Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Holiness Manifesto - Is There a Crisis in the Church?

It seems that there is a lot of renewed interest in the blogosphere these days around the "Holiness Manifesto." In case you are not familiar with it, it was one of the outcomes of the Wesleyan Holiness Study Project (WHSP). The third and final meeting of the group of pastors, denominational leaders and scholars from the United States and Canada was recently held and out of that meeting came the latest version of the Holiness Manifesto. I encourage all who profess a Holiness doctrine to read it and see what, if anything, speaks to you from its pages.

In short, it talks about:

  • The Crisis We Face - There has never been a time in greater need of a compelling articulation of the message of holiness. We are not even keeping pace with the biological growth rate in North America. The power and zeal of churches has been drained by the incessant search for a better method, a more effective fad, a newer and bigger program to yield growth. In the process of trying to find the magic method for growing healthy vibrant churches, our people have become largely ineffective and fallen prey to a generic Christianity that results in congregations that are indistinguishable from the culture around them.

  • The Message We Have - God is holy and calls us to be a holy people. God wants us to be, think, speak, and act in the world in a Christ-like manner. We invite all to embrace God's call to:
    • be filled with all the fullness of God in Jesus Christ -- Holy Spirit-endowed co-workers for the reign of God;
    • live lives that are devout, pure, and reconciled, thereby being Jesus Christ's agents of transformation in the world;
    • live as a faithful covenant people, building accountable community, growing up into Jesus Christ, embodying the spirit of God'’s law in holy love;
    • exercise for the common good an effective array of ministries and callings, according to the diversity of the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
    • practice compassionate ministries, solidarity with the poor, advocacy for equality, justice, reconciliation, and peace; and
    • care for the earth, God'’s gift in trust to us, working in faith, hope, and confidence for the healing and care of all creation.
  • The Action We Take -May this call impel us to rise to this biblical vision of Christian mission:
    • Preach the transforming message of holiness;
    • Teach the principles of Christ-like love and forgiveness;
    • Embody lives that reflect Jesus Christ;
    • Lead in engaging with the cultures of the world; and
    • Partner with others to multiply its effect for the reconciliation of all things.
So, I ask the questions:

Is the message contained in the Holiness Manifesto on target?
Is it too little too late?
Is the message of Holiness being diluted in order to make the church more palatable to the world?
Is there a role for me to play in spreading the message of Holiness?

I believe that much of the message of the Holiness Manifesto is completely on target. I am currently engaged in a dialog on another blog that is largely populated by folks who come out of the same denominational and theological construct that I do. And the debate is raging fast and furiously over there. Many of us know some of the folks who made up the WHSP and we are passionate about Holiness as a defining characteristic of our church.

This area of dialog has most often been the exclusive territory of the clergy. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard a pastor say that the church is a lay driven movement. Unfortunately that is usually followed by a call to come work this Saturday to repaint the nursery or mow the lawn.

It is an all too rare thing that a pastor will engage a layman in a quality dialog around the issue of holiness. Now maybe that is because not enough of us laymen have been interested in Holiness. Nevertheless that is a shame because Holiness is both somewhat academic and experiential.

Hopefully it is not so academic that only a few can understand it. The last time we had that in church history a guy vandalized the front door of a church with a hammer, nails and pieces of paper and started a reformation!

Now many of us are frustrated by the programmatic approach that many of our churches take to ministry. And, sometimes, it doesn't even seem like ministry. It seems more like entertainment. Whoever has the "best" Sunday morning entertainment gets the biggest crowds. And bigger crowds beget bigger crowds. And church leaders are often counting the size of the crowd and sending off a report to the denominational headquarters and pat themselves on the back and declare:

"We are a great church."
"Just look at the size of our sanctuary."
"Did you see all the special effects and fog machines we used in worship today?"

And then I hear the voice of Jesus saying...
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
The message of Holiness is a message of the cross. It is a message of death. Death to sin and its power over my life.

That message is not necessarily a message that can be easily packaged and tied up with a bow. It doesn't really lend itself to PowerPoint slides during announcements on Sunday morning. It is not our nature or culture to run to the foot of the cross.

But if that message rings within your heart, then there is nothing more beautiful and precious.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!


  1. KJKEB,
    I hope this Don't sound disrespectful, that is not my intent, why something so simple,and so wonderful as God's word, has to be as you have wrote in this post? I have read, and have heard that some of the best Preaching was done by the river side, nothing fancy, or flashy, just plain goood old preaching!
    isn't that the way it should be?

