Towards an Empowered Church

The greatest problem facing the Western church is not the forces of neo-Marxism. It is the internal problem of individualism. And this extends to denominationalism.

The dogma of individualism was developed during the Enlightenment.

It teaches us that each person has a unique calling and purpose. According to Herder, if we miss our special calling, our life will be a failure!

Individualism diverts us from exercising the most powerful thing in the world: unified thought and action.

The power of unity is well expressed in the Lord’s comments as He viewed the insurrection at Babel:

“Behold the people are one… now nothing will be withheld from them which they have
imaged to do.”
~ Genesis 11:6

Jesus seems to have been impressed with the urgency of unity also. It was the thing uppermost on His mind when He was about to face the crucifixion. He prayed earnestly:

“… that they may be one… as You and I are one.”
~ John 17:21-22

THE DECLINE IN CHURCH NUMBERS AND INFLUENCE

The old churches may have had their problems, but at least they had a measure of unity.

We now have 30,000 denominations, mostly as the result of splits and disagreements over minor matters of doctrine.

The result is that the church has lost power and influence against an onslaught of ideologies like evolution, positivism and socialism.

An independent observer, reviewing the current ideological battle in Australia, would have to conclude that the neo-Marxist forces are much more powerful than the Christian Church.

In recent times, they have taken over our media, our universities and our public education system.

And they are gaining ground in the political arena daily, despite our frantic rear-guard lobbying efforts.

They are winning the numbers game, also.

The 2016 Census told us that the major Christian denominations lost between 5% and 30% of their membership over the five years from 2011 — 2016.

The number of secularists (people with no religion) in Australia was 30% of the population in 2016, increasing at around 5% per annum.

They are probably close to 50% by now. We are no longer a Christian country!

SECTARIANISM IN CENTRAL AFRICA

In the 1970s, my wife and I were called by the Holy Spirit to bring a Christian witness to the Central
African country of Malawi.

When we arrived there, we found 83 mission-based denominations and 156 denominations independent of missions registered with the Malawi government — 239 denominations in a population of seven million!

So, why were we being called to work there?

I worked for the Malawi Government for two years in my first sojourn in Malawi. That was the way we got into the country.

In my spare time, my wife and I, together with my mother who came with us, developed a Christian literature ministry in partnership with a printing press in South Africa.

Judy handing life-giving words to a hungry heart!

From September 1977 to September 1979, we posted out 3.5 million simple Bible story tracts to the people in Malawi and the surrounding nations of Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique.

The tracts were nothing special. They were A5 in size with a short message and a picture, printed in one colour on rough newsprint.

Each tract had a decision slip for people to sign and return to us. Over the two years we received 117 000 decision slips duly signed. (Acts 19:10)

Decision slips were followed up with a six-part Bible Course called Wonderful News, which we distributed by post. The first of these was called “The Lord Jesus Christ and His Wonderful Names”.

After a time, we began to receive letters that read:

“Since completing the courses we have been meeting together in our village. We are 25 people. What do we do next?”

We responded to this by developing a monthly newsletter which addressed questions like: ‘Who was Cain’s wife?’ (This was important because the Ethiopian movement in Africa teaches that Jesus is the white-man’s saviour, and Nimrod is the black-man’s saviour).

The newsletter was posted monthly for two years to the 2,553 small assemblies that had sprung up spontaneously in Malawi villages as a result of our literature.

In 1983 the Religious Studies Department of the University of Malawi published the results of a survey they had undertaken.

A village congregation in Malawi with Bible courses held high.

They reported that our tracts were the main reason that village communities and the Independent Churches of Malawi were now holding to a genuine Christology.

Thousands of Malawians, remote from population centres, now knew who Jesus was, and were looking to Him to help them improve the quality of their lives.

All of this was a surprising outcome for those of us who were just doing what we were being told to do by the Holy Spirit.

Praise God, Who always knows what He is doing! (Acts 15:16-18)

We do not forget that our work was grounded on the foundation laid by the pioneer missionaries who came to Malawi. David Livingstone (1853); the Presbyterians Harold Henderson (1875), Robert Laws (1896) and William Murray (1889); the French White Fathers Louis Aureau and Joseph Dupont (1889); and the mercurial Joseph Booth (1892).

THE END OF THE MATTER

Knowing Who Jesus is, was just a starting point for the Malawi people.

African Christians do not value head knowledge for its own sake like Westerners. They want to know what they are required to do too.

Jesus was clear about this also. He advice was — let Me do the thinking and act upon My advice. (Matthew 7:24-27)

Kingdom life is not complicated. You can spell it out in one sentence:

“Love God with all your heart, mind and strength, and love your neighbour as you love yourself.”
~ Matthew 22:37-39

If we need a little more instruction on the last bit, we can go to Jesus’s new commandment:

“Love one another as I have loved you.”
~ John 13:34

This is the end-point of all doctrine! (I Cor. 13)

The last four short courses in our Wonderful News Bible Course series gave specific instructions with regard to how local communities can know the Lord, listen to His voice, and walk in His ways.

The whole six-part course takes about two months to complete by correspondence.

You do not need to hear a thousand sermons to know who Jesus is and what He wants you to do.

Community (Common-unity)

African villages are not a loose assemblage of individuals. They are corporate communities living a
common life.

The elders meet regularly to discuss ways and means of improving the welfare of their people.

