The Church in 2024

Transforming Churches: Sanctification Before Transformation 

(by Lilian Schmid, originally published in the inaugural Transforming Sydney Newsletter – February 2014) 

Transforming Churches 

Part of the whole transformation process that is going on today has to do with the transformation of churches. 

Already in the ’70s the environment was being created to prepare churches and leaders for radical change. One of the war cries of the early charismatic movement was “new wine in new wineskins” meaning that the church has to be changed or transformed in order to accept the ‘new wine’. New wine was interpreted to mean ‘the new thing that God is doing’. This is of course not what Jesus meant at all when He said those words as recorded in Matthew 9:17. 

This emphasis on ‘new things’ suggested that the old things are obsolete and of no value. Leading this ‘new move’ are many ‘prophets’ who are constantly trying to project the church into the future. This vision for the future church has no similarity to God’s design for the church and is contrary to the Bible’s predictions of what the church in the end times would look like. 

Unfortunately, these people are also wilfully ignorant of the fact that the true ministry of prophets, both Old and New Testament, is not to focus on the future and new things. Yes, a small portion of the prophetic ministry has to do with the future, but this may be less than ten precent of their total function. The true function of prophets is to call people back to the Word. The prophets in the Old Testament were constantly calling Israel to return to her roots, to her God and to the Law. Isaiah said: 

“And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:19-20 NKJV) 

What the church needs today is not to be transformed into some seeker-sensitive, marketing driven, politically powerful business. It needs to return to its roots. It needs to seek out the old paths (ref. Jeremiah 6:16). 

The true church does not need to be transformed. By definition it is made up of those who are true believers, walking in obedience to the Head of the Church (i.e. Christ). If that is true then each of those members will be doing what Christ expects of them and will be functioning in the Church according to His will. To say that the true Church needs to be transformed is to say that Christ is making a mess and is a bad workman. After all, it is He who is building the Church (Matthew 16:18). 

But now we have become so arrogant to want to tell the Head of the Church that He did not know what He was doing throughout the last 2000 years, and that we are going to fix what He messed up and improve on the principles He established in His Word! May the Lord be merciful. The false church cannot be transformed. It is false and anti-Christ and will never, and can never be anything else. 

The future of the pseudo religious system is not one of greatness but of calamity: 

“Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.
The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’
And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore” (Revelation 18:8-11 NKJV) 

Our only hope for those who are true believers is that many will come out of the false systems and be separate and holy to the Lord. 

“And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4 NKJV) 

This does not mean that preachers should not call people to a deeper walk, more holiness, more commitment, etc., but to suggest that the true church needs to be transformed or that the false church can be transformed is simply not true. There certainly are many individual churches that need to be changed. But this change is not some new paradigm or any of the new formats, worship styles or worldviews that are often being promoted today. 

Those churches that are not where they ought to be, need to repent and to return to their first love, the pure doctrine, a simplicity of worship and a right relationship with one another and the Lord Jesus. 

The kind of transformation of churches that is being promoted is certainly a transformative process. I am not arguing that it is bringing about change; the question is whether that change is for the better or for the worse. Since the promoters of the process are clearly scornful of the old values, it should be obvious that the change then has to be further away from the Lord, the Bible and Truth. 

Also to suggest that by adopting a new marketing strategy, new worship style and new hierarchy, that a church can be transformed is a delusion. The Church is made up of individuals and unless those individuals are, or become, the people God wants them to be, a church cannot be improved. 

If your church is in need of change in the sense that it is not what the Lord in His Word expects it to be, then the change must begin with you and I. Anything else will lead to a whitewashing of the tomb while the inside is still filled with dead bones and uncleanness (Matthew 23:27). If you long for a change in your church there is only one thing you can do: pray that the Lord will change you and transform you into His likeness. That is all. You cannot change others or the system. 

Once you get to be whom the Lord wants you to be, He will direct you and use you but it has to begin with you and I. 

“Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me oh Lord, 
Standing in the need of prayer, 
Not the preacher, not the sinner, but it’s me oh Lord 
Standing in the need of prayer” 
(Reprinted with the permission of Anton Bosch) 

The Truth 

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; 
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.” 
(Proverbs 3:7 NKJV) 

Friends, after reading this article above let me share with you some of my observation on what is true teaching on Transformation. The need today is for sanctification; this is my message to all regions and cities who are preparing themselves for a renewal and new season for transformation. 

