History of the Maranatha Churches
History of the Maranatha Churches
In Brazil, such as in other parts of the world, the 60s were a time of profound spiritual revival. The experience of the baptism with the Holy Spirit and the operation of the spiritual gifts went beyond the borders of the older Pentecostal Churches. I the life of many believers and evangelical Churches, the prophecy of Joel that the apostolic Church experimented in the Pentecost was fulfilled: “In the last days, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh…”
It was in this context that a small group of brethren experienced the wonderful blessing of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. One of the most noteworthy results of this revival was that the Lord started to reveal Himself through the spiritual gifts. Soon that small group started to understand that they were before a serious dilemma: either they would accommodate the new blessing to their traditional ecclesiastic structure (new wine in old wineskins), or they would start to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit allowing the Lord to guide them and create a new spiritual structure in their midst (new wine in new wineskins). It was then that those few brethren made the decision that would mark their future: to start obeying the Lord, indeed giving Christ His place as the Head of the Body (Ephesians 5:23). Hence they started a journey through a new path, that they did not know because they had never trailed it up to then (Joshua 3:4), and that continues to this day.
What did this decision mean in practice? Firstly, to trust completely the Word of God as the only and exclusive source of authority for faith and practice and obey it without reservations. The history of the Church shows that many started well but lost the direction because they left the Word of God. Secondly, such as the Word teaches, to use the spiritual gifts not only as signs for evangelism or for occasional edification of the brethren, but as essential resources for carrying out God’s Work. With resignation that small group learned that through the spiritual gifts the Lord wants to guide and rule over His people. If God guided His Work in the midst of the first Church, there is no reason to believe He cannot do the same today.
However, in order for the gifts to function well, it was necessary to understand and live the doctrine of the Church as the Body of Christ more profoundly. With fasts, much prayers and struggles, the brethren started to learn how to discern the voice of the Lord, to carefully judge the gifts and apply them with wisdom for the edification of the Church. Poorly discerned gifts or applied without wisdom can destroy the Work of God; but with discernment and wisdom they amount to great blessings (Prov. 14:1).
The Lord was pleased with this attitude, for He started to have liberty to reveal His will about all the aspects of the live of the Body. A new structure (new wineskin) started to take shape, not originating from the minds of a few men especially intelligent or experienced, but from the revelation of the Holy Spirit in the Body.
Early on the Lord made it clear that He would provide for all the material needs of the Church. The biblical teaching regarding faithfulness to the Lord in the offerings is taught to the people of the Churches, but no money is requested or collected during Church services. The Church does not depend on any outside institution fro its sustenance. The resources are managed in a centralized way, which allows for the sustenance of the Work wherever and however the Lord determines.
One of the most notable results of the decision to consult the Lord in everything that concerns his Work and obey Him was the unity generated by the Holy Spirit among the pastors and among the Churches (currently more than 5,000). The only possibly unity is the unity of the Spirit, as we know. Everyone has the right to their opinions, but when the Lord reveals His will regarding any issue, there is only place for one of two attitudes: obedience or disobedience. This is the explanation for the fact that, in its almost 40 years of existence, there has never been a division in the Church, or were there factions in its bosom.
The exercise of the five ministries (Ephesians 4:11) decisively contributes to this unity of the Body. In the body of pastors (Presbytery) these five ministries are manifest, although no one is treaded by another title but the one of pastor. Due to the different role of each ministry in the Body, it is common to move one pastor from Church to Church so that the Churches benefit from the diversity of ministries. For instance, if a Church needs to grow in number, a servant with the ministry of evangelist is sent; if it needs doctrine, a teacher. The teacher, however, is not one who speaks of himself, his personal conclusions of the study of the Word. The teaching is apostolic and emerges from the Body, with unanimity regarding that which is understood as coming from the Lord. The Church has Seminaries to form the whole Church in the doctrine, especially the workers, where this doctrine is taught in a systematic way.
In the local Churches there is the gift of prophecy and the word of knowledge in abundance. However, it is in the midst of the pastors that the ministry of the prophet is manifest in a special manner. Many times God uses the prophets to give orientations for the Church, a region, or even to all the Churches. These orientations, when recognized as coming from the Spirit of God, are implemented in a disciplined way in every Church; this, the Lord rules over His people. It is also in the regular meeting of pastors that issues related to them are treated, including the separation of new brothers for the ministry of the Word.
Every servant – both men and women – may be used by God in the spiritual gifts, including the gift of prophecy (I Cor. 14:1). One of the orientations from the Lord a few years ago was what is called the prophetic service. Before, the pastor of the Church, alone or with the help of a very restricted number of brethren, made decisions regarding the service: who would direct praise, who would preach, the message to be preached, the songs to be sung, etc. The Lord showed that he wanted the whole church involved in the service and that He would give signs that would be for the edification of the brethren and for the salvation of lives.
Nowadays, each Church is divided in groups, each group being responsible for one service a week. Before each service, this group (that already prayed in the early dawn and during the day) comes together to prepare the service for that day (our Churches, generally, have services every day except Fridays, when there is the home service). There are several spiritual gifts that show the will of the Lord for that service. Also, there are prophetic signs for the people who will be present, be them brethren of the Church, be them visitors to the Church for the first time. The experiences are remarkable, fulfilling Paul’s word (I Corinthians 14:25): “And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.”
Not only in the local Church, but also in great evangelistic meetings, that bring together 5, 20 or 30 thousand people (or even more), the use of the spiritual gifts have been constant. In addition to the message of salvation, the return in glory of the Lord Jesus is proclaimed, calling attention to the prophetic signs that are currently being fulfilled in the whole world. The result of these great evangelistic meetings has been an extraordinary growth of the Churches. In these meetings, generally done in large places (even in soccer stadiums), there are brethren who sing, play instruments, direct praise, preach the Word and pray for the people. However, in these occasions no name is announced other than Jesus Christ’s. He is the one who receives all the glory.
A final word regarding the work with children and adolescents. Several years ago the Lord called the attention of the Church to the fact that the children are not only the Church of the future, but integral part of the Church today. Therefore, the Lord has required a special attention to the younger ones, giving them not only biblical instructions bus leading them to an experience of salvation and baptism with the Holy Spirit. Today, it is recognized that the children are the best evangelists of the Churches. It is amazing how the Lord uses them, in the simplicity and authenticity of their faith. There have been special meetings with them, and the effect even goes beyond that of the meeting with adults. As we observe how God blesses the younger ones, it is as if the Lord were constantly reminding us that it is through the simple and humble faith of His servants that God can operate miracles and exalt His glorious Name.