Book Review by Cathie Jeffery, Ontario Branch

 

Growing up, I’d heard of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, had seen the choir on TV and knew their music was special. I didn’t know anything about the church …uh…Tabernacle until I happened on Jim Cymbala’s book “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire”. It’s not new. Pastor of the church since 1972, he wrote it in 1997, adding a study guide in 2003.
It’s a relatively little book, but BIG on faith — not as a matter of doctrine or ritual, nor as an experience in ‘over the top’ spirituality, but as a matter of absolute necessity to serve the Lord as He wishes and encounter the supernatural power of God. He admit’s he’s not a cessationist. Through his experiences recounted in the book over the decades at the Tabernacle, he has seen how BIG God is in response to BIG faith.
As stated on the back cover, it’s a story about what happened to a broken-down church in one of America’s toughest neighbourhoods and points the way to new spiritual vitality in the church…(ed: and how) God moves in life-changing ways when we set aside our own agendas, take him at his word and listen for his voice.
The book’s subtitle says it all: “When God’s Spirit Invades the Hearts of His People”. That seems to be the key lesson in the book: God answers in a BIG way when we pray — not out of intellect, or careful, collective precision, but from the gut — in desperation — from our heart to God’s heart. As it says in the Bible, “We have to pray with our whole heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13).
The story of this run down church of 20, and how its numbers grew into the thousands is powerful. But not because of the numbers. Jim stresses that it is not about numbers and influence. A church with polished sermons and good marketing can be large, but may not be serving in line with God’s heart.
According to Jim, if I’m too prideful or too intellectual to groan in prayer on the fate or faith of others who struggle, perhaps I need to rethink prayer. He also reminds us that the church of Pentecost had no labels — not Baptist, not Presbyterian, not Pentecostal.”There were no such labels at that time — and in God’s view of things, there still aren’t.” He adds, ” I find it curious that we Christians will vigorously defend what Ephesians 4 says about “one Lord” but grow strangely silent about “one body”. We start making excuses, historical and otherwise, for the shameful divisions within the church.”
Jim believes strongly there needs to be consistency only in our dependence on God’s power to make an ongoing difference. Correct doctrine alone isn’t enough. Proclamation and teaching aren’t enough. God must be invited to “confirm the word with signs following”. (Heb. 2:4).
These many accounts in the book of struggling, desperate people, including Jim sometimes, finding their way to and into the Brooklyn Tabernacle, being healed and their lives restored makes for compelling reading. It seems no coincidence that Tabernacle is defined as a “structure ordered built by God so He might dwell among His people”.

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