3. Avoid Pursuits of Power
Power struggles go right along with a divisive spirit. Nothing weakens the church as much as internal power struggles for prominence and control. Many power struggles emerged in the church in North Africa, especially as it aligned itself more and more with the Roman political order.
This was another criticism of the Donatists toward the mainstream church—its alignment with the Roman state. "What has the emperor to do with the church?" they asked. When Augustine became the bishop of Hippo in 395 he sought reconciliation with the Donatists, for the separation had occurred before his time.
Augustine, however, did not see unity as occurring through a mutual acceptance of one another in Christ. Augustine came to faith post-Constantine and he saw the church as an institution with clearly defined organizational parameters and a divinely ordained hierarchical leadership. As far as he was concerned, the Donatists were sheep that had gone astray and the only path for reconciliation and unity was for them to return to the Catholic fold, which they had left.
When the Donatists rebuffed Augustine's overture, he appealed to the Roman emperor to intervene. After a conference conducted by the emperor's envoy, the Donatists were condemned and declared illegal. Heavy fines were levied on all members of the Donatist churches and they were ordered to return to the Catholic fold. Donatist property and houses of worship were confiscated and given to Augustine and his group. Those who refused to comply were imprisoned or executed. Some fled to the desert, and others committed suicide rather than submit to the imperial decree.
The power struggles in the North African church greatly weakened it and made it vulnerable to the Islamic invaders when they arrived. We must remember the words of Jesus to His apostles when he rebuked them for pursuing power and exhorted them to function as servants (Mark 10:35-45). Only as Christian leaders have the confidence to be servants to the people of God will we see the body of Christ equipped to rise up in great strength and power, able to conquer every foe with the truth of the Gospel.
Why I Expect Another Great Awakening
When Muslim armies began invading North Africa around the middle of the seventh century, the once powerful North African Church did not have the internal strength of a vital faith and moral character to put up a defense, and they succumbed to the invaders. The noted church historian, Philip Schaff, says, "A large number of nominal Christians who had so fiercely quarreled with each other about unfruitful subtleties of their creeds, surrendered their faith to the conqueror." Muslim armies eventually swept across the entire continent bringing an end to Christianity's prominence and replacing the cross with the crescent. That is still the state of North Africa today.
I do not believe this will happen to America. I do not deny that it could, nor do I take the threat lightly. I also realize there could be individual acts of terrorism on our soil in the days ahead. Nonetheless, I believe the people of God in this nation are rising to the occasion. I believe churches, ministries, groups and fellowships are calling one another to a new consecration and commitment to Jesus Christ.
I believe more and more people are praying in sincere faith for another Great Awakening in our land. Because of this, I believe we'll see a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit sweep across this nation and around the world. I believe God is hearing our prayers and, as He promised in 2 Chron. 7:14, He will heal our land.
Eddie Hyatt is an author, ordained minister and founder/director of Revive America. Through Revive America his goal is to help lay the biblical and historical foundation for another Great Awakening in our land. If you would like to host a Revive America event with your group or congregation, contact Eddie at firstname.lastname@example.org. His books are available on Amazon and on his website.
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