We need to sanctify ourselves before we go further and to present ourselves at the alter (read the ‘River of Life’ in Revelation 22 and meditate on it). 

Why is Sanctification so important?

Paul talks about sanctification his letter to the Romans chapters 6, 7, and 8. While Justification is the process whereby God declares a person to be righteous on the basis of faith in the Person and work of Christ (which is also the activity of God that liberates a person from the guilt of sin), sanctification is the activity of God which liberates the Christian from the power of sin. Justification imputes the righteousness of God to man. Sanctification imparts the righteousness of God through man.

Traditionally, sanctification is categorised into three aspects:

  1. Positional sanctification is that state of holiness imputed to the Christian at the moment of their conversion to Christ. It denotes not so much one’s spiritual condition as his spiritual position. The Corinthian believers could thus be called ‘saints’ even though they were in a carnal state (1 Corinthians 1:2). 
  2. Progressive sanctification refers to the process in our daily lives by which we are being conformed to the image of Christ. It is the process of becoming what we are in Christ. This involves the putting off of the old habits of lying, stealing, backbiting, etc., and putting on the Christ-like qualities of honesty, mercy, and love (cf. Colossians 3:1-10ff.). 
  3. Ultimate sanctification is that state of holiness that we will not attain to in this life, but will realise when we are finally in the presence of God:
    “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2 NKJV) 

Sanctification, the putting off of the old man and the putting on of the righteousness of Christ is three dimensional: positional, progressive, and ultimate. 

Guidelines 

There are three activities that help you in your walk with God and your leadership to go further with your planning on transformation: Listen, Pray, and Obey

  • The ‘Listen’ section contains a passage of the Bible. 
  • The ‘Pray’ section include a suggested prayer based on a revelation from God for the needs of your region. 
  • The ‘Obey’ portion provide a space for you to meditate and record what the Lord speaks to you – write them down. 
    (You may wish to share them with another trustworthy believer so it can be confirmed together in prayer.) 

For example: 

Listen 

Bible readings:  

“The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.”” (Exodus 3:7 NIV, and Acts 7:34a)  

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-6 NIV)

Pray 

Lord, I come to You to worship You 
    and glorify Your name on high, 
    to honour You and give You thanks. 
I humble myself before You Lord 
    and give You my whole heart, 
I trust You with all that is precious to me, 
    O
NLY YOU are worthy of my sacrifice. 

Only You have the power to resurrect my sacrifice 
    to bear much fruit for Your kingdom. 
I worship You right now, 
    by laying my life down before your afresh. 
I bend my knees to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob 
    and give You the Honour that you deserve. 

Reflect and listen to God, give Him thanks and praise for His mercy.

Obey 

Obey God when He gives you an instruction. Instruction not only comes through the written word in the Bible, but may also come in many other ways such as through others who are reputable and have a genuine relationship with God or even through God speaking to you directly. The important thing is to obey God’s instructions. 

It’s good also to ask Him for confirmation. Again this may come from other scripture that God leads you to, and it will often come from other believers, or may even be from an unexpected source. 

“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (Acts 1:14 NIV) 


Ten Growing Churches 

(from Bengt Sjöberg) 

Swedish Christian newspaper Dagen (“The Day”) has been on the lookout for growing churches in Sweden, including by contacting municipalities. Here are ten examples of growing churches (permission granted to reproduce here in English). 

Korskyrkan in Karlstad

A congregation that belongs to the Evangelical Free Church and has around 400 members. Pastor Anneli Uppman says that for 25 years they have had Alpha courses, as well as the follow-up discipleship courses that provide an opportunity to grow in the church. She sees this “tandem cycle” as an important reason why the church is growing. 

Skillinge Missionhouse, Simrishamn

A congregation in Simrishamn that belongs to both the Evangelical Free Church and the Equmenia Church. Kalle Spetz is the director and says that there were 18 members in 1986 when they merged three churches into one, [and since] then they have slowly grown and are now around 100 members, but reach out to more than that. “Alpha means a lot to us, not least because of the culture it creates, with community, clarity and openness,” he says. 

