Monday’s Influence Online Articles

Today, over at

  • Dave E. Cole writes “What the Church Can Learn from Harley-Davidson”: “Evangelism today must be more than an outreach program or big event. It takes place when every Christ follower accepts the personal command of Jesus to develop friendships with the unchurched, by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. There is hope for the 65 percent of churches that are plateaued, as they reexamine the mission and engage in relationships with the unchurched. I want to challenge every Christ follower to make friends with the unchurched and live an outward-focused life.”
  • Alton Garrison shares “God’s Plan for Your Church”: “On the Day of Pentecost, the Lord Jesus Christ poured out the Holy Spirit on His disciples, empowering them to be witnesses for Him to the ends of the earth. Acts 2, which reports that initial outpouring, is not merely a historical precedent for Christians today but also a spiritual paradigm — a pattern of renewal and revival in every generation of the Church.”
  • Finally, we note a recent Gallup poll about denominational affiliation: “Americans are gravitating away from denominational church labels.”

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Review of ‘A Spirit-Empowered Church’ by Alton Garrison

Spirit-Empowered_350Alton Garrison, A Spirit-Empowered Church: An Acts 2 Ministry Model (Springfield, MO: Influence Resources, 2015).

Pentecostals look to the Acts 2 church as the paradigmatic church—and with good reason! This was the church to whom Jesus Christ himself said, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). This was the church whose miraculous beginnings (2:4) were followed by immediate growth, both quantitatively (2:41) and qualitatively (2:42ff.).

This paradigmatic church is sometimes misunderstood, however. It was not a perfect church, for example, as the negative example of Ananias and Sapphira reminds us (5:1ff). It also was not a hyper-spiritual church, one so dependent on the immediate leading of the Holy Spirit that it neglected more pragmatic aspects of ministry. Just before the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2, for example, the church nominated two men to succeed Judas Iscariot (1:12ff.) On the Day of Pentecost itself, someone had to come up with a plan (and locations!) to baptize 3,000 converts (2:41). Later, the church had to resolve a problem in the distribution of the poor fund, which it did by creating the office of deacon (6:1ff).

The Acts 2 church, it turns out, was both powerful and pragmatic. Garrison writes:

The odd thing is that in some churches, we see resistance to calls for revitalization while others resist the idea of planning. Some don’t see the need for the work of the Holy Spirit or feel their churches have enough of the Spirit already, and others act like the Holy Spirit has no place in a planning meeting. The truth is that we need Him in every component of our lives and churches.

Alton Garrison makes the case for this kind of church in A Spirit-Empowered Church. Garrison is assistant general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (USA). In that capacity, he provides oversight to the AG’s Church Transformation Initiative, which partners with district denominational offices and local congregations to help strengthen the local church. His book is both steeped in classical Pentecostal theology and practice as well as attentive to what works.

Garrison divides the book into three units. Unit 1, “Our Challenge,” focuses on the issues that churches need to address to experience greater health. Unit II shows church leaders how to think about their congregation’s mission, vision, and values…and why. Unit III identifies the five core functions of a healthy church: connect, grow, serve, grow, worship. Garrison blends biblical insight, personal example, and practical principles in each chapter. The book thus rises out of a lifetime of reflection on the ministry of the local church.

What Garrison writes about the Acts 2 church resonates with me. In my own 25 years of ministry, I have been tempted to rely too much on one end of the powerful-pragmatic spectrum. I have also seen others go too far the other way. Reading a veteran minister make the case for balance reminded me not to be captive to false dichotomies in ministry. I would recommend this book especially to young ministers in their first pastorates. Heeding the advice Garrison gives will save you from a lot of grief. I’d also recommend it to pastors, board members, and other church leaders who feel that their church is stuck and need help getting spiritually and mission ally healthier.

P.S. This review first appeared at

P.P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my review page.

‘Believing God for Spirit-Empowerment’ by Alton Garrison

201304_084_Spirit_art From the fall 2013 issue of Enrichment:

Sadly, it appears that believers in many corners of the church are either abandoning Spirit-empowerment or have failed to access it in the first place. I fear that if the Holy Spirit were taken completely from a church, many elements of the work of that church would go on as if nothing had happened.

What a travesty of what every church was meant to be. And can this also be true of our personal lives? Are many of us in our area of ministry calling churning out “Christian” activity day to day that has no touch of God on it?

Without that touch, most powerfully brought about through the Holy Spirit’s infilling and influence, believers hobble their effective participation in the Great Commission. A.W. Tozer offered this observation, counterintuitive at first blush to the follower of Christ anxious to be of service in the Kingdom: “The popular notion that the first obligation of the church is to spread the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth is false.Her first obligation is to be spiritually worthy to spread it. [Emphasis his.] Our Lord said, ‘Go ye,’ but He also said, ‘Tarry ye,’ and the tarrying had to come before the going. Had the disciples gone forth as missionaries before the Day of Pentecost it would have been an overwhelming spiritual disaster.”

I believe churches that have diluted the original mission statement of our Lord merit the warning issued to the prophet Jeremiah: “ ‘My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water’ ” (2:13). Such churches have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof in their half-hearted acquisition of the Spirit’s leading and power. These churches have cut themselves off from the spring of living water and subsequently have nothing with which to fill their cisterns. What is left is an empty shell, merely an empty hull of theology.

These churches are Pentecostal sometimes — when it is convenient, when it is safe, when it is socially correct. Such believers are part-time Pentecostals. They have traded holiness for hype; they have forgotten righteousness in their pursuit of ritual; they have mastered the form of religion while sacrificing the force of the Spirit.

Part-time Pentecostals are high-maintenance/low-impact Christians. They boast of great authority, but are devastated at the first attack of the enemy. They know all their biblical rights, but recognize few of their responsibilities.

There is only one antidote to such a crisis. It is breathtaking in its possibility, it is awesome in its power, and it is liberating in its effect. It is quite simply the anointing. The anointing is the power of the Holy Spirit. At the end of the day there is no better definition. The anointing is the power of God to do the work of God in an ungodly world.

Read the whole thing here.

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