“Will you sincerely promise in the presence of God and these witnesses that you will take this Bible as the Word of God, believe and practice its teachings rightly divided, the New Testament as your rule of faith, practice, government, and discipline, and agree to walk together as one body in the light of the Gospel to the best of your knowledge and ability” (Church Covenant)
In 1997 I submitted to the call of God on my life to proclaim the Gospel. Shortly thereafter I confessed the beautiful words of the church’s covenant and became a zealous and devoted member.
The words of the covenant became very important to me. I had been raised in a “Church of God family” and had been taught as a small child the importance of the church and the beauty of her teachings. I had heard the “29 Important Bible Truths” preached with great anointing and conviction. Unfortunately, shortly after I accepted the call into the ministry and began holding revivals I became aware that not everyone who publicly confessed the church’s covenant actually believed in the church. I had naively assumed that every member of the church had the same vision that I had and were firmly committed to stand on the church’s teachings.
I will never forget being reprimanded by a certain pastor during a revival for preaching on the divine institution of marriage, particularly for comparing it to the covenant of the church. He said that the topics mentioned in the message—marriage and the church—were too divisive for his congregation. I shared with him my vision and reminded him of the covenant and its importance; but he countered my points of argument. He explained that he at one time had believed in the church and her teachings but that he had gotten a clearer understanding—insinuating that I had simply failed to walk in the ‘light’ that he had received!
It was during this time that I began to realize that something vital was missing in the church, something was lost in its life and ministry. For several years I remained troubled in my spirit knowing that what God had revealed to me in His Word was not what I was hearing from many of the church’s leaders and seeing in most of the local churches.
I lived on the evangelistic field and held state and regional appointments, but was constantly berated for my vision and understanding of the church. There was a constant heaviness within me to see the church that I loved once again united in purpose and vision. I held out hope for several years that it would get back to the “old paths” and rededicate itself to the vision of our forefathers and foremothers.
However, in the 2002 General Assembly it became clear to me that if I intended on being faithful to my covenant- –and continue to walk in the light—I was going to need to find a body of people who held to the same vision. I investigated a couple of groups that had separated from the Church of God of Prophecy some years earlier, but found no satisfaction in them: they lacked the spirit of love and unity for which I was longing. It was then that I heard of a meeting set for April 18-20, 2004 in Pigeon Forge, TN. The leaders who had arranged the meeting stated plainly their agenda—to counsel together to discover the path to restore the church. This excited me. I was hoping to find in this meeting the beautiful bride depicted in the prophetic Scriptures.
It was in this meeting that God gloriously and lovingly revealed to me a body of people that I could be in covenant relationship with in order to be faithful to the covenant I had taken seven years before. We are now twelve years removed from that wonderful day and I am still moved with emotion when I consider how good God was to have allowed me to discover again the church of God!
Sadly, there are many that had once received the understanding and vision of the glorious church of God but who have lost their vision. Some no doubt have been deceived; others have purposely turned a blind eye to the vision; and still others say they have received “additional light,” even apologizing for the truths they once preached and taught in the name of Christ!
Recently I heard a minister say that this generation just doesn’t have a vision of the church. I agree to some degree with this observation; but it seems to me that the reason for this cannot be laid altogether at the feet of our youth. It is rather that the previous generation has not clearly and zealously passed on the vision.
The apostle Paul dealt with this issue when writing to Titus, one of his spiritual sons in the faith. He expressed clearly that the older generation was to take on the responsibility of passing down a godly heritage to the younger generation—to insure that righteousness would be a lasting trademark of the children of Zion. They were to hand down the “sacred deposit” both by precept and example (2 Tim. 1.3-6; 2.2; 3.14-15; Titus 2.1-10).
I can remember in my childhood years seeing my grandparents’ generation full of the Holy Ghost and fire. A vision of God’s glorious church drove them to consecration and a sacrificial lifestyle for the sake of holiness! But with the doctrinal changes and spiritual compromises that came later, and that were forced upon them, the body of Christ was injured and crippled, and the momentum of the church stagnated. I watched it happen—lived through it! I saw the anointing diminish and the zeal wane away to nothing. I expressed my concerns and anxiety to pastors and overseers who treated me as if I were a child believing in some fairytale. They would pat me on the back and say, “You just keep on believing that” as if to say, “poor little delusional boy.” Some said, “God is doing a new thing in the earth—He doesn’t work in the same way anymore.” But their words were not what the Holy Ghost was saying to my heart and pouring into my spirit. I knew His power was still real! I knew His Word had not changed! I knew that Jesus Christ was still the same yesterday, today, and forever!
In 2 Kings 2:9-14 we find a man of God named Elijah. He was used mightily by the Lord, so much so that ,in accord with his prayers, rain ceased to fall on the earth for a period of three and one-half years! He also stood alone face to face with 450 hostile prophets of Baal and defeated them. And he stood toe to toe with wicked King Ahab and Jezebel, and boldly declared the truth of God’s Word.
Now this man was going to be taken to heaven, and his disciple, Elisha, wanted to be with him every moment. Elisha knew that Elijah was soon to depart the earth, and he was determined to be with him until the end. Elijah called Elisha to take up his office as prophet—to hand down his mantle to him and bless him. Elisha did not want to miss this special opportunity. We find Elisha’s commitment was tested three times by Elijah but he was faithful all the way to the end.
Prior to Elijah being taken up by the Lord in a whirlwind of glory, Elisha requested one last thing of him- –namely, a double portion of Elijah’s anointing. Since this double portion was the privilege of the firstborn, it may be that Elisha was asking to be Elijah’s successor. If so, we may be sure that it was not from any selfish motive. It wasn’t like an ungrateful child that was demanding his parents’ fortune in order to live in ease and irresponsibly! Not at all! Elisha’s request revealed that he knew he did not have the capability to fulfill the awesome responsibility of carrying out the work of Elijah with the experience he had with God at that moment. This double portion was no doubt referring to the energizing power of the prophetic spirit that characterized the life of Elijah. Elisha wanted to serve, but he knew he needed special grace and power!
Likewise, a body of people chosen by God that does not possess the power of the Spirit will not be able to carry on the work of God and fulfill His purposes in the earth—especially in the trying times of these last days. If all that we accomplish is the restoration of a few doctrines and institutional offices in the church, then we have missed the mark badly. We are doing no more than what a myriad of independent churches and denominations have done. And, like them, we are advertising something that we do not possess.
In Zion Assembly, we must restore the work of the Holy Ghost; and allow Him to be in control of the church and direct our ministries! Instead of waiting for the Spirit to fall, some Elisha’s must step up to the plate and cry out to the Lord for a double portion of the Spirit of God! You see, Elisha did not sit around and allow the mantle that he had been given to lay dormant. Not at all! Rather he picked it up and smote the waters and, like Elijah before him, said, “Where is the Lord God of Israel?”
Are we going to allow the rich and glorious heritage that has been handed down to us to lay dormant? We must not! We dare not! What we learn from the lives of Elijah and Elisha is that we too can fulfill the great mission of the church if we cry out for a double portion of His Spirit—if we are empowered by the same Source that they were!
Written by Zachary Snyder, Pastor, Goshen, IN.
Originally published in the Voice of Zion, April 2016.