An extended review of a 2020 book by Douglas Balzer
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Book by Douglas A. Balzer. Word Alive Press, 2020. 192 pages. $19.99 (e-book $9.99, audio $17)
n the 1960s the wind of the Holy Spirit swept through the Indonesian archipelago. Supernatural miracles and healings went hand-in-hand with gospel proclamation, and thousands came to Christ. Christians in the West read evangelist Mel Tari’s account of that season in Like a Mighty Wind (Creation House, 1971), and it whetted their spiritual appetites.
This recent book by Calgary author Doug Balzer may have a similar effect. Balzer, a spiritual retreat facilitator, ordained minister with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and host of the reKindle podcast, has an urgent message for the Church – our heavenly Father has much more for us.
In The Empowerment Pivot, Balzer asserts that the Church has “unmoored herself from her supernatural origins and distanced herself from the more mysterious, transformational elements of the Christian faith.” The result? A faith that is less experiential than it is cognitive, and gospel mission that is heavily dependent on preaching (and rightly so), but wanting in power.
Jesus promised His followers that “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12, ESV).
Why, Balzer asks, do we not see these greater works today? Why is most Christian ministry in the developed world void of the healing and deliverance that characterized the ministries of Jesus and the early Church?
For Balzer, this lack of power can be traced to faulty Christology. What we believe about Jesus profoundly impacts the effectiveness of our mission.
Balzer challenges the traditional notion that the power undergirding the miracles of Jesus – physical healings, deliverances and command over the natural world – flowed out of His essence as the Son of God. The traditional explanation is that because Jesus is God incarnate, He was positioned to exercise divine authority over nature, sickness and demonic activity.
How, then, could mere mortals ever expect to do the same works as our Lord? We can’t, and so we replace signs and wonders with all manner of creeds, programs and models for church growth. It all leads to an obvious conclusion – Of course, miracles and healings were Jesus’ normal – and this less wonderful reality is ours.
But it is precisely such thinking, so ingrained in Western evangelicalism, that hampers our efforts to bring the fulness of Christ’s salvation to a lost world, Balzer argues. He points to a better way, one that necessitates a closer examination of the words of Jesus.
“So Jesus said to them, ‘. . . the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. . . . I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge.’ ” (John 5:19, 20a, 30a ESV)
Balzer demonstrates from the Gospels that every act of Jesus in His earthly ministry, every word He spoke, flowed from a place of dependence on His heavenly Father.
“Jesus modeled for us how to live and how to listen,” Balzer asserts. “Any divine knowledge he possessed came not through his divine nature but through his intimate relationship with his Father. This was his core operating system, and it is meant to be ours as well.”
“For the church to move into her God-given fruitful destiny,” he continues, “she will need to significantly pivot towards . . . listening to a revealing God. How else will the daughters and sons of God know what He is up to and then join Him in what He is doing?”
Balzer posits seven key pivots or fundamental shifts we as believers must make in our view of God, and accordingly in our approach to ministry. He stresses the importance of inner transformation (we cannot give what we do not have) and learning to hear the voice of the one who said “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27 ESV). Balzer illustrates both from his own personal journey.
The Empowerment Pivot is important reading for any gospel ambassador who hungers for the “greater works” that Jesus spoke of, and the impact that Paul alludes to when he writes “with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).
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