1. 1) God is bringing us emerging Christian leaders to the URGS house of prayer here in Zagreb. Pray they will continue in the faith from glory to glory.
2. 2) Our efforts to bring transformation to Lika, a destitute area of Croatia, is going slow but a good foundation is being laid. Pray for the Lika team to walk in unity and expectation.
3. 3) Having mentioned expectation, Croatian Christians have long suffered from doubt and apathy. Pray they would learn to walk in God’s promises.
4. Is. 66:8 says: “Who has heard of such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day or a nation be delivered in an instant? In light of the World Cup this past Sunday, this verse is being played out on the world scene. As though the nation was just born. So much hope, expectation and unity has suddenly emerged in this little nation, this is remarkable. Pray that this truly is the beginning of a spiritual breakthrough.
5. 4) Pray for the IST Learning Program in the Roma (gypsy) village in Romania. It will cost $7,000 this next school year to help these poor children continue to excel and someday graduate. Pray for the funds to come in quickly.
6. 5) Pray that IST, and its leaders Jerry and Zuzanna will strategically execute God’s will in this land. The needs in the Balkans are overwhelming. Pray that we always hear clearly what we are to be involved in and be able to say no to all other demands.
From Jerry’s desk
In my studies of Church history this is the way I have come to understand its evolution.
The disciples of Jesus where together in Jerusalem (about 120 of them, Acts 1:4). They were in unity because after Jesus’ resurrection He spent forty days with them, teaching them. Jesus had clearly inspired them, and they were being obedient in waiting for something called the Holy Spirit to come. They did know something of the Holy Spirit because Jesus breathed the Spirit on them earlier. (Jn. 20:21)
Then the Day of Pentecost came, and like dynamite the Holy Spirit came and rested upon them and the Church was born. (Acts 2) That day a great many were saved; from many nations. This indicates the first spreading of the Gospel through these foreigners. They likely returned to their countries with a wonderment in their minds of good news. They were the first seeds planted into the nations. Likely they did not become evangelist but rather people that would recognize the Gospel when it did come to their area.
Then we have the book of Acts or Acts of the Apostles. Here we see how the Early Church functioned.
1) The disciples were bold even in the face of death. (Stephen, Acts 7)
2) They went forth with signs and wonders following them. (Acts 5:12)
3) In Jerusalem they would go to the Temple, the main meeting place of the Jews and preach the Gospel.
4) They took the Gospel to Samaria and after some persecution, to Antioch and beyond. (Acts 8:1,4-5)
5) They would minister to the Lord and the Holy Spirit would speak direction to them. (Acts 13:1-3)
6) After a few decades, they had turned the world upside down. (Acts 17:6)
Then came the second generation of disciples. They had not seen the Lord in the flesh and only had stories from those who had. They did have the written Gospels and letters from apostles Peter, Paul, John, etc., but there begin to be many other so-called Gospels and sayings being written. This was the start of some problems. The stories begin to differ from region to region. Some believed in the Trinity some didn’t. There were issues about Jesus’ nature; was He God and man or was He just a man. By the end of the 2nd century they set up bishops in the regions of Antioch, Alexandria, Ephesus, Rome, etc. These bishops tended to set the doctrines in their areas.
Throughout the 2nd and 3rd centuries the Gospel was having a great impact but there begin to be fights or heated disputes about the different doctrines. Of course, the devil’s divisive spirit is at work here.
Then the Roman Emperor Constantine got saved. Maybe he got saved and maybe not, but he did realize Christianity was spreading like wildfire across his empire. Constantine also recognized the divisions among the Christians and knew that was not good if you wanted to make Christianity the state religion. He called all these bishops together in the city of Nicaea for a council meeting. He basically said: Hey you guys, come to an agreement on these doctrines. And that is what they did. What really solidified their efforts was the canonizing of the Bible. The books we have now were accepted and other books or written works that were questionable were left out. Overall, there was a united front and Constantine put his seal on the council.
