands of people can be seen crowding the shores waiting to be baptized. Images like these illustrate that this is a colossal phenomenon as far as churches go. Professors such as Peter Wagner at Fuller Seminary and Ron Enroth at Westmount College state in their books that there may be nothing like it in American history.
It has been estimated that in a two-year period in the mid-70s, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa had performed well over eight thousand baptisms. During that same period, we were instrumental in 20,000 conversions to the Christian faith. Our decadal growth rate had been calculated by church growth experts to be near the ten thousand percent level.
Perhaps more staggering still is that when we first came to Calvary Chapel church in Costa Mesa in 1965, we had twenty five people our first Sunday morning.
Now put this in perspective. Not only has that church of twenty-five members established more than five hundred affiliate Calvary Chapels across the world, but that one fellowship in Costa Mesa has grown until the number of people who consider it their home church is more than thirty-five thousand!.I have heard critics try to dismiss the impact of Calvary Chapel by calling it "production line religion".Other critics, who belong to churches that have not grown in years (which was exactly my situation for well over a decade) often adopt a stance of spiritual elitism. To them, smallness proves spirituality, faithfulness, or an unwillingness to compromise. Perhaps they feel that "quantity" diminishes the "quality" of spirituality. [I can tell you for sure, having been a member of a Calvary Chapel that grew from 12 to now over 400, that the "quality" of their teaching and discipling was first rate-top notch. Their method of preaching, verse by verse, chapter by chapter through the whole Bible helps make each member better versed in the Word of God than many pastors in other churches, so the "quality" issue is definitely not an issue. On the other hand, the "Quality" of their teaching style, what I call the connective expository sermon format, may be one of the reasons for their phenomenal growth rate in their local congregations--they feed their sheep well, and the sheep "reproduce". So this part of the body of Christ most definitely has something positive to offer the rest of the body of Christ, just in knowledge of how to teach and reach their local attending membership.]
Christ talked about the man who buried his talents and wound up with nothing, because even what he had was taken away. But He also spoke positively about the servant who magnified his talents a thousandfold. So to say that Christ purposely limits the size and impact of a ministry is unfounded. The explosive force of a ministry can equally be taken as a sign that God is genuinely at work. Who can forget the day of Pentecost when three thousand turned to Christ on the streets of Jerusalem? "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:47).
Just as the Jews soon discovered that they were not to keep the Good News among themselves, but were to include the "despised" Gentiles, so there was an interesting shifting of gears at Calvary Chapel. Our fellowship began with twenty-five members who represented mainline, traditional America. Yet God called us to share with the youth from the counterculture. This outreach took a miracle of love and acceptance. But as each group accepted the other, both sides grew in number. There was a vital sense of God stepping into the picture and as lives changed before our eyes. The sense of being in the middle of a miracle kept feeding itself like a bonfire. When some hopeless heroin addict throws away his needle and goes to the beach to convert three people to Christ in an afternoon, it's a pretty strong boast to the faith of everyone involved!
Another remarkable pattern kept repeating itself. As soon as we moved into a new building, our fellowship would already by too big for the facilities. We seemed to grow like a Chinese checker jumping across the board. In two years we moved from our original building (one of the first church buildings in Costa Mesa) to a rented Lutheran church overlooking the Pacific. Soon thereafter we decided to do something unprecedented at the time and move the church to a school that we had bought. The building did not match up to code so we tore it down and built another, hippies and straights working and smiling side by side. It was such a sight that cars on the highway would slow down and gawk at us. [Calvary Chapel, right here, is showing that they already know to Christianity should bridge across divergent groups, unifying them in Yeshua, Jesus.]
I had always felt that the ideal church size was about 275 and so we built accordingly. But by the time the sanctuary of 330 seats was completed in 1969, we were already forced to go to two services and eventually had to use the outside courtyard for 500 more seats. This was all fine in good weather.
