For more than 1,500 years Christianity played a significant role in the culture of the west, including that of Europe and later the United States.
Peter Herbeck, who grew up in New Ulm, said he recalls the days when people respected the laws of God, even if they didn’t practice the Christian faith. He remembers the days when businesses were closed on Sundays.
“That wasn’t a business decision,” said Herbeck, adding it was an expectation of the broader culture. “People respected and honored the Lord’s day.”
That has all dramatically changed, said Herbeck, quoting John Paul II who said culture is witnessing the death of Christendom.
Herbeck talked about the reality of Christianity in the world today during the 2019 Bishop Lucker lecture which was held at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church in Redwood Falls March 11. The annual event hosted by the Diocese of New Ulm is held to ensure the people of the diocese would “continue to be en-lightened and challenged by leading teachers and practitioners of the Catholic faith.”
The 16th annual Bishop Lucker lecture featured keynote speaker Peter Herbeck of Renewal Ministries who now calls Ann Arbor, Mich. home. Herbeck, an international author and speaker, talked about the New Pentecost and the need for the fullness of the Holy Spirit in the church.
It is no secret the church is facing challenging times, said Herbeck, adding that is also reflected in the broader culture which is facing confusion and upheaval.
The question Herbeck said that needs to be answered is how does the church respond in a time when the number of people who are in attendance is shrinking and the level of respect for the church in the culture is dwindling.
If change is going to take place it begins with people understanding that the Holy Spirit is real and that those who hold to the tenets of the Christian faith can be filled with it, he added.
“This is real,” said Herbeck, “all of us were meant to go forward under the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.”
Herbeck said following Jesus’ resurrection from the dead he told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would come and they would be “clothed with power from on high.”
That happened at the first Pentecost as is recorded in Acts 2, said Herbeck, adding that baptism of the Holy Spirit is available to Christians allowing them to live an empowered life in the Holy Spirit.
Any change that is going to take place in the broader culture can only be done by God, said Herbeck, adding, however, those who believe in him play a role in sharing what they believe with others.
“Knowledge is not enough,” said Herbeck, adding the reality is that we can’t make these changes on our own but need the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit can give confidence, courage and conviction to those who are called to be witnesses, adding that is demonstrated in the lives of the disciples and the change that took place in them after the first Pentecost.
A New Pentecost means taking that which Herbeck said has been lying dormant and awakening it once again. While the church has a role in meeting the physical needs of the culture, Herbeck said that can’t be the only service the church provides.
People need their spiritual needs met, and the only place they are going to get that is from a church that has been awakened and stirred up by a New Pentecost. Herbeck said the birth of the church happened when the Holy Spirit came. The church continues to exist today, but the problem is that it is dying, he added
“People are drifting away from the church,” said Herbeck, adding so many youth will attend church until they are confirmed and that is the last time they are seen.
The problem is even though those youth have been confirmed there is so much more to know and experience within the faith that they are missing out on by not continuing to grow and understand.
“They don’t know what they don’t know,” said Herbeck.
Herbeck admitted even for him and his family that was the case. While church continued to be part of their life they were not experiencing the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Then one of his sisters came home and told them about the church she was attending and the fact that she was part of a Bible study.
That initial interaction led to a change in the family and in Herbeck’s life. It all started with a group of people in a rural church and some grace and faith filled farmers who, in the words of the Pope, helped to “spread a good infection.”
The best news the church has to offer to people is that they can have Jesus.
The church is in need of help, said Herbeck to the group who gathered for the lecture, adding that help begins with each person in that room stepping out of their comfort zone – stepping out of the boat – and trusting God.
“The hope of glory is alive in you,” said Herbeck, adding he has witnessed the kind of change that needs to take place all over the world.
There is no reason to believe that it can’t happen here, too.