From the time of Constantine, the bishops were given great statue and authority. They were considered heads over their regions. Although some had pet doctrines they held on to, mostly they were in agreement. There even followed many more councils over the next four or five hundred years to decide on matters of doctrine.
Then came the great divide between the Eastern Church and the Western Church. It started with the Western Church in Rome. With so many Bishops, each having their authority, there begin to be disagreements again. The Western Church said that there just had to be a Bishop with final authority, so they declared the Bishop of Rome to be that authority. The bishops elsewhere did not agree. The Western Church declared their bishop to be Pope and the Eastern churches grouped together against Rome.
Over the next seven to eight hundred years the Western (Roman) Church and the Eastern Church became institutions. Legalism became so strong in these churches that anyone who differed would be persecuted. Christianity had become rather dead.
Then the Reformation came about. The Bible was translated into the languages of the people. In the west there arose a protest against the Church as an uncaring institution. It came to a critical mass and it could not be contained any longer. These reformers or Protestants begin to get revelation from the Bible that was different from what the institutional churches taught. Protestant groups begin to pop up all over the place.
After a hundred or so years of breakaway reform, denominations being to be established in almost every country. These denominations not only disagreed with the Roman Church and the Eastern (Orthodox) Church but also disagreed with each other. Although there had been religious wars before, these diverse denominations took their countries into many wars.
Then the New World opened up. A lot of Christians that were fed up with denominational bickering, fled to North America. They had a healthy respect for freedom and it was incorporated into governments; especially the American. While most nations in Europe had state churches, America protected freedom of religion.
I think that because of freedom of religion a third movement of the Church happened. Although there had been outpourings in local areas in the past, at the beginning of the twentieth century the Pentecostal movement marked it’s beginning. It started in America and before the end of the century had reached around the globe. Though many say that the Pentecostals are protestants, I believe they were not exclusively against the Catholic church but rather a coming-out from all the denominations.
To summarize: (Remember these are mainly my thoughts)
The First century Church closely walked in spirit and truth. Their motives were pure and they resolved conflicts in a respectful, God honoring way. They were bold in their witness, understanding they were living completely for an eternal Kingdom. Because of that they walked in signs and wonders.
Just as Paul and Peter had warned, the second and third centuries brought disputers and false doctrines. (2 Peter 2:1, 2 Cor. 11:13, etc.) Then when Constantine unified the churches under the state, that is where the Church begin to be institutionalized as an earthly kingdom not a heavenly kingdom. The counsel in Nicaea should have been a time of repentance and bishops honoring each other’s differences. At Nicaea, maybe the Church could have healed and returned to the first century model.
The next seventeen centuries are times of the Church losing its power and ‘Jesus as the head’ as its focus. Although Jesus was always highly honored, the Church did not follow Him in all things. Therefore, they rarely walked in signs and wonders. Humanism and atheism took deep roots in the cultures because of hypocrisy and lack of power.
I think the Pentecostal movement is an attempt to return to the first century. There has been Pentecostal denominations form and they do lash out at the Catholics and older denomination, but in the past 30 to 40 years there has been a real change sweeping through the churches. These changes take on two main aspects. 1) Unity; honoring others even in our differences, and 2) focusing on Jesus as the head of the Church. The Charismatic movement has greatly helped to bring these two changes about. Many Catholics are experiencing renewal. Mainline denominations are being baptized in the spirit. The future looks good for the Church.
I personally am in favor of getting as close to the practices of the Early Church as possible. I do feel we will always be diverse in doctrine because each person, local church, region and nation have different callings. Therefore, since no one can absorb all of God’s knowledge in our fallen state, God will make sure we have the information, skills and opportunities for the divine task He has assigned for us where we are at. My finger will not do what my ear does. Although I will scratch my ear sometimes.
The only legitimate judgement we can make of other Christians is found in 1 Jn. 4:2-3a
By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. …