Year Five: Word, Spirit, & Multi-Site

2012 was the year of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I read Preaching and Preachers the year before and good thoughts of MLJ were fresh in my mind. Then a pastor/friend encouraged me to read the book Joy Unspeakable. When he told the premise of the book I immediately associated it with my Pentecostal education. Joy Unspeakable is a book about The Baptism With The Holy Spirit. “Great! Here we go again!”

I grew up in a church my father described as Bapticostal. It was a non-denominational church that disliked all that “Theology” but loved Jesus. “Who needs doctrine?! Give me Jesus!” would have been a welcomed statement. We had people speak in tongues during the service even though we had members who did not believe that was for today. Terms were thrown around and left unexplained and undefined. I remember a time when our pastor referred to a church deacon who had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and I had no idea what he was talking about. Although I am thankful for the church I grew up it, much of Jr. High and High School years were theologically foggy at best.

The home front was different. I was blessed to grow up in a Christian home. My parents taught me about Jesus and encouraged me to follow him. It was here I learned about the authority of the Bible. My parents didn’t agree on everything about the Bible, but they both loved the Bible. What God says, mattered to them. Even if Biblical terms were left undefined at church, at least at home I was encouraged to go to the Word.

I left for college and jumped into five years of greater theological confusion. Pentecostal college during the school year, and Summertime with a bunch of Baptists. God providentially planted me in two worlds that were nervous about each other. Baptists thought Pentecostals were barely saved and Pentecostals thought Baptists were barely saved. I was in the middle.

The Word and Spirit knot continued to tighten for several years. When my friend encouraged me to read MLJ’s book, he didn’t know all the baggage I was bringing with me. But I trusted this pastor so I got the book and dove in.

I read it through. I distinctly remember thinking “This is the best book I have ever read, that I disagree with!” Lloyd-Jones has a way about him, even when you disagree with him, he is enjoyable. I continued to press in. I read the book again. And then I read selected chapters again. Shortly after I read Jared C. Wilson’s book Gospel Wakefulness. Wilson’s book was saying the same thing as MLJ. Things started to come together for me.

The Word and Spirit are not at odds. What Lloyd-Jones showed me was astonishing. When the Holy Spirit is at work, the real Jesus is being loved, honored, and cherished. I got clarity on technicalities and definitions. The Holy Spirit regenerates us, but Jesus is the one who Baptizes people with the Holy Spirit (Gospel Wakefulness). When Jesus Baptizes us with the Holy Spirit, we love the Bible and Jesus more and we become astonished with the Glory of God!

I got clarity! God was at work! Yet, that was not the only big theme of that year. I also learned I am not a multi-site guy. I was serving as a multi-site Pastor and working through some big questions.  At the time, I could not tell you why, but now, looking back, I know why I was uncomfortable. I must say, I still have many friends and know many churches that are multi-site and God is using. My point is not to say “All multi-site is bad” but to lay out my biggest concern.

Here it is! In every form I am aware of, multi-site conundrums usually result in pragmatic, non-biblical answers for its ecclesiological questions. Multi-Site legitimacy is to often rooted in a false assumption that the Bible gives us a wildly fluid ecclesiology. Therefore,  “How are we going to make this work?” becomes the modus operandi rather than “Is this Biblical, and, if so, how does the Bible drive our structure and actions?” When the uniqueness of a ministry model pushes people outside of the Bible to find solutions for problems, you have a problem. That was the big reason I came to the conclusion that multi-site was not for me. I still love multi-site pastors and churches, it’s just the model I am not all that fond of.

It’s fun to look back and see what God has done in your life. Pastor, take note of the years. Go to the word, grow, repent, and repeat. Year five of pastoral ministry is one I will never forget.

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