IDENTIFYING OUR DISTINCTIVES
At the recent National Leadership Team retreat which included the spouses of the NLT members, we sought God for something that we could confidently project as a desirable direction for our churches. Out of prayer we felt the Lord say “the answer is near, it is not far from you” After some further prayerful discussion we interpreted this to mean that we were essentially doing what he wanted us to do, but that we needed to be somewhat more intentional about implementing some things throughout our movement.
We believe in the autonomy of the local church, but we also believe as a leadership team that God will use us to bring a word to our churches. We would ask you to give serious prayerful consideration to actively making the following distinctives more identifiable in our churches because as your leadership group we have a word from God to share.
These comments have particular application to church leaders, but everyone reading this can embrace them and be a part of what the NLT believes God wants us to do in this season.
We were born out of what became known as the charismatic renewal which flowed around the world in the late 1960’s through until about 1980. Our principal origins were in mainline denominations that largely opposed this new refreshing move of the Holy Spirit. The charismatic renewal was not a Pentecostal renewal, in fact it was largely opposed by the Pentecostals.
We were seen as “mavericks” and although this is seen today to be largely a negative term, at the time we embraced it gladly as a reflection of the pioneering, unconventional, and non-conformist approach we had to doing church as the Holy Spirit was leading.
Some of the distinctives of this charismatic renewal included, dynamic praise and worship expressed by clapping, dancing, raising of hands, shouting, and singing in the Spirit. Also included was a new appreciation of the truth of the priesthood of all believers as Christians everywhere were encouraged to minister using the gifts of the Holy Spirit, there was a new expression of the prophetic, a strong emphasis on bible teaching, a move away from congregational government to church government by elders, and a new commitment to evangelism. Overall, there was a new joy and liberty in the Holy Spirit.
For this we were called mavericks as we pioneered a new way of doing church. It’s easy to see why this was not taken by us as a negative term, but a positive one reflecting the new thing God was doing in the church. Could we be used again like this?
Distinctives are simply the characteristics that typify who we are. They distinguish who we are and identify what makes us unique. We believe that the Holy Spirit highlighted some distinctives that he wants us at A2A to begin to intentionally focus on. These distinctives will affect our culture, and help create a platform from which the Holy Spirit can launch us into a new season of renewal in our churches. God used this “maverick” spirit in the past to do something new, our hope and prayer is that he can use us again as he did at the beginning.
The disctinctives we want to highlight to you are not new or unheard of, and other churches and movements could say we do that also, but our observation and experience is a distinctive stated does not make it part of your culture unless there is significant intentionality associated with it. A distinctive is only established when it is an easily identified example who we are.
The following are the specific distinctives we believe were highlighted to us which we also believe could form the platform for the Holy Spirit to launch us into a time of renewal in our churches. On this occasion I will simply summarise these disctinctives, and in coming weeks and months we will revisit each distinctive in depth and illustrate it’s validity from scripture.
- Innovative Ministry
If we want to see a new and fresh move of the Holy Spirit we must embrace change. Our God is a God who loves to change things and make them new so we will need to have open hearts and minds to what God may want to do in the future. To be innovative we need to be ground breaking in our thinking, be inventive and creative, and have a new pioneering spirit. This will be a challenge to some of us, so let’s be determined not to resist the change God may want to bring.
- Celebrating uniqueness
We are an inclusive movement. We want to be able to celebrate each other’s uniqueness with enthusiasm recognising that unity is not sameness. Our unity is based on our relationship with Jesus, and as we fall more and more in love with Jesus we are able to have an authentic appreciation of how God is using each one of us to serve His purposes.
- Disciple making
The last words of Jesus on the planet before he ascended to Heaven were to go into the world “and make disciples”. Discipleship is much more than a programme of teaching opportunities. It is about relationship and walking with someone as we share life together. A true disciple is ultimately recognised by their commitment to kingdom values.
- Healthy leadership
Our mission statement says we will “raise enduring leaders”. We live at a time in history when young men and women are burning out in ever increasing numbers. The culture of our day is more dysfunctional than ever, so the complexity of people’s lives is in many cases bringing about a sense of overwhelming failure for many leaders. We will continue to work at developing a mentoring programme with the focus on who the leader is.
- Spirit empowered mission
The baptism in the Holy Spirit is highly valued as a normal and desired experience for the Christian in our churches. We must maintain this as a value and remind our people that the purpose of being baptised in the Holy Spirit was to empower us to do mission. Being led by the power of the Holy Spirit, and functioning in the power of the Holy Spirit in a God honouring way as we do mission enterprise adds a dynamic to the way we serve that defies the resistance this anti-theist age.
- Walking in humility
Our humanity creates a competitiveness that destroys authentic community, and isolates many Christians leaving them feeling defeated, devalued, and a failure. There is something in all of us that makes us want to be “at the top of the pile”. Humility is having our strengths in submission to God so that they are always under control. We want to be a movement that is known as one without a competitive spirit so that everyone wherever they are in their spiritual journey can feel accepted.
These summary comments of these distinctives are not exhaustive, but I hope they are sufficient for you to begin to consider as highly desirable characteristics in your church. As they emerge in increasingly identifiable ways, we believe you will positioned for God to do something new in your church, and in your personal life.