It’s absolutely amazing when you see the Gospel come alive in someone’s life, rather than just gathering dust as a non-committal ‘nod of approval.’ On the Gold Coast, where I serve as a full-time Pastor at Living Word Lutheran Church, the current statistical data tells us that there are something like 6000 people who identify themselves as ‘Lutheran.’ Collectively among all the congregations ministering on the Gold Coast, even on special festival days like Christmas or Easter, you would struggle to count 600 people in church. Of those who do attend, less than half might be identified as pursuing some kind of personal discipleship.
I have once heard it said that: ‘as the people go, so does the church.’ The people and the church need Christ! So how do we move from the ‘theoretical,’ to a fully integrated and integral faith?
The Reformation restored to the church sound and solid biblical teaching. Luther’s renowned claim: ‘Here I stand!’ passed down to our generation a biblical heritage that is still upheld in Lutheran pulpits today. But the people of today, those still sitting in the pews or those who have already walked out, are looking for the impact of the gospel. They have heard ‘this is the gospel’ proclamation, but are now looking for the ‘how?’ question connected to their life.
We are seeing a phenomenon unparalleled in human history. What I’m talking about is the ‘information-overload.’ You can ‘google’ anything and have sermons from around the world on YouTubes at your fingertips. The experiential part of the gospel is fast becoming the new reformation in the church. Does the gospel have real impact to bring about change, to bring about healing, to bring about an encounter with Jesus? That’s the question of today!
Now you know my context as a Pastor. But it’s also my longing as a person.
A decade ago I had a profound experience that some have described as a glimpse of heaven, with a vision of angels, and of the nearness of God. You can read about my testimony at www.nearheaven.org . Besides the amazing nature of that ‘near-death-experience,’ the conversations I had with God remained the most precious longing in my heart after all that time. I wondered if that NDE moment was just a ‘mountain-top’ experience, or if I could maintain this insight as an addition to my prayer-life. The answer came to me through one of my conversations with God as he directed me to consider Exodus 33:11 and spoke about his desire to restore this particular aspect of our relationship. Rather than quoting it here, I want you to open your Bible and check it out for yourself – and perhaps pray about it.
This was the beginning of what I call a ‘temple walk.’ What is a ‘temple walk?’ To explain it, I want to set the foundation that the ‘temple’ is a definition for God’s presence. Adam and Eve walking in the garden with God experienced his presence. Moses was given a ‘blue-print’ to set up the tabernacle for God’s presence to journey with his people. We see God’s glory transferred into the temple in Jerusalem and entering into the most holy place. We hear Jesus say: ‘destroy this temple, and I will rebuild it in three days – speaking of his body.’ To our surprise Jesus then proclaims after his resurrection that we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit.
So another way to understand ‘what is a temple walk?’, might be to say that it focuses our walk with God through the experience of the gospel.
I have shared this insight with individuals and seen tremendous growth in their faith as they experienced visions of God’s nearness. There have been opportunities to share it as a teaching with groups of people, and again, the gospel impacted their life with healing and restorations. Even among people who have walked out of church for one reason or another, who have shared with me some time as we walked through this ‘temple walk’ , have had personal encounters with Jesus that changed their life around.
The ‘temple walk’ is simply a way to personally experience the gospel.
Jesus is always seen proclaiming and demonstrating the gospel. The renewal in the church, as I believe and see it, is going to be revealed by adding to the wealth we have in the proclaimed gospel the necessary expression of the gospel applied to individual lives. I am reminded of the Roman centurion who came to Jesus with his need and said: ‘just give the word and it shall be done.’ Here we have the two parts of the gospel: the spoken word and its effect on people.
Rev Dirk Willner