Friday, April 28, 2006

Why Do You Seek the Living Among the Dead?

I want to use this post to re-visit some thoughts about Pioneers vs Settlers (something I re-printed a while back). An incredible lady from the USA, Sheila - has taken up that thought process and has some amazing thoughts that I think deserve reading and musing on! Just before I re-print her thoughts, I found this outstanding post by a guy called Chris from the 'Ministry Without Borders' family of churches that I am increasingly grateful for and enjoying getting to know. He wrote this on Easter Sunday - and dealt with a matter central to my heart! Here's a quote:

"Yet incredible as the cross was and still is in terms of its continuing effect in my life, it is not the dead Jesus hung on the cross that I see. I see the risen, ascended and glorified Christ. The son of man, ascended to the right hand of almighty God, seated on the throne, with every power, principality, and authority under his feet. Shining in the dazzling glory of the Father's own radiance with all the angelic host fallen prostrate and crying "Holy!" I see this Jesus, the first-fruit from among the dead, pouring out the same Spirit that raised him up upon those who believe in him. I see this Jesus taking up his scepter and ruling over the nations, not through political might or military conquest, but as this resurrection life that he so gloriously demonstrated when he burst forth from the tomb on that first easter morn is spread from one transformed life to another through the power of the greatest news of all - Christ is Risen!".

I don't think this quote is actually far removed from "Pioneering". I touched on this in a post called; "Our Message is this: The Dead are being raised!" (a quote from Terry Virgo).

"The hope of the Great Commission is a “Now” word. Yes we must go forth and preach the Gospel – but in the strength of the promise; “I am with you”. The message of the Gospel that we take forth is indeed grounded and founded on Christ’s done and finished work on the Cross. But let our gospel not stop short of His continuing work in heaven for us ... He has poured forth “this which you know SEE and HEAR” (and we still should see it and hear it) – the Promised Holy Spirit who’s business it is to raise the dead whatever that may include".

What is the point of going out to "Pioneer" if our Lord and Saviour is dead? Or in a grave? Or even just walking about in a garden in Jerusalem? Our hope is truly in vain! But - glory of glories - He is seated at the right hand of the Father, crowned with glory and honour and He has been told to stay there reigning and ruling UNTIL "all His enemies are made a footstool for His feet". So when we go out to pioneer we are involved in the business of the One who rules the Universe today! So with that apologetic linking the two, I am going to be quiet and make way for a far wiser person than I. Over to Sheila ...

Hi friends!

This note is another installment in a loose series on the pioneering spirit. Remember? We've discussed the characteristics of pioneers versus settlers. We've talked about the exciting opportunities as well as the drudgery of being part of a pioneering work.I want to move into other, more sensitive areas, and open up our thinking just a little bit - MINE as well as your's! Let's together expand our views and push back the limits of our horizons, and most important of all, let's know what it is we are embracing when we say we belong to a pioneering church.
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There are two ways a church can be a pioneering church.

A church can be a pioneering church because of its *stage* of development.

Not all new churches are automatically in the pioneering stage. Many new churches are plunked down, fully formed, with all major components trained and in place and functional, often plunked into place by large well-resourced denominations.

A small church does not necessarily mean it is in a pioneering stage. A small church can have a place for everyone, and everyone in their place, and nothing new or radically different is under consideration.

Regardless of its size or its age, a church is still in its pioneering stage when NOT all components of a fully mature church are in place, trained, and functioning. If not all ministries are matured and fruit bearing, that church is in desperate need of TRUE pioneers!! A church can have been operating for decades, and still be in somewhat of a pioneering stage because there are still missing pieces.

Trinity Chapel, our parent church, had been operational for decades before they ever had their FIRST "nursery coordinator"! I remember...because there was no coordinator, it was my newborn twins and I who paid a high price for a new months. Before my girls were one year old, however, someone stepped forward to pioneer. I thanked God the day a nurse-pioneer named Susan stepped up to the plate, and with the backbone of a drill sergeant, put order in those nurseries.

A church can have all pieces in place, trained and operational, and STILL be a pioneering work when its focus is to plant new churches. This will mean that everything remains in a state of flux (oh, joy!) - even when all ministries are formed and functional. The mother church is the matrix for ministries that are continually being birthed and sent forth when they are matured...but those matured ministries in turn become pioneering works - allowing themselves to go back to being immature, a not yet fully formed church, not yet able to give birth to another of its kind. These new churches remain in relationship with, and in some degree accountable to the leadership that birthed them.

