Alive Again is an Evangelical Church. An Evangelical church can be defined in many different ways, but to our thinking there are certain hallmarks that must be present in our church and by which we identify ourselves as Evangelical. We are a “Great Commission” oriented church. That means our primary reason for existence is to contribute to the completion of the Great Commission and bring back the King. We do this by being part of an international missionary movement called the Christian and Missionary Alliance. We do this in our Jerusalem of Northern Ocean County, by, much as is possible, being a church that breaks down the cultural barriers that keep lost people from coming to Christ.
A missionary goes to a foreign people and learns their language and culture in order to “contextualize” the gospel so the people they are trying to reach for Jesus are able to respond. In the same way our church life must communicate the gospel to the lost people in our community in the “language” and culture they can understand. Since God has called us to reach the casual people of the Jersey Shore, we try to speak like them, play their music, and dress like them. We have a laid back Jersey Shore atmosphere in our church. We avoid insider language and try to explain to newcomers what to expect and what is going on in our worship service. We are excited when a believer comes to our church and gets renewed or put back together, but what really rings our bell is when God uses our church to point a lost person back to God.
Many people come to Alive Again from different church backgrounds. Each one comes with different expectations of what church should be like. Some want to introduce aspects of their Christian experience that people who are not yet believers find strange, scary, offensive, or distracting from the main thing (the gospel of Jesus Christ). If we find a practice, rule, expectation or whatever is non-biblical and erects a barrier that keeps a lost person from coming to Christ, we do not allow it at a time when a non-believer might be present. This is in keeping with Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian church when he said, “If therefore the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak in tongues, and there are present those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that you are mad? But if all prophesy, and there one comes in that does not believe, or is unlearned, he is convinced by all, he is judged by all: And the secrets of his heart revealed; and falling down on his face he will worship God, and say that God is really among.” (1 Corinthians 14:22 ff) The focus of this passage is not a prohibition against speaking in tongues. Rather it’s focus on utilizing the gifts and manifest presence of the Spirit so that people are drawn to Christ rather than turned away. That is our goal at Alive Again.
Another hallmark of an Evangelical church is a commitment to the Word of God. An evangelical church is committed to the proclamation of the word of God. Our pulpit ministry at Alive Again is Bible focused, teaching focused and centered on the text of the word of God. Our emphasis at Alive Again is on what is known as “expository” preaching and teaching. That is–the messages are expositions or explanations and applications of the texts of scripture.
An evangelical church is also committed to the authority of the Bible. We want to focus on and practice what is clearly spelled out in scripture. We want to embrace what the Bible teaches and make that our main thing. When a practice or theology is introduces we ask is it Biblical, anti-Biblical or extra-Biblical (that is: the Bible doesn’t address it, i.e. should we give Altar Calls). If something is Biblical, we embrace it. If it is anti-Biblical we reject it. If it is extra-Biblical we become “fruit inspectors” and either accept, reject or wait and see based on the fruit that we see. Another part of being Biblically focused means to not try to explain away those parts of Scripture that make us uncomfortable. I believe those of us from a conservative evangelical background are as guilty of this as those from other backgrounds. I grew up on books and teachings that used theological presuppositions, and Dispensational time lines to explain away much of the New Testament experience of the presence and power of God.
So this explains the “Evangelical” part of the Empowered Evangelical ID. What about the Empowered part? To me an Empowerd Evangelical is one who is asking the Father and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 11:13).
An Empowered Evangelical is seeking the fullness of Christ through the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is always present with us, because as God, He is omnipresent. He is especially present with us as believers, because Jesus having gone to the Father, has sent us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. however, we see in Scripture a third way in which the Spirit is present. The Bible talks about the “manifest presence” of the Holy Spirit. We believe that the experience of the early church is to be our experience. Jesus promised that His disciple would be witnesses “when the Holy Spirit” comes upon you. Many people get hung up on the Primary Pentecostal experience of Acts chapter two and look to that experience as being normative. However if you look at the Book of Acts you will find that the Holy Spirit fell on the same group of disciples on several occasions and each time there were different manifestations of the Spirit’s presence. What was common was this . . . when the Holy Spirit showed up with power, the people knew it because there where signs of his presence in time and space. The disciples were filled with power for the proclamation of the gospel and radical Christian living. This is what we are seeking when we seek the fullness of Christ. When the Spirit shows up with power there can be no doubt. He demonstrates the reality of His presence through some manifestation of His presence in time and space, and the church is radically equipped and transformed to do the work of His Kingdom.
The Holy Spirit manifests Himself in the church through the gifts of the Spirit. We come together as a body expecting that gifts of healing, knowledge, anointed preaching, prophecy, hospitality, service, etc. may be exercised. All these gifts must be exercised in according to the instructions given to us in scripture. We give place in our worship service for a visitation of the Holy Spirit, that will empower believers and draw seekers to the Lord.
So this is a brief explanation of what it means to an Empowered Evangelical Church. We invite you to visit us, dialog with us, join with us and together with us advance the Gospel of the Kingdom.
If you would like to read the C&MA’s and Alive Again’s official position on the Holy Spirit and His gifts read our position paper: Expectation Without Agenda.
If you would like to read my own (Pastor Bill) testimony of how my life was changed through the power of the Holy Spirit read “What Happened to Me”.