Five Phases of Renewal at Metro Detroit Christian Church
As I trace the impact of renewal on the church I pastor, I see five distinct phases. Through these phases — at times wonderful and dramatic, at times extremely difficult — God is slowly building a mighty congregation that I believe will one day touch our region.
INVESTIGATION, REJECTION AND ACCEPTANCE
At the end of 1993 phase one began. I became the senior pastor of the church my father had started in the mid 80’s and began to grapple with a fundamental question, How is the church supposed to operate? Are we to be seeker sensitive, empowered evangelicals, or all-out charismatic? Philosophies from each of these three camps were vying for my acceptance.
After the renewal broke out at TACF in January 1994, my wife, Lisa, and I traveled through a snowstorm to witness the “Toronto Blessing.” My predisposition was not positive. I was cynical toward anything called “revival.” I wanted to be an articulate, sophisticated leader that was warm to the Holy Spirit but who avoided extremes.
I was not thrilled with what I saw at TACF’s meetings. TACF did not look sophisticated, and some of the manifestations were definitely extreme, at least to me. Was this the way God wanted to do church? Many were saying, “No;” many were saying, “Yes.” I was determined to get an answer.
Over the next few months, I read and re-read the book of Acts — all the time asking the question, How does God want the church to operate? As I prayed, I became deeply convinced of three things: 1) God builds His church by His power; 2) there was little power in my life or in my church; and 3) we needed the power of God, no matter the cost.
Rarely did I or anyone in my church experience supernatural deliverance, healing, or salvation. Rarely was I or anyone in my church receiving guidance by the voice of the Spirit, angelic visitations, visions, or dreams. Great grace, great joy, and great fear were not present in our services. Yet, these were the things that built the early church, and I became convinced we needed them in ours. Furthermore, my wife was miserable and did not want to go to church anymore.
I did an about-face. Although I had previously questioned the move of God at Toronto, God now called me to embrace renewal fully.
On June 12, 1994, after returning from a renewal weekend with Randy Clark at the Fort Wayne Vineyard, I preached on “The Church Built by the Power of God.” When I called for people who wanted a fresh touch of the power of God, a miracle happened. People actually came forward to receive ministry. When I asked the Holy Spirit to come, another miracle happened. He did! The Holy Spirit started touching people, filling with His refreshing presence, delivering them spontaneously from demons. The people rejoiced as the physical manifestations overtook their bodies.
ANOINTING AND GROWTH
From June 12, 1994 forward, this fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit grew. Every Sunday we seemed to learn something new from God by experiencing Him.
One Sunday during worship I heard the Lord’s voice say quietly, “I want to release prophecy.” After worship, I stepped up to the microphone and casually said, “The Lord wants to release prophecy.”
Immediately, over 30 people in our congregation were thrown from their chairs and began shaking wildly on the hard tile floor in the school gym where our church met. Half of the people in our congregation ran to the back of the gym-afraid of the power being released in our midst. The others ran forward, eager for more of the Holy Spirit.
I was stunned. I had never witnessed this level of anointing and had no idea how to administrate what was happening. I knew the anointing was real. My wife who does not fake spirituality or spiritual phenomena was experiencing particularly powerful manifestations. My mother, who was in the congregation, came forward and whispered in my ear, “Say something. People don’t know what’s happening.”
I didn’t know what to say. So much for 1 Corinthians 14 and helping the uninitiated understand spiritual phenomena, I thought.
From that moment, the Lord began teaching us about prophecy, about prophetic manifestations, about flowing with the Holy Spirit, and about how to educate those guests in our services who don’t understand the manifestations of the Spirit. He taught by experience about the Father’s love, inner healing, deliverance, and dynamic worship. He gave us vision for church unity and citywide revival.
Our church revolved around renewal and the presence of the Lord. Between 1995 and 1996 we grew from 80 adults and children to 300 people, all hungry for the manifest presence of the Lord. Best of all, my wife became alive spiritually as a leader with a prophetic anointing and passion for the Kingdom.
During 1997 and 1998, I felt we needed to strengthen our church to grow with what God was doing. We needed to develop a pastoral infrastructure for evangelism, healing, discipleship and leadership development. The church had a powerful engine in the renewal anointing, and I believed we needed to let the Holy Spirit help us develop a new wineskin and to prepare for the coming harvest.
However, as my wife and I began to communicate the need for change, all sorts of tensions surfaced in the church. Some of our members differed on the issue of church government. Others were uncomfortable with either the changes or the timing of them. Many people became confused about pastoral authority.
Although we did not lead perfectly during this time, we sought to remain true to the things God was showing us as we worked through the conflict. But in the end, these tensions did not resolve and approximately 100 people left the church angry, confused and hurt. This was a difficult time and full of emotional stress. Good people, who we loved dearly and who had worked side-by-side with us in the Kingdom, were now gone. Everyone felt loss. Overnight, it seemed that the church was disoriented and disintegrating. Ministering renewal was difficult, and we stopped doing all outside regional renewal meetings.
Leadership during the first part of this rebuilding phase was difficult for my wife and me. Raising up a new pastoral team, starting a junior high youth group, leading the worship team, organizing the body in intercession, teaching every Sunday-the primary leadership for these and much more fell on us while many of our other leaders healed from the major church loss.
Once a new pastoral team was established, they helped us with the weight of ministry. But by the middle of the year 2000, although we were grateful for the progress the church was making, my wife and I were tired and dry. The strain of aggressive rebuilding had left us little time for each other or our three boys. I had lost sight of the value and priority of staying in the River.
At this time, our whole family attended the Partners in Harvest Pastors’ Camp. Here, we began soaking again. The Lord touched us powerfully with His Spirit releasing us from stress. Then, He told us to strengthen our ties with TACF and place soaking in the Father’s love and the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit as the number one priority of our church.
When we returned home, we began teaching on the Father’s love and encouraging the congregation to soak in the presence of the Lord every week. I made a commitment that with the Lord’s grace, I would never get out of the River again.
The renewal anointing returned in strength to the congregation during the last quarter of the year 2000. As the Lord manifests His wonderful presence at every meeting, scores of people are receiving new levels of freedom. And I am personally enjoying an almost continuous blessing of the Lord’s manifest presence.
I believe our church is about to enter a fifth phase of renewal in 2001-2002. I call it momentum. Having been strengthened in pastoral relationships, healed by the Father’s love, and re- energized by a fresh wave of renewal, many of our people seem ready to risk again, take leadership responsibility and reach out.
The pastors and leaders in our leadership network love the sheep. We have new leaders coordinating inner- healing/deliverance weekends on a regular basis. A small team of teachers is implementing an ongoing church-wide Alpha program to evangelize the lost. The church is praying. We are again giving renewal away to the region. Although we still have barriers to momentum that we need to address, the pace is picking up.
I believe that if we keep soaking, keep worshipping, keep inviting the lost to come to Jesus, keep raising up leaders and keep giving away renewal to other churches, God’s kingdom will break in even more powerfully with signs and wonders that bring in a harvest.