In this month’s “War Story for the Joshua Generation” I shared that when Demos and Rose Shakarian first started the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in 1952, they envisioned an organization made up of Business Men from the Pentecostal Churches. They had no idea that God would use the Fellowship as a platform from which to release the baptism of the Holy Spirit into the Mainline Denominational Churches. I remember sitting at a dinner table with Demos Shakarian, Earl Pricket, and several other men and hearing Demos and Earl discussing how surprised they were when Roman Catholic Priests and Nuns began slipping quietly into the back of the Fellowship meetings hungry to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But it was not until the fall of 1956 in the Fellowship’s first National Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota (the first convention held outside of Los Angeles), that a group of five Lutheran Clergymen showed up on the opening night of the Fellowship’s National Convention, somewhat leery but hungry to find out more about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Soon after the Minneapolis convention men and women from most of the denominational churches began attending the Fellowship’s meetings all across America, seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the demonstration of the gifts of the Spirit which accompanied the Baptism.
What happened in the early Fellowship was very similar to what happened in the early church. The church started in Jerusalem among Jewish believers who followed Jewish customs. But soon the Gentiles began to be born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit. The movement outside of Jerusalem was growing so rapidly that problems began to develop between the Jewish believers that followed Jewish law and Gentiles who did not. To settle the issues that were being raised as a result of this blending of the different cultures, the first church leaders conference was convened in Jerusalem. It was made up of an elite group of Apostles among them Peter, Paul, and James the brother of Jesus.
Bill Johnson, the Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California, in his book Hosting the Presence of God makes a very interesting and pertinent observation about the way the Apostles settled this issue:
“They shared their testimonies. They each had stories to tell pertaining to God’s outpouring on the Gentiles. As they heard the stories they began to recognize a theme: God poured out His Spirit upon Gentiles before they knew enough to get acquainted with Jewish traditions. In fact, He seemed to move among them with little regard for their own readiness for an authentic Holy Spirit outpouring.” Johnson goes on to say, “What moves me most in this part of the story is that they actually developed their theology around what they saw God do.” Later in the next paragraph he asks: “Why do you think new moves of God always start with people who don’t know what they are doing? At least in part we limit God to our present understanding of how God moves, all the while praying that God would do a new thing among us. But what we know can keep us from knowing what we need to know if we don’t remain a novice.”
Recently we spent a full year considering the unification of Business Men’s Fellowship (BMF) and Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America (FGBMFA). One of the major sticking points appeared to be the name by which the combined organization would be identified if we came together as one. Some individuals in the BMF organization apparently felt that the qualifying words “Full Gospel” would be a ‘turn-off’ to some of their members. They preferred a less confrontive name, one that did not identify the organization with the “Full Gospel”. In the process of reconciling our differences the Board of Delegates revisited the words of Demos Shakarian in the Happiest People on Earth.
It appears that in the early years of our Fellowship, Demos and the other Fellowship Directors developed much of their theology in the same way the early church did; they developed it around what they saw God do. Demos explains the name of the Fellowship to Oral Roberts in the book Happiest People on Earth on pages 138 -142.
When Demos first shared the name of the Fellowship with Oral Roberts in 1951 he said, “every word is necessary…
FULL GOSPEL: Miracle healings. Speaking in tongues. Powerful deliverance. Men who could TALK about God, but also men who knew how to DEMONSTRATE THE POWER of God in their own lives and in their meetings. This would be an explosive ministry led by Spirit-filled men.
BUSINESS MEN: Layman. Ordinary people, becoming extraordinary through the POWER of the Holy Spirit.
FELLOWSHIP: A group of people who love to get together and witness the love, the compassion, the reality of Jesus Christ.
INTERNATIONAL: The whole world. All flesh. A deep concern for every nation and every race.”
As I mentioned in last month’s Presidents Newsletter, the very first evening of the 2015 FGBMFA National Convention, the recurring theme of James Lévesque’s message was; “Full Gospel, don’t be ashamed of the ‘Full Gospel’, it is the power of God that has been lost in many of the churches and organizations today.” God had told James two days earlier to make the words ‘Full Gospel’ the hallmark of his first night’s message.
And what were these Full Gospel Business Men to do? They were to tell other men about Jesus! No theories… they were to tell what they had actually experienced of God to other men like themselves… they were to tell what God had done… In a word, they were to testify to what they had seen God do!
If we forget what God has done in our life in the past, we will lack the courage to face difficult situations that we face in the present. The failure to share what God has done in our life, not only robs us of faith, but it also robs the young men of the “Joshua Generation” of the faith that God wants them to receive through our testimony.
Remember… Faith comes by hearing what God has done! (Romans 10:17) Hearing what God has done 2000 years ago? No! Hearing what God has done 2000 years ago is a poor substitute for hearing what God has done last week when you prayed for the lame man at the Godmobile at the State Fair in Dallas, or in Seattle… or in Atlanta! Forgetting what God has done, not only costs you, but it also costs those around us. Failing to share what God has done with our young men will prevent them from receiving the same victories that we received in our lifetime. That is why I take the time each month, to write War Stories for the Joshua Generation.
We have a responsibility before God to tell the next generation, the “Joshua Generation” what God has done in our generation. We have a responsibility to keep the testimony of what God has done in our memories, in our conversations, in our writings, and in our interactions with others.
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates”. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
We have a responsibility before God to keep what He has done in our generation alive for the next generation. The more we talk about the miracles, the more we are exposed to the miracles. The more we think about the miracles, the more we will expect miracles.
The men Demos saw in the Vision that launched this Fellowship were looking towards heaven, and their once bound hands were now lifted in praise and adoration towards heaven! They are the men of this generation that need to hear what God has done; they are the men who need to hear your testimony. They are the men with whom we are called to share our testimonies; they are the men whom we are called to help, the men to whom we owe a “re-presentation” of the testimony of Jesus. Many of these young men have been robbed of their faith by the steady drip, drip, drip of unbelief that is being espoused in our society today. We have failed to keep God’s word in our mouth.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9)
There is a story in the book of Judges that describes how the people of Israel broke their covenant with God by failing to keep His word in their heart and their mouth. It is a story that illustrates what is happening in America today… It is a story that illustrates what is happening to the “Joshua Generation”, and it is His question to you and me… Are we going to let it happen?
“So the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel… When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord, nor the work He had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:7)
The scripture goes on to say:
“And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods.” (Judges 2:12)
The writer of Judges connects Israel’s faithfulness to the Lord with remembering His works…remembering His testimony…
The source of the Israelites problem was that they forgot the mighty works of God, and failed to remember the testimony, they forgot who they were, they forgot who God was, and they forgot what God had done.
The new generation of Israelites forgot what God required of them. They forgot what God had done for their fathers, soon they lacked an awareness of His presence, and it sapped them of the strength, the courage, and the faith to face the difficulties that arose in their generation.
In a word, they forgot their testimony!
Every day we are faced with circumstances that contradict what God has said about who we are, and what we are to do in order to bring heaven to earth. Most believers, including most pastors, read Jesus’ command to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons and automatically think, ‘I may be able to preach the Gospel… and I will pray for the sick, but I can’t heal them.’
Jesus didn’t say to ‘pray for the sick’ – He said to ‘heal the sick!’ It is time to return to our roots.
In Jesus Name,
Robert W. Bignold
Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America