Modern chauvinism is the tendency of those currently alive to believe that we are more knowledgeable than any previous generation with regard to revelation and understanding. I’m guilty of it and, more than likely, so are you. Applied to the church, this type of chauvinism is exemplified in our propensity to believe that our church has found something new, discovered something lost, or is championing something no one else ever has.
The tragedy is that in assuming any one of these postures we reveal our bias and lack of understanding toward those who have gone before us. The church of the old has nothing to speak to the church of today; Christian liturgy of yesterday is incapable of gathering the worshipping community of the present; and, worse still, the implication, no matter how unintentional, is that the Scriptures, sharing in the ‘oldness’ of the church, are likewise irrelevant, at least in some of their ‘more dated’ propositions.
Such modern chauvinism in the church reaches its apex, however, when the claim is made that God is moving in a ‘new way.’ At best, the implication is naive, revealing the innocence of someone who has never experienced a certain aspect of God’s presence or anointing. This is understandable but inaccurate, requiring the gentle intervention of a pastor and teacher.
More negatively, however, claims of a ‘new move’ explicitly indict God as having rarely, if ever, acted as he is acting today. Such verbiage, no matter how sentimental, ultimately insists that ‘a move of God’ is as new to him as it is to us. The defense, of course, is to place the burden on humanity, that we are somehow ‘uniquely positioned’ for this new move, owing to our desperation, humility, faithfulness, readiness, or piety.
Yet, the astute believer will recognize that wherever there have been ‘outbreaks’ of spiritual activity throughout Christian history, these are not actually the exceptions but the rule, not caused by any particular attribute of humanity but by the ongoing proclamation of the greatest apocalyptic event of all time: the events of the life of Jesus Christ.
The facts are that the appropriation of life by God the Father, the incarnational redemption of humanity by God the Son, and the ongoing empowerment of God the Holy Spirit, are all activities belonging to heaven and poured out in fullness upon the church for all times in all generations. There is nothing new about this: it is the supreme narrative of history, and it is still as potent today as it was in the moment of its conception.
If there is a ‘new move,’ it is only our obedience to the long-established Gospel, not a new dimension of some new fascinating dispensation; should it be anything other than what the apostles and the prophets handed down to us, it is anathema. God is not up to something new, he already made his pronouncement of activity certain, to make all things new.
If your church is walking in obedience to the Lord and seeing souls added to the church daily, welcome to what the Spirit of God has been doing since day one. It is not new, but it is certainly exciting. If your church has identified easier ways for sharing the Good News that engage the inhabitants of your zip code, welcome to God’s heart from the beginning. It is not new, but it is certainly exhilarating. The divine announcement about Jesus is the move of God, it has always been the move of God, and it is how God intends to move in the future.
If you are seeing the Gospel do what it is designed to do in your city—call people out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of glorious light—praise be to God! But do not devalue twenty centuries of Christian church legacy, much less the reputation of the Holy Spirit, by claiming it is new. It is not new. It is very, very old, perhaps just new to you.