As I have worked with the Church over the past four decades, it is apparent that the ministry of the Spirit is on the wane. The vast majority of those to whom we have ministered could have, and should have, been ministered to in their churches.
As the cultural and economic wars heat up, it will become absolutely necessary that the Church regain its vitality in its various avenues of ministry. Since we have seen God transform lives around the world on all 6 continents in the past 40 years, we know with certainty that the Church could be seeing the same every day of the week! It is obvious that the Holy Spirit has not lost his power, so the fault is not with Him!
While there are notable exceptions, the Church, as a whole, has relinquished much ground to the helping professions where the power of the Spirit is also missing. During the last several decades, the centrality of the Cross, the power of God, has increasingly faded from view. As a result there has been increasing dependence upon man-made programs, both in development and execution.
In looking at the various aspects of ministry, the centrality of the cross is conspicuous by its absence! To begin at the beginning, the most notable approaches to evangelism are faithful to the cross for Jesus, but the cross for the believer is rarely mentioned. If it were, the beginning step in discipleship, taking up the cross, (Luke 14:27) would be taken at the outset rather than later, or never!
In the materials and approaches to discipleship, there is frequently little emphasis on the cross (Rom. 6:6, Gal. 2:20) as the sine qua non of true discipleship. Lacking the experience of the cross, the believer is not filled with the Spirit, since the flesh is yet in the ascendancy. We have found that taking up the cross in experience frequently changes the life more than the new birth, which is foundational.
The preaching of the cross, the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18), should undergird all other phases of ministry; but here, too, it has had less and less priority. As a result, the hearers do not sense the importance of losing their lives to save them (Matt. 16:24, 25) and continue to live after the flesh.
If being filled with the Spirit upon being emptied of self (flesh) and walking in the Spirit is uncommon, it follows that praying in the Spirit would also be a missing phenomenon with such believers (Eph. 5:18;6:18)..
The music ministry and worship are also affected by the lack of centrality of the cross. Well trained voices and leadership will fall short of God’s blessing, if not done in the Spirit; thus, well intentioned and executed music will have less than the intended effect on the hearers and participants.
Then, as the recipients of such ministry begin to experience need, the usual recourse is Christian counseling, psychology or psychiatry which are not noted for making the cross central. Lacking that centrality, there is less than miraculous results!
Being aware of the shortcomings in ministry and the lack of thriving churches, much attention is given to the need for revival, awakening or renewal; but there, too, the centrality of the cross is frequently missing. Therefore, there may be more emphasis on evangelism, consecration or rededication than on the experience of the cross with the accompanying filling of the Spirit.
Historically, such awakenings as the Welsh revival of 1900 had the cross implicit, but not explicit. Therefore, when revival fires began to wane, there was not the conscious knowledge that the daily application of the cross could extend the revival. As a result, God used Jessie Penn-Lewis to write extensively, and effectively, on the centrality of the cross, the missing dimension.
In my book, From Pastors to Pastors, Testimonies of Revitalized Ministries, a number of pastors from around the world share the impact in their own lives and ministries, upon experiencing the cross after several, to many, years of ministry. With the lack of emphasis on the cross it is the usual pattern for a pastor to learn from experience the need to lose his life in order to save it, with the ministry in the Spirit multiplied as the result.
Since God sovereignly made the cross a reality in my life in 1965 and called me to such ministry in 1967, He has consistently transformed lives. Many were from solid churches of various denominations; and some had failed to receive help from mental health professionals, including hospitalization in some cases.
Our Lord has been faithful to use those whose lives were touched by the Spirit to pass the message of the cross (Gal. 2:20) along to others and be used of God in the same way, without formal training.
Our basic diagram, the Line Diagram, has been used extensively for evangelism, with Jesus’ death on the cross, and the believer’s death with Him, being taught simultaneously. Thus, such a person takes the first step of discipleship upon being born again, which should always be the case!
However, ours is primarily a discipleship ministry with hurting believers being led directly to the cross in as little as one interview. Many of those so discipled have gone on to minister in the Church, with some being called to stand alone ministries.
In almost half a century, God has amply proven that the centrality of the cross is the missing dimension in the Church today and that its restoration will again empower the Church for the perilous times ahead. His anointing of my first book, Handbook to Happiness (Tyndale 1971), in 40 years of continuous print with transformed lives in its wake, should give churches the faith to believe that the power is not gone but waiting to be tapped! He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5); He has not moved—we have! Now, let’s move back to where the cross is front and center in all aspects of ministry and witness His moving in power! My recent book, Discipling the Desperate, gives more than 60 case studies of lives transformed by the Holy Spirit.
We stand ready to assist churches with what God has taught us over the years so that lives will be transformed in churches all over the country (and others) and He will receive all of the glory!
HAVE YOU BEEN TO THE CROSS?
C. R. Solomon 11-22-10
The cross has many facets,
Its vital work to do;
And though it is ineffable,
Here we consider only two.
Have you been there for salvation,
As His blood was shed for you?
His work there was finished, (Jn. 19:30)
As it cleanses through and through. (1 Jn. 1:7)
Have you returned for sanctification,
That self’s hold be broken? (Rom. 6:6, 11, 13)
In all God has to offer,
Salvation is but a token.
The cross was for our Lord;
But it must be our cross, too. (Gal. 2:20)
He invites us our cross to bear (Lk. 14:27)
That us He might live through.
Though His cross secures our pardon,
That in Heaven we have a place; (Eph. 2:6)
He must be our savior and our life (Col. 3:3)
To hear “well done” at the end of the race. (Matt. 25:21)
 sine qua non – “something absolutely indispensable or essential”
 For a good exposition of the Cross for the believer (especially identification), see The Centrality of the Cross, by J. Penn-Lewis CLC Publications
Handbook to Happiness, From Pastors to Pastors, and Discipling the Desperate are available through the GFI bookstore or by calling 1-888-66GRACE.
Dr. Charles Solomon is Founder and President of Grace Fellowship International.