But by 1971 the large crowds and winter rains forced us to move again. We bought a ten-acre tract of land on the Costa Mesa/Santa Ana border." And on it goes. You can order the book Harvest by logging onto http://www.thewordfortoday.org/product_nav.html , then click on "Pastor Chuck Smith's Materials, then "Books", then "General books and pamphlets" and scroll down until you come to the title of Harvest.]
Obviously this was a movement of the Holy Spirit, which started rolling in earnest in the late 1960s to early 1970s. The Jewish branch of the body of Christ (Yeshua) began to grow and leapfrog across the country just about the same time, late 60's to early 70's. Is this just coincidence? Ancient rabbis always said, "With God, there is no such thing as coincidence."
Quoting David Chernoff in the spring 2002 issue of SPIRIT of MESSIAH magazine, "My parents, Martin and Yohanna Chernoff, labored for many years in Jewish ministry. In the late 60s and early 70s, they caught the "Messianic Vision", founded one of the first Messianic congregations and became a great influence in this modern Messianic movement [of the Holy Spirit]. In the last 30 years or so, I have seen many leaders and lay people who caught the "Messianic Vision". They went on to win many people to the Messiah [Jesus] and have born much fruit for His Kingdom.Messianic Judaism is a movement birthed and energized by God. We desperately need to look to Him at all times for direction and to make sure we are in the center of His will." He goes on to define the Messianic vision. I will give several of the points he gives.
A REVIVAL MOVEMENT--Messianic Judaism is an end-time spiritual awakening of God's Chosen People [the Jews]. We are the first fruits of Israel's salvation, the spiritual restoration of Israel parallel to the physical restoration of Israel.
A PRODUCT OF THE RUACH HAKODESH (HOLY SPIRIT)--This movement was born out of a great spiritual awakening in the late 60s and early 70s. It was not designed, inspired or formed by any person(s) but by the Holy Spirit. Nobody can take the credit for this movement. There are no architects and no superstars, only Yeshua [Jesus] and Ruach Adonai. We need to make sure that we are walking in the Spirit and being guided by Him daily."
So that describes the two most recent major movements of the Holy Spirit in the Christian world, one Gentile, one Jewish. They both started very recently, 30 years ago in the late 1960s to early 1970s. One has grown both in size of their congregations and in number of congregations, now going around the world. The other has grown in number of congregations, first in the United States, and now around the world--and into Israel. It is my estimation that both these movements of the Holy Spirit need each other, each needs what the other has to offer. When they "reconcile" the reconciliation of the whole body of Christ has begun in earnest. This may be the break in the lines, the easy ground leading up the hill of opposition to unity in the body. Whenever these two groups get together in whatever way the Lord leads, the healing of the Great Divide will begin in earnest. I firmly believe that. Pastors interested in this theme of Christian reconciliation should order Coach Bill McCartney's new book Blind Spots, available from either http://www.christianbooks.com or http://www.amazon.com , for about $12. The book has many good nuggets of pure spiritual gold and Godly advice on how to overcome those blind spots that are holding your ministry and congregation back-and blind spots that are holding the body of Christ back as well. Pages 21-33 detail the Messianic movement of the Holy Spirit in Coach's own words, and show how vital it is that the Gentile and Jewish parts of the body of Christ come together as the first and most vital part of healing the divide in the body of Christ.
If you're a Messianic believer or pastor/rabbi and you don't exactly feel comfortable about just walking into a Calvary Chapel service on a Sunday morning without some prior investigation, log onto my website ( http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM ). The sections of the site that cover the gospel accounts (Mark thus far), and Epistles (Romans, 1 Corinthians, James etc.) are mostly Calvary Chapel sermon transcripts. Also click on the "Concepts of Ministry" section, see what makes a Calvary Chapel tick, how and why they grow so fast and so large when compared to other churches. Do some research, then go visit them on a Sunday morning. Don't be afraid, they don't bite. Tell them you're a visiting Messianic believer in Yeshua, they'll welcome you with open arms.