  2. JEL,

    I think you may have misunderstood my post. I agree wholeheartedly with you that it does not need to be fancy or flashy! The church that I belong to has it's roots on the wrong side of the railroad tracks where there was a need to minister to the down and out of Los Angeles.

    A historical statement from our church's web site says in part, "They held that Christians sanctified by faith should follow Christ’s example and preach the gospel to the poor. They felt called especially to this work. They believed that unnecessary elegance and adornment of houses of worship did not represent the spirit of Christ but the spirit of the world, and that their expenditures of time and money should be given to Christlike ministries for the salvation of souls and the relief of the needy."

    So, what I am in fact doing is longing for a return to the brush arbor revivals and baptisms in the local river from years gone by. I wan't my children to see a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and a revival to sweep the nation. I am praying for a revival like the kind that swept Asbury in 1970.

    But beyond that, I am calling for the church as a whole to Holiness. But it is really not me that calls us. It is the Lord. I Peter 1:16 says, "Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."

    So, you are not sounding disrespectful at all. In fact, I think you and I agree on this issue.


  3. I received yur comment on my site.I stumbled upon the Holiness Manifesto while doing some internet searches on holiness. I thought the Manifesto was awesome.People who call themselves christians today, lots of them lack in holiness. If you read my blog, you will see that I believe that in many pulpits today, all that is being preached is a "feel -good" message. The gospel is watered down so as not to offend anyone. Sin is hardly mentioned, let alone holiness. What comes out of some of the largest churches in America is basically motivational speaking with a christian flare. Christians today blend in with the world. God calls us to be separate. Many have fallen prey to the "tolerance" thing. I believe there is a remnant of believers who need to speak the truth, no matter what the cost. Charles Finney did not have such great revival by beating around the bush, and watering things down. He preached with boldness. American church bases it's success on how big the offering is and how many people show up on Sunday. The main focus is "when can we build a bigger building?" Unfortunately, many of those bigger buildings are being built to house rows of pews filled with unsaved people. People who come week after week, leave feeling good, and have never been confronted with their sinfullness and need for a Saviour.Check out my blog

  4. Reggie McNeal always talks about the need for the church to change the "club" mentality as well as to change the focus from counting nickels and noses. I also think your statements "The message of Holiness is a message of the cross. It is a message of death. Death to sin and its power over my life." should really be contained under "The Message We Have Section of the Manifesto (maybe it is since you have only summarized it here). I will have to check it out. Thanks.

  5. Great post! Thanks for stopping by my blog, btw. I will have to elaborate on my opinion sometime in the future but my quick answer is that if this movement calls people into a deeper relationship with Christ and is based on truth it cannot be a bad thing. I am interested to see where it takes those involved in these churches. :)

  6. You are so smart and articulate, I can't even believe you stopped on my site! Than you for what you said, it means a lot to get your encouragement! Thank You!

  7. Awesome Post brother! I love it!

  8. humblethyself6:36 PM


    You wrote, "The message of Holiness is a message of the cross. It is a message of death. Death to sin and its power over my life.

    That message is not necessarily a message that can be easily packaged and tied up with a bow."

    I think you are right on. Holiness IS a message of the cross. Holiness IS a message of death. Holiness is a death to oneself...allowing "my will" to die...and surrendering to live God's complete and total will, just as His Son did.

    "Jesus, the Son of God, freely suffered death for us in complete and free submission to the will of God, his Father. By his death he has conquered death, and so opened the possibility of salvation to all men."

    How does man achieve that "possibility" of holiness? By succeeding in totally surrendering to God's will and living one's life in the complete example of His Son.

    Very tough to do.

    Are church leaders being bold and brave enough to clearly send this message and constantly challenge their flocks to this reality?

    I think you raise a very interesting point about pastors engaging laymen in quality dialog around the issue of holiness, and the possibility that maybe not enough laymen have been interested in Holiness. I think that's very true.

    And, taking a pastor's point of view for a second,...I also think it's very possible that not enough of us laymen are taking an interest in, and actually act in making it clear to our fellow laymen (and supporting them/helping them be accountable to) what we are all called to be: Holy.

    And this is a reason why I really appreciate your Blog. You make me think, and that helps me act.

    Thank you brother.


  9. Great thoughts and comments as well. I'm looking forward to catching up here. ;-)

  10. hi Kevin,
    thanks for wrriting,the other day!

    and I read the Holiness Manifesto!

    and the light bulb came on :)

    thanks again!
    take care

  11. Thanks for stopping by the other day! Looks like you found Kc too. I'm beginning to feel like I follow him everywhere! ha ha.