Malcolm Gladwell in his powerful book, The Tipping Point writes that there is a moment; when several factors converge that create massive changes – usually quite rapidly. I believe the church is at the precipice of a tipping point. Factors are converging that will shift the focus of ministry as we know it. These factors include heightened communication through electronic media, the growing lack of loyalty to denominational structures, the blending of worship styles, time constraints and personal independence. These factors are becoming the foundation for a massive change in how ‘church’ is done.
In 1999, I began to teach about four walls that are coming down. They are the walls that have historically divided denomination and revelation, the sacred from the secular, calling from career, and clergy from laity. Even though they are invisible, they have molded how we have ‘done church’ for years. I believe these four walls are beginning to collapse. As they disintegrate, the church will reach a ‘tipping point’ moment that will result sudden shift in how the church functions.
The Wall Between Denomination and Revelation
The first of the four walls being dismantled by the Holy Spirit is the wall between denomination and revelation. This first wall has pitted denominations against each other and effectively divided the Body of Christ (Mark 3:35). This root of this division begins when fresh revelation from the Lord comes face to face with historical religious traditions and systems. This wall is actually between fresh revelation from heaven and denominational traditions in the earth. It is a battle between those who camp on what God has said, and those who attempting to follow what He is saying. Dr. Bill Hamon, in his book The Eternal Church wrote:
God has continued moving the church forward. There is fresh revelation being poured into the earth. The present truth being established in the earth, centers upon the saints doing the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). This will have a profound impact on how we do and view the church. Existing systems and norms will be challenged. The form of the church will change as our understanding of the church changes. We need not advocate house church per se, as much as we advocate the saints doing the work of ministry. When we emphasize the saints doing the work of ministry, that work will impact how we gather.
Gathering in homes is a natural outcome of the saints doing the work of ministry. The auditorium style gatherings are not conducive to an active army of saints. The ‘one-another’ ministry of the saints can only be effectively done in small intimate groups.
Secular and Sacred
The second wall that is falling has separated the sacred from the secular. This wall has weakened the church’s influence in the world. It has kept us blind to the fact that the earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein (Psalms 24:1)
Religion has inadvertently caused a separation between ‘church stuff’ and our daily lives. We have allowed this unseen wall to limit the sacred to religious activities and church related things. Anything we do that is religious in nature is our sacred life. However, when I go shopping, to school or work, this becomes my secular life. Many have been fooled into believing that any cross pollinating of the sacred and secular is taboo.
The wall between the secular and sacred is not just the difference between right and wrong, or sin or righteousness. It is the invisible wall in our minds that molds our understanding of what we believe belongs to God.
These two passages express the profound truth that we belong to Jesus Christ AT ALL TIMES. On our jobs, we are His. In the classroom, we are His. In the shopping mall, we are His. At all times we belong to Jesus Christ. I believe as the emphasis on the work of ministry matures, the wall between the sacred and the secular will collapse. Christianity will cease to be an activity for the religious and become a lifestyle of the believer. A mature body of blood bought believers will begin to infiltrate every sphere of human existence. The world will then recognize that there is an army of people who are turning the world (their secular systems) upside down (Acts 17:6).
Calling and Career
As the wall between the sacred and the secular disintegrates, the third wall that will collapse will be the subtle wall that divides calling and career. This wall has effectively separated spiritual callings and secular careers to the point that the marketplace has been overrun by the enemy (Matthew 5:14).
There are five values that guide the New Testament Church. The third of these values is the Holy Spirit and the ‘full expression of the ministry, spiritual and grace gifts’. In order for the Church to grow and mature, every believer must have an outlet for the expression of gifts given to them by God.
Unfortunately, like the wall between the sacred and the secular, many believers see their secular career as totally separate from any divine purpose. What they fail to realize is that a divine calling, expressed through either ministry, spiritual or grace gifts is an assignment for some aspect of God’s purpose to be fulfilled in the earth – not just the church. We are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Our lights are to shine before all, not just our particular church group.
God has set us in the Church and the world as it pleases Him (Acts 17:26; 1Corinthians 12:18). Where you are, may be an assignment from the Lord. You may be a factory worker, a retail clerk, a salesperson, or a school teacher. They may be your career, but equally so they may be an assignment from God. He may have placed you there in order to reach lost souls. In other words, what may be considered a career may in fact be a Kingdom assignment from God. The ministry, spiritual or grace gifts resident in you would be activated by the Holy Spirit to carry out God’s assignment in that place. Remember, the Holy Spirit activates the gifts for the purposes of God in the earth.
Clergy and Laity
This brings us to the final wall that will collapse – that is, the wall between clergy and laity. For 1,700 hundred years the church has been led by professional clergy. Very few of us have never known any other structure than the ‘preacher in the pulpit’ way of doing church. We have been trained to be spectators who show up week after week to watch the ‘spiritual show’. As people have become bored with this structure, new and more exciting productions have been created. Dance, media, tight musical bands and drama are being used to keep the masses spiritually entertained. After the first phase of the program, the ‘preacher’ brings a message designed to inspire the audience.
In this system you can maintain the image of success even though you go home and struggle all week. Spiritual maturity is measured by how many services you attend during the week, or how active you are in the system. In the clergy/laity system, individuals can be ‘promoted’ into church leadership because of personality or giving habits rather character and proven spiritual maturity.
In the New Testament church, leaders were recognized for their function, rather than their titles. They were to be esteemed for their works sake, not their popularity (1 Thessalonians 5:12,13). But more importantly, every member of the church contributed time, talent and treasure to the edifying of the body in love (Ephesians 4:16).
The wall between clergy and laity is an artificial divide created sometimes ignorantly, but often purposefully by church systems. As this wall crumbles, we will literally see thousands of believers coming forth in kingdom authority and power. They will move from being passive to active – from spectator to participator – from those in need to those providing solutions.
Yes, the church is approaching a tipping point moment. For some it will be painful and cataclysmic. It will catch them off-guard. For others (myself included), we are anticipating and preparing for it. Like many building projects, there must first be a dismantling of things that hinder the new construction. I believe the four walls I have discussed in this article are being demolished to make way for a glorious church that will literally turn the world upside down before Jesus returns.
Get ready! Jesus is building His Church His way in the 21st century. Blessings.
Tim Kurtz is the founder of The Center for New Testament Church Development. The ministry was formed in 2010 with the mission to plant regional churches that reflect the values and structure of the first century church.