Pushing my 1969 GTO muscle car down main street was an embarrassing irony for my 12th grade soul. I had the fastest car in town, but it was out of fuel and consequently, out of power. In my busyness and distraction, I had failed to spend time at the gas station.
Too often this is a picture of the Church and of individual believers. Jesus gave his life to birth an empowered Church that hell itself could not stop. His Acts 1:8 promise to every believer was an empowered life that would give dynamic witness to his gospel. Yet, we often find ourselves trying to push the church forward in our own strength, talents, models, and strategies.
You have probably tasted the distinct difference between living “fully fueled” and sputtering on fumes. You have, undoubtedly, lamented a church that is lethargic or fatigued or even worse, losing its potency as it debates political or non-gospel issues (Matthew 5:13-16).
Jesus gave his life to birth an empowered Church that hell itself could not stop. Yet, we often find ourselves trying to push the church forward in our own strength, talents, models, and strategies.
God is earnestly calling his 21st century Church to wholeheartedly engage in the “triangle of empowerment.”
In an often-overlooked verse there are three elements which combined to propel the rapid, Spirit-fueled spread of the first-century Church: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied” (Acts 9:31, ESV).
Empowerment happens when the Church walks in the fear of the Lord, the partnership of the Spirit, and the goal of multiplication—a triangle of empowerment.
A Posture We Prioritize
“Walking in the fear of the Lord” describes a disciple who trembles at God’s word (Isaiah 66:2); who seeks God’s opinion for every attitude and action (even social media posts); who treats God’s mission as a mandate not a suggestion; and who continually gives the Lord a holy reverence (2 Corinthians 7:1, Hebrews 12:14).
To “walk in the fear of the Lord” is also to be in awe of God—to be daily impacted by God’s reality, ability, and willingness to act supernaturally on behalf of his gospel. Such “fear” creates a growing faith for God to do “God stuff.”
One of our church planters, Brian Warth, was serving a life sentence when Christ set him free: at first spiritually, but then—miraculously—physically as well. Brian and Chapel of Change have a posture that you must obey God, and then “believe God to act like God.” They expect the unexpected to happen in people’s lives. With minimal strategy and maximum prayer, the church has grown and multiplied dynamically.
A Power We Receive
Acts 9:31 describes the Church as “walking . . . in the comfort [help, encouragement] of the Holy Spirit.” The Church was daily depending on an empowering partnership with the Holy Spirit. He was doing through them what they could never do on their own. This was Acts 1:8 in action.
Five times in Acts this empowerment is called “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Gifts are not earned; they are received. You must, however, posture yourself to receive.
For example, you could live with a year-round suntan in Phoenix. Why? Because the sun shines 300 days a year. But there is one requirement: you must position yourself to receive the sun’s power.
Jesus’ practices of concentrated and continual prayer as well as fasting are two of his receptive habits we need to emulate.
Likewise, it is in imitating the spiritual practices of Jesus that we position ourselves to receive the same power of the Spirit in which he walked. Jesus’ practices of concentrated and continual prayer as well as fasting are two of his receptive habits we need to emulate.
My friend Rob Wegner, of Kansas City Underground, stresses extraordinary prayer and fasting as the first and most essential learning in his missional pathway. He primarily credits this priority as the reason for the rapid multiplication impact Kansas City is experiencing.
A Purpose We Pursue
Acts 9:31 describes both an action and a result in the phrase “it [the Church] multiplied.” Disciples made disciples who made disciples, and churches started churches that started churches. The churches weren’t chasing an attendance goal of addition, but gospel saturation through multiplication.
When our local church shifted our pursuit from trying to be the biggest church in the city to reaching the whole city for Christ, we had to surrender addition as our goal and pursue multiplication. God’s empowerment fueled us in an entirely new way when we made that Kingdom shift.
The church of Acts 9:31 was keenly focused on the multiplication of missionaries—ordinary people who feared the Lord, received his power, and then used it to make disciples and start churches who would do the same thing. The result, of course, was astounding. The church multiplied into an unstoppable global movement.
May it be so again in our generation!
Larry Walkemeyer serves as strategic catalyst for multiplication for Free Methodist USA to encourage the multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches nationally. He is also the global pastor for Light & Life Church, a multiplying, multi-ethnic church he and his wife Deb have led for the past thirty years. Larry is also the director of equipping and spiritual engagement for Exponential. He holds a Doctor of Ministry and has authored several books.
Larry and Dr. Deb Walkemeyer have been married since 1978 and they write and speak frequently on marriage. They have two adult daughters. Larry enjoys snow skiing, waterskiing, biking, mission trips, and long walks on the beach.