-by Andrew Strom.

When I was in my early twenties God took me to the 'school of hard knocks' for a little while and taught me a few basic lessons. The things I learned have stayed with me ever since.

At that time we had been doing a lot of Bible study and I probably had an understanding of about 70 percent of the "9 Lies" material. But I was about to learn that 'theory' alone was not enough. Our outreach team at the time decided to start our own little fellowship - to "put the book of Acts into practice" as we thought. We were all
Spirit-filled Christians, used to street evangelism. The fellowship we started held prayer meetings every morning, we had "plurality of elders", we baptized people in the sea and had communion and spiritual gifts operating (to a degree) in our meetings. We thought we were pretty cool. In fact, we thought we were "it".

We did everything we could to copy the book of Acts as we understood it. We had seen some success as an outreach team and we had every reason to assume that God would bless what we were doing now. After all, we were so "scriptural", right? We were so much like the Book of Acts, we thought - God was just BOUND to bless us.

And what was the result? Absolute abject failure. Nothing worked, nothing much happened, and our growth was virtually nil. I was shocked and devastated. What were we doing wrong? Couldn't God see how "scriptural" we were? Why on earth didn't He bless us?

Being young, it took me a while to come to grips with what the problems really were. (-Quite a few years, in fact). These are the things God showed me:

(1)  We had an outward "form" of the book of Acts, but the "heart" was almost totally lacking.
(2)  We were more interested in getting things "technically" right and 'growing', rather than truly loving and caring for PEOPLE.
(3)  I had no true 'Revival' anointing, and without it a lot of my "Repentance" preaching was a waste of time.
(4)  I don't think we ever experienced true 'koinonia' at all in that group, even though we were doing many of the "technical" things right.
(5)  I was self-righteous and proud that we had so many things "correct", when in fact all the most vital things were missing. Personally, I realized later that I was a total 'Pharisee' - a proud religious zealot about "outward things" while the 'weightier matters' eluded me.

It took years of brokenness and 'crushing' for all these things to begin to be truly broken down in my life. It took years for me to start valuing PEOPLE more than technical correctness. It took years for me to see how much more important LOVE is than outward 'form'. And it took years for me to learn that it was the massive FLOWING of the Holy Spirit that made the early church what she was - NOT having all the "structural things right".

For years this crushing and brokenness was used by God to break down the self-righteous pride and 'religion' that I was steeped in. It was the very essence of 'wilderness'. And when I came out of that period I found that I was utterly changed.

These days I am under no illusions that we can simply do the "right things" and produce the Book of Acts. It is what we ARE, and not what we DO that is the crucial thing. I am under no illusions that simply applying all of the "9 Lies" and getting everything outwardly correct will do anything at all. If it is done in the power of the Holy Spirit then it can be very powerful. But otherwise it will achieve very little (if anything).

We need a Revival! We need the power of the Holy Spirit to sweep through. We need love and true 'koinonia'. We need a great 'Repentance' anointing on our preaching. Only then is it possible to see the Book of Acts happen again. And only then will changing our STRUCTURES on a large scale become truly worth doing.

This is why I often find I have a lot in common with some of my friends who do not share my convictions on the structure of the church. It is their 'heart' that matters to me. If these people are praying and longing for Revival, for instance, or loving and feeding the poor and preaching a powerful 'Repentance' message, or ministering powerfully in the Holy Spirit, then could it not be that they are over half-way to the Book of Acts already? For Acts was all about getting the "heart" things and the 'Holy Spirit' things right, far more than the structural 'forms'. Jesus did not go around preaching about the coming structure of the church. He preached repentance,
love and the kingdom of God. He healed the sick and dealt with the heart issues - sin and pride. 'Structure' was not his priority at all.

To give you an example of what I am talking about, there is a Spirit- filled group in downtown Kansas City that has taken over an old run-down church building and they are feeding the poor and preaching repentance and caring for the unloved. Now, should I go bursting in there raving about "no church buildings in Acts", or should I bless what they are doing as being close to the 'heart' of true Christianity? - I think I will take the latter course.

I find that I would much rather hang around with people who are deeply into prayer and intercession than people who spend all their time pondering how we can 're-structure' Christianity. I would rather sit down and talk to someone who truly preaches 'Repentance' than a person who thinks that we can change the church merely
by emptying the people out of buildings and into houses. Friends, all that is doing is rearranging the 'boxes'. Unless there is massive 'heart' change to go with it then it is mostly a waste of time. -I know because I have tried it - in several different configurations!

This is why "in-church", 'out-of-church' or "in-between" hardly matters to me. If I can see that on a 'heart' level a person is truly walking with God - praying and longing for Him to move by His Spirit, communing closely with Him and longing for transformation in the church - all of the other things pale into insignificance. I love meeting and
fellowshipping with such people - wherever they are from. (-And this includes pastors and other leaders. It is their 'heart' that matters).

When I look realistically at the "9 Lies" issues, I see some that are of real use to us right now - and others that will only truly be useful AFTER a great move of the Holy Spirit has begun. -It may be good to know about them now, but to see them actually come to pass will have to wait.

For instance, without a great move of God I cannot imagine the church suddenly deciding that it has no need of church buildings, professional clergy, Bible Colleges and the like. And even if these things were gotten rid of, THAT IN ITSELF would not change the heart of the church. We need Revival and THEN will come the Great Reformation and the new wineskin - when people can actually see the need for it. -When the Holy Spirit has opened their eyes to see that structural change will help preserve the 'new wine' and make the church truly biblical. This is the order of events as I see it. -Revival THEN Reformation. And thus, right now, anyone who is forging a path towards true Revival, repentance and heart- change in the church is a friend - no matter what their background.

Of course, as I said, there are other things from the "9 Lies" series that can actually be of real value right now. For instance, we have found that the whole 'koinonia' thing has been wonderful in the meetings we have been having in homes in Kansas City. Coming together to eat and take communion and then seeing the Holy Spirit
move as everyone (-including children) flow in the gifts - this has been wonderful. (-Part of this is the fact that we can ALL baptize, we can ALL break bread in communion, and EVERYONE has giftings and a ministry from God). These 'koinonia' groups have the potential to truly transform lives. -We have seen it.

Other aspects from the "9 Lies" series that we can enact right now include things like "united prayer", Repentance preaching, and the baptizing of new converts STRAIGHT AWAY - along with prayer for them to receive the Holy Spirit. And another thing that has come about through this series, is that some people seem
to have a renewed desire to STUDY THE BIBLE and find out for themselves what the early church was like. All of this is good.

But for the larger aspects of it, I believe we will need massive REVIVAL before we can start to see some of those things come to pass. So keep on praying, my friends! Revival is truly the key.

God bless you all.

Kindest regards in Christ,
Andrew Strom