Awakening the Sleeping Giant
At the end of two WWII movies, Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and Pearl Harbor (2001), Isoroku Yamamoto, Admiral of the Japanese fleet, says of the attack, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” History bears out that his concern was well-founded.
Today, there is another sleeping giant that is being awakened… that also needs to lay hold of a great resolve. It is the Body of Christ! I’m not implying that the everyone in the Church is slumbering; certainly many are alert, awake, and active. But how close is the Church to fulfilling its actual potential? Is the influence we are exerting in the earth remotely close to what it could be? What about our serving and our giving?
I believe that God is leading us toward a great corporate awakening! This is not to under-estimate the significance of leaders. Leaders play a huge role in teaching, inspiring, and modeling what it means to be a fully-activated, fully-engaged believer.
But consider these amazing statements by men of God in the last two centuries about the tremendous role that ordinary believers will have in the last days:
Mordecai Hamm (the minister who led Billy Graham to the Lord): “God gave me a revelation of the last days. It is the laymen that will reach the world.” He went on to call laymen “…the sleeping giant of evangelism.”
George Washington Carver: “…there is going to be a great spiritual awakening in the world, and it is going to come from… plain, simple people who know—not simply believe—but actually know that God answers prayer. It is going to be a great revival of Christianity, not a revival of religion. This is going to be a revival of true Christianity. It is going to rise from the laymen, from men who are going about their work and putting God into what they do, from men who believe in prayer, and who want to make God real to mankind.”
Charles Price: “Laymen will be His most important channel—not the clergy, or the theologians, or the great gifted preachers, but men and women with ordinary jobs in the ordinary world.”
Dwight L. Moody: “If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent.”
Tommy Hicks: “God is going to take the do-nothings, the nobodies, the unheard-of, the no-accounts… He is going to take every man and every woman and he is going to give to them this outpouring of the Spirit of God.”
Let me stress again that these statements do not reduce the significance of leaders in the work of God. Those in the five-fold ministry will always have their role as described in Ephesians 4:11-13. These spiritual leaders were never intended to do all the work of the ministry, but rather, to equip the saints – every believer – to do the work of the ministry.
Perhaps that is why, on the day of Pentecost, when Peter spoke of the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he did not say that God would pour out His Spirit on a few, select preachers, but upon all flesh.
16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17’And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
Notice how well this covers the spectrum of humanity. The outpouring was not for one specific category, but for sons and for daughters, for the young and the old. The outpouring wasn’t just for an elite class either, but for menservants and maidservants.
Notice also that this outpouring wasn’t just for the purpose of personally blessing the recipients, but rather to release an “expression” from them. “They shall prophesy…” is the expression that is spoken of here, and that was the primary expression that Joel, speaking in the Old Testament, would have been familiar with.
In the New Testament, though, we find a greater diversification of expressions that are not simply for the preachers. Consider what Paul shared with the Roman believers:
4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
As we consider this list, we realize that these are not “offices” so much as they are functions, and we realize that at least some of these are things that any believer can and should do as a part of their normal Christian life. For example, any of us can (and should) give, serve, and show mercy to others, not because we have a “special gift,” but simply because we’re believers.
However, above and beyond the normal functions of a believer, this list reveals to us that some people have a special grace to do some of these things in a very “gifted” way. For example, every believer can serve (minister), but some people seem especially graced, gifted, and called to serve in ways that are exceptional and beyond the norm.
What would a church look like if all of its members (or even a majority) were truly expressing the gifts and graces within them? I’m not simply referring to what happens during a church service. What if all these energized believers expressed His grace and gifts in their relationships both inside and outside the church?
Imagine entire bodies of believers gifted, graced, and overflowing in these areas:
- Prophecy – This is simply an inspired utterance that edifies, encourages, or comforts another person. It doesn’t have to be done publicly or in a church service. It doesn’t have to be religious-sounding with phrases such as, “Yea, thus saith the Lord, my little children…”
- Ministry – This is simply serving, a heart-felt meeting of the needs of others.
- Teaching – We understand the five-fold gift of teacher, but what if a multitude of graced believers would explain and expound to others the things they had learned from the Word?
- Exhortation – A strong, persuasive urging that calls one to come near.
- Giving – We can all give basic tithes and offerings, but some are graced and called to give above and beyond the norm. Those so gifted will make significant contributions in underwriting Kingdom works.
- Leading – While there may be one Senior Leader in a church, a church typically needs many who have leadership skills who can assist in overseeing and directing various outreaches and ministries of that congregation.
- Mercy – Some seem especially gifted to show compassion toward and to help the poor, the hurting, the struggling, and the afflicted.
Can you picture a massive army of believers who are flowing efficiently in these and other areas? By the way, I think the above list is a representative sampling; not a comprehensive list of all the areas where believers can be graced. Our prayer is that countless believers around the world will know the fulness of the Spirit, and in turn, express His “manifold grace” formally through positions and informally through relationships, both inside and outside the walls of the church. May we, the Body of Christ, truly experience a great awakening!