The other day I came across a statement from Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California. I posted it on Facebook because I thought it was a treasure and wanted to share this treasure with all seven of my friends. Then the trouble started: not everyone considered it such a treasure. Here's the treasure/trouble:
"It's hard to have the same fruit as the early church when we value a book they didn't have more than we do the Holy Spirit they did have."It seems some people considered Bill’s comment a challenge to the importance of scripture. “What do you do with the scripture that says ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God?’” asked one friend. Another posted: “How would we know which fruit is of the Holy Spirit and which fruit is from elsewhere without objective guidance?” It became a three-way discussion. The comments piled up, one after another, until no one else in their right mind would want read them all. But today, I would like to invite each of you into the conversation.
Without presuming to speak for Bill Johnson, here are three questions his statement provokes:
- I think any reasonable comparison between the 1st century church in the Middle East and the 21st century church in North America points out that we are nowhere near as fruitful. Since we have the Bible in abundance (in fact, the greatest availability of the Bible in the history of the world) what must be lacking in our day?
- Why are so many 21st century North American believers concerned about “subjectivity” when it comes to the dynamic of the Holy Spirit (who is God), but not at all concerned about the inherent “subjectivity” involved in interpreting scripture (which is not God). The wide-spread availability of the scripture does not eliminate the need for listening to the Spirit's leading. In fact, it should give us more confidence to risk obedience to his living, daily voice.
- Why is the gospel flourishing in South America, sub-Saharan Africa, and most of Asia--where the dynamic of the Holy Spirit is celebrated, while Evangelicalism is increasingly considered irrelevant in the West--where the Holy Spirit is perhaps honored in name but rarely in practice?