Hillsong, Stockholm 

With its modern concept, taken from the movement’s home country of Australia, Hillsong has managed to find an attraction that appeals to many, not least young people. They are now part of the Pentecostal movement and are the fastest growing part of the movement, with 6,264 people counting Hillsong as their church last year. 

Agape, Norrköping 

“Live for others, live for each other” is the vision of this church, which belongs to The Faith Movement and has just over 300 members. Pastor David Ekerbring explains that their activities are based on community, with something happening in the church almost every day. “The shortest answer to why we are growing as a church is because people attract people,” he says. 

Tofteryd Missionary Church 

Swedish Christianity consists of many small churches. Out in the countryside it is not easy to grow; on the contrary, many are forced to close down. But Tofteryd’s mission congregation, which belongs to the Swedish Alliance Mission, is bucking the trend. They currently have 120 members in a community of around 500 inhabitants. “I think it has to do with our village, that we work a lot together with others. We didn’t have such close links between playing a revue and singing at church services,” says chairwoman Elisabeth Staberg. 

The Salvation Army in Halmstad

The Salvation Army is a fairly small community, and many corps find it difficult to find [have difficulty finding] young people who want to get involved. In Halmstad however, they have succeeded. “I feel that those who have joined here know that children and young people are a priority target group,” says corps leader Johanna Samuelsson. The parish has 140 members, but its activities are much broader. Every week, around 700 people come to the[x] various activities. 

The Alliance Church in Västerås

An Arabic-speaking free church congregation that has grown and become part of the Swedish Alliance Mission. From having started as a house church, it now consists of about 250 members. Earlier this year, the congregation bought its own premises and created an appropriate church building. 

Bethlehem Church in Gothenburg

A congregation that goes against the trend of shrinking congregations in the Equmenia Church, they invest in culture and also have a pronounced LGBTQ-friendly endeavour. The congregation has about 750 members and has been able to welcome 200 people in the last five years. In total, this has meant an increase of 60 members. 

Bet:L in Skövde

An old Pentecostal congregation changed its name and at the same time underwent a renewal process with a modern appeal. The congregation currently has 718 members, including the activities in Götene with which they are associated. Ten years ago it had just over 500 members. 

Pentecostal International in Lund

A traditional Pentecostal church that has managed to grow from about 400 to 500 members in recent years. Last year they baptized more people than ever before in the church’s history. They describe themselves as an ordinary church that focuses on prayer, multiculturalism and social work. 


New Journal “My Year of Miracles 2024” 

(from Madeline Kalu, 21-January-2024) 

Dear friend, 
I hope this email finds you well. 

I have a question for you – do you believe that God performs miracles? We at The Proverbs 31 Home* do. In fact, we believe that God performs miracles daily! 

Therefore, we are thrilled to announce the publication of My Year of Miracles 2024, which is a journal/workbook that will encourage you to recognize, acknowledge, and reflect on how God is working supernaturally on your behalf over the next 365 days. It contains: 

  • Optional writing prompts that vary daily and encourage you to see God as a Miracle Maker. Alternatively, you can also record your own daily miracles; 
  • Bible verses that highlight miraculous events in the Bible and demonstrate God’s wondrous power; 
  • Quotations from prominent pastors, theologians, and Christian writers that illustrate God’s divine intercession in our daily lives; 
  • Monthly reviews to help you record and track major miracles that you trust God to perform in 2024; 
  • Prayers for miraculous intercession that you can pray over yourself or others; 
  • Testimonies from fellow Christians who have experienced God’s miraculous power that has defied human logic or reasoning; 
  • Dedicated sections to write notes, prayers, Scriptures, and expectations of future miracles. 

The journal is available in hardcover or paperback format for purchase on Amazon

We wish you a wonderful New Year and we believe that God is going to perform signs, wonders, and miracles in your life this year.
In Christ,
Madeline Kalu
Christian writer and blogger
Co-founder of the Proverbs 31 Home 
Co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog 
* The Proverbs 31 Home is a Christian home decor company based in Germany. All of our products are inspired by the Proverbs 31 Scriptures. 

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