Recently, I was doing my “normal” bedtime routine that includes story time, prayers, back scratching, and as many hugs as I can get. Upon entering my daughter’s room, I noticed she was taking a quiz from one of her books. The quiz involved a series of questions that provide you with an answer to an even larger question…”Are you normal?” I quickly assured my dear daughter that she was not normal, needed to forget that crazy quiz, and go to bed! Of course, my “go to bed” decree was after I took a moment and expounded on the great advantages of being “abnormal”! I hope she didn't listen.
I have often heard people say, “I just want a normal life.” Those words have never, ever come out of my mouth. However, the older I get, I do find it easier to be drawn back into the yucky mire of the middle ground.
For a movie stuntman, “normal” includes leaping from tall buildings, jumping out of speeding cars, or an array of other interesting activities that would certainly not be “normal” for me. The individual who has grown familiar with a certain lifestyle actually defines the rules, standards, and “norms”. So, what is normal for one person is not necessarily normal for another.
A rather unusual spirit of conviction arrested my heart as I pondered this quiz and its results. Have we become so comfortable with the definition of “normal” in the American church that is not necessarily the “normal” that the Apostles in the book of Acts would have found familiar? What would happen if we would return to a more vintage faith? What kind of power would the church operate with if we redefined “normal” based on the right foundation? Can you imagine a church that defined “normal” as the book of Acts? Think of the kingdom impact of a person who defined “normal” as principles outlined in Matthew 25. Do you realize how that combination could shake the very gates of hell?
It appears to me that we need to redefine “normal” in the church? So, if we must redefine “normal”, just exactly where should we start? Every generation must resolve its position on gospel mission and Biblical doctrine. I am working hard to lead and live my life in a way that is more reflective of the life of Jesus in the Gospels, the operation of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, and the instruction received through the Epistles and rest of the New Testament.
I want to be “normal” in a new way! I know… I know… This seems way too simplistic of an approach. Trust me, this is not an easy position to maintain. I am tempted every day to relapse. I often “slide back” into a much more “pharisaical version” of a Christ – follower.
It is much easier to live and lead by a normative system that operates without the hard challenges of Bible passages like we find in Matthew 25 and Acts 2. No doubt you’ve read these scriptures before, but let’s review for the sake of clarity.
In Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus proclaims that how you treat the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and other "least of these," is how you treat Jesus himself.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
This is a passage of scripture that I really wish was not in the Bible. I certainly wish that Jesus had not been the one to speak these words. The implications of Matthew 25 are huge! Imagine the audacity of Jesus asking me to actually live differently than others. How could he expect me to challenge people in the North Dallas culture to “be the church” 24/7/365?
The book of Acts records the actions of the Apostles and the launching of the New Testament church! Today, hundreds churches in the world, including the one I lead, are full of people who have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and “tongues of fire”.
Acts 2:39 - 40
39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call." 40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
This passage messes me up! He “pleaded” with them. His “plea” produced a harvest of souls that started a soul revolution that has never ended. We are a generation seeking to return to a “vintage faith” that precedes religious dilution. I desire to be aligned with Bible. Check out one of the powder-keg passages in the Bible.
Acts 2: 36 - 38
36"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." 37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
The Gospel was preached. Their hearts were pricked. They asked a simple question. Peter gave a simple answer.
38Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
41Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
This Gospel was preached. Their hearts were pricked. They asked a simple question. Peter gave a simple answer. They were glad to hear it. They baptized a lot of people that day who simply responded with faith in the Apostle’s message.
It is my prayer that a vintage faith returns and we redefine what “normal” church looks and feels like. This Book of Acts experience messed up the lives of these people in a ridiculously good way! Have you read this lately?
42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and
to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone
was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the
apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in
common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone
as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the
temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and
sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the
people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
This was “normal” for the Book of Acts church! This lifestyle sounds completely antiquated, foreign, and primitive to the modern church. These early believers were radically revolutionized by the power of God’s Spirit. What did the vintage church do? They were awe struck, stuck together, took care of each others' needs, had Worship Experiences every day, and and shared meals with each other. They were a powerful expression of God's heart and passion. The mandate, mission, and message of my life is seeing God create a “normal” church in North Dallas that looks astonishingly familiar to the Book of Acts.
I cut my teeth on church pews, took naps under those same pews, and even went to my first church conference when I was 4 months old. I love and believe in the church. I am excited about the future of His church. God is calling a generation beyond the limitations of religious experience and walls of division. There are men and women of all ages that are hearing the call of God and are ready to move into an Acts 2:47 “normal” that includes people being added to the church every day! This kind of normal church can impact an entire city, state, and world!
These are exciting times for the church around the world. The local church that I am honored to Pastor is full of people that have a heart for God and a passion for others. This next season will include supernatural moves of God that we have previously thought to be “abnormal”! A church that is filled with a Matthew 25 heart and Acts 2 Spirit will radically reshape the spiritual landscape of a city.
ALC will continue to pursue its destiny as a refuge and lighthouse to the city of Plano, Texas and beyond. We insist on being a normal Acts 2 church! I think the next time Eva and I talk, I need to challenge her to simply be a new kind of normal.
Let’s be normal!