An Rare Interview with the Fort Lauderdale Four on "Change".
This extract from the interview was given in January 1985. I believe it is an interview that is heavy with significance particularly in light of my posts on Pioneers vs settlers and the "Red Pill Syndrome". As my friend Don remembered, "Constant change is here to stay!".
Question: Ern, you have been through significant seasons in your fifty years of ministry. Has transition from one season to another been difficult?
Ern Baxter: In a sense it has beeen easy, because I've been carried along by the inspiration of the ascending revelation. On the other hand it has been very difficult because as we attempt to move on in God, we always leave something behind.
Question: What impact do geographical changes have in your relationships? Do they affect the level of commitment? (At the time of the interview, a number of the brothers were moving across the USA - Ern Baxter in particular was moving from Mobile, Alabama to San Diego in California).
Charles Simpson: Geographical changes are not destructive to personal relationships when God is the author of these changes. We see in the experiences of New Testament leaders that maintaining overall relationships while changing geographical focus is biblical.
Don Basham: Ever since the four of us - Charles, Derek, Bob and I - joined together in 1970, there has been a lot of speculation anytime any of us moved. Commitment isn't based on geography. Commitments are personal. We made a covenant and it remains.
Ern Baxter: I see all of the changes coming out of relationship, not threatening relationship. My move, for example, was not an arbitrary decision on my part, it was done with considerable counsel from the men I'm in covenant with, as was Bob's. Given the nature of our callings, I don't see my relationship to the brothers requiring geographical closeness.
Question: Do you think it's a human tendancy to resist change?
Don Basham: Human nature makes us want to settle down, build security around us and eliminate risk. That's not altogether bad but at times it can thwart the purposes of God.
Ern Baxter: Unless we have a strong confidence in god, change will always threaten us because we won't be sure where we're going. When God said to Abraham, "I want you to leave your kindred and your country and go to a land that I will show you". He didn't tell him where the land was. He said, "You start out and I'll tell you about the land later". That kind of change is always threatening.
We always tend to resist change because it is inconvinient. Many times I've packed up for yet another move and thought, "I hope this is the last time I have to do this". Change is hard to handle. We don't like to be disturbed or moved. The little eaglet, if I may refer to one of my favourite themes, doesn't like to be thrown out of the nest even though that's how he will learn to fly.
I don't remember a change that didn't cause me some inconvinence or pain. But usually knowing that God was in it and anticipating what was coming compensated for the inconvinience.
Charles Simpson: We must see God's will as our ultimate goal, stay sensitive to His voice and realise that our lives are His, not our own.
Bob Mumford: There are two categories of people. Some people are afraid that God will inconvinience them and others are afraid that He won't. That's the watershed.
Question: What are some of the early indicators that let us know God wants us to change?
Don Basham: God has an eternity to work in and sometimes He won't let up. I've noticed in my own life that He puts up with certain problem areas for a while. But when the pressure is on, we might as well give up. Sooner or later God is going to have His way and we'll be miserable until we give in.
Question: Are there ways to prepare for change?
Charles Simpson: We should ask God to confirm what we're sensing spiritually, to confirm it scripturally and to confirm it through responsible leaders who are going to stand with us through the change.
Change is not the exception. Change is the rule.
Question: What about the positive side of change?
Bob Mumford: Winemakers let a vessel of wine sit on a shelf until all the sediment settles to the bottom. They then carefully pour the wine into a new vessel leaving the sediment behind. The result is a clear pure liquid.
Scientists tell us that every seven years each cell in our body is replaced. And because the Church is a body not an organisation, the dynamics of change apply to it.
Don Basham: Not to change is to risk stagnation. We either slide back or go forward. In God there is no such thing as standing still.
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