In former times, they used to seek advice from the ancestors in the sky each New Moon Festival. Now they get their advice from the Holy Spirit and the Bible.

And this is not the end of the matter. Africans do not keep the good news to themselves.

African teenagers are obliged to participate in initiation schools, where they learn ‘what we do’. The good news that God is with us is now part of the instruction.

There is no serendipity in African village education. Young people receive the collective wisdom of their people and live it out without complaint.

In this way, unity is maintained.

When Malawians were animists living under the influence of demons, they suffered. Now that they have the indwelling Holy Spirit and the scriptures, they have every hope of an abundantly better life.

(These days, Malawi has a netball team that regularly plays against the big four: Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa.)

Numbers and Influence

The 2018 census in Malawi reported that 77% of the people are Christians, 14% are Sunni Muslims (the Yao tribe), 6% are Hindus and Sikhs (Indians) and 2% have no religion — probably the small number of masungus (Westerners) domiciled in Malawi!

In 2020, Lazarus Chakwera was sworn in as President of Malawi. He was the Chairman of the Assemblies of God in Malawi prior to entering politics.

I worked in Malawi on and off until 2015. I left my Malawian friends in God’s good hands.

BACK TO AUSTRALIA

In May 2019, Australia elected a Liberal-National Party Government, and as a result of this we have
a Pentecostal Prime Minister and a Jewish Treasurer, mentored by a former Treasurer who is a strong Christian. How good is that! One New Man! (Eph. 2:15)

This did not come about because we have brilliant organisations working for us in Canberra.

It came about because the silent majority, in a small majority of electorates, chose to vote in a Liberal or National Party candidate to Parliament.

Regrettably, lots of people have seen this result as an opportunity to relax.

Brethren, this is not a time to relax. It is a breathing space that the Lord has given us to plan some action.

The changing demographics tell us that we cannot hope to hold the line if we take no deliberate action.

Better Politicians

In 2013 I was sitting in my office grizzling about something our politicians were doing, when the thought came to me:

“Why do you not stop complaining and do something about it?”

The local seat was held by Labor, but the sitting member was pretty useless. I rang the local Labor Party secretary and asked her how they selected candidates She said they did it from head office and it was out of the control of local people. There was no access for me there.

I rang the local Liberals and they told me that candidates were preselected by the local membership of the Party.

I saw that as an opportunity and joined the Liberal Party. I found myself one of 51 non-representative local people in membership who selected candidates to represent the 28,000 people in the electorate!

How pathetic is our involvement in politics!

There was a State election coming up at the time, and there were two people seeking endorsement.

One was a woman with strong narcissistic tendencies (she was full of herself). The other was a splendid young man with great skills and strong Christian values.

Judy and I worked hard to persuade two of our neighbours to back the young man.

He was preselected by four votes! Ours and theirs!

After that, at age 80, I walked the streets of my electorate dropping pamphlets in letter boxes..

The young man was elected and is now a Minister in the SA Government.

It is not difficult to get the right people elected. You just need to do the work.

A Strategy

The neo-Marxists are taking ground by being well-organised. We Christians are losing power because of chronic inaction.

We need to get off our backsides! We are supposed to be more than conquerors!

My suggestions are:

  1. The overseers from all churches within an electorate need to come together to find a good candidate to represent them in the State and National Parliaments.
  2. They should the act to get these good people preselected by stacking the local Liberal Party branch, or forming their own Party.
  3. They should mobilise their congregations to promote their candidate in the wider community and get them elected.
  4. The Canberra Declaration could help the process by holding a national seminar to promote this kind of action amongst church leaders — moving quickly to State and Territory workshops, which lead to the setting up of local church forums in each electorate.

The Indigenous Church

The indigenous Church should be left to develop their own brand of Christian life and practice under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, keeping clear of Western denominationalism by any and every means.

They have a big job to do — getting rid of territorial demons and eliminating unproductive traditional practices.

Western Christians can help with this, providing we let the Lord lead the process, and are careful not to load up our indigenous brothers and sisters with complex theology and apostate practices.

The Times of the Gentiles concluded on the 18th of February 1985, folks. (Luke 21:24, Ezra 6:15)

It is God’s New Day of Restitution. (Acts 3:21)

Forward!

PS: I still have the Wonderful News Bible Courses. I can email them to you if you contact me.

[Photo by Binti Malu from Pexels]

By |2020-10-19T11:23:00+11:00October 19th, 2020|Australia, Faith, Leadership|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Potter was born in South Australia in 1934. He is married to Judy and has four children. John began professional life as an agricultural scientist with the South Australian Department of Agriculture 1957-1976. In 1976 he and Judy were sovereignly called of God to work in Africa. This led to involvement in education and a return to academic life for a season, first as a student and later as a lecturer. John holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Education, a Bachelor degree in Education Management, and a Master degree in Education Philosophy/Psychology.

Throughout his life John has maintained a strong Christian worldview. He and Judy have led fellowships in both Australian and Africa and taught at a School of Mission in South Africa. John’s book The Way Things Are tells of his walk to freedom from the mire of religiosity, distractions and distortions that so profoundly impact the post-modernist world.

In 2000, John was awarded a Doctor Letters degree for his collected papers on Biblical Hermeneutics and Practical Theology. He is currently the Chair of the Executive Committee of the Paraclete Institute, domiciled in Morayfield, Queensland.

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