Here is the point: you are in a pioneering church. By definition number one and definition number two, you are in a pioneering church. As long as you are at Harvest Church, you will be forever in a pioneering church, and a pioneering church needs pioneers - there is desperate need for the pioneering spirit. You have opted to be part of a church that is BOTH still in its pioneering stage (not all ministries functioning at a mature capacity) AND has the vision to plant OTHER pioneering churches. What were you THINKING?? ;-)

Welcome. I hope you have a strong stomach, vivid imagination, incredible backbone, and an irrational flexibility. Why? Well, because you'll need all that and more. You have signed up for permanent levels of uncertainty, for self imposed limitation, for God imposed expansion of your limitations, and lastly, you have signed up for a bit of merry madness. You really are crazy to be here. But we're glad to see you - here, take this hammer and this sword and start right over there. As long as you know you are truly of the pioneering stock, we'll all be fine. A pioneering church only runs into trouble when people who only think they are pioneers, but are not, join it. Or, it runs into trouble when people don't know what it is they are signing up for in the first place.

Very little is certain in a pioneering church. How many of us remember the days when we did not know where we'd be meeting in six months or a year? Had you visited us at one point in our history, and asked us who our worship leader for *that Sunday* was , we might not have known for sure who to point to - various ones inside Harvest and outside Harvest rotated the responsibility. Mind you, you would not have been asking who the *overall* worship leader was - though we didn't know that answer either - but you would have been asking who was leading worship for only *that* Sunday! What church couldn't answer that? We sometimes could not!

In a pioneering church, you embrace limitation. It is a holy limitation. The leaders of such a church can only go as fast as the followers can follow. Run too fast, be too flashy, and you'll be all by yourself, leading no one who is willing to follow. The followers, if they are to be part, can only follow at the pace the designated leader can lead. Run ahead, and you are out of order, because speed is not the issue, unity is. Leaders are not the only ones who have to be willing to embrace a limitation in speed.

There is another sort of limitation that BOTH church leaders and church members face. Both have to be *willing* to forego the meeting of some of their secondary needs, keeping their heart at home, and their hand to the pioneering plow.

Personally, and only as an example, I will not take advantage of another church's ministry if my church is in urgent need of that very thing, and I am well equipped to meet the need, yet am unwilling to help pioneer it! Why? I know myself, and it would be too easy to lose my cutting edge. If pioneers lose their plow, if they cease to literally "dig in", they become dull and soft. Pioneers - whether you are that by personality or by the call of God - are responsible to break the new ground. Breaking new ground is sweaty, thankless work. It would be too easy for me to step easily into someone else's hard work and reap all the rewards of the ground breaking labor of others, and lose my own plow's sharpness and depth.

To be honest, the prospect of ease is way too attractive to my flesh. Therefore, I embrace the limitation of the plow, the narrowness of this brand new furrow I am called to break open for my God. Here is what typically happens when I do not embrace a holy limitation: I begin to look outside my own little lentil patch, in search of an easy way to meet my secondary needs. Let's say I'd love to get consistent, weekly fellowship with other writers, or other 30-somethings, or other women in general, or other home educators. This is not a primary need, but a secondary need. My primary need is to be obedient to the heavenly vision to be a pioneer. But to scratch the secondary itch, I turn to X-Mega-Church's Writer's Guild. (Not that any church I know has one, but...)

Well, automatically, I will find like minded writers. I will feel like I've found exactly what I need. It will be so easy - all I do is let go of the heavy, unwieldy plow and pick up a light little cog, and settle that cog into the slot of the already fully functioning mechanism of this other church's writer's group, and clickety-clack, whir, whizz, I'm suddenly buzzing right along in an area. Very little of my own effort expended. How nice is that?

Give anyone a few months of this, and only the very most disciplined amongst us will ever return to the plow. If it was me, I'd reject the thought of starting a writer's group in my own church (too much like work), and I'd begin to swear I had more friends at X-Mega-Church than I do in my own church. Well, duh, yeah! I've made an easy way, and found an easy excuse for myself to hang with that church's writers every single week, using them to scratch my itch. Eventually, I'd leave my plow behind, feel the call of "the Spirit" to Mega Church, and I'd allow my "work" become merely inserting my little cog into the big machine over there, because isn't it all "the church" anyway? Isn't X-Mega-Church as much a church as Harvest? Aren't we in this together?

Those are the wrong questions! I'd be asking all the wrong questions. If I ask the wrong questions about my life, I will get the wrong answers FOR my life. The real question is: Am I a Joshua? Am I a Caleb? Am I destined to take new territory, and called to the pioneering plow? If I'm really NOT cut out or called to be a breaker of new ground, then I need to honestly admit that. But if I am wired to pioneer, or if the new ground is my high calling, then I will stagnate unless I am pushing forward into (what for MY church is) new ground. Please note that the idea is to be pushing forward into whatever is new ground for MY CHURCH. I'm sorry it can't be more exciting than that. We all want the "new territory" to be smuggling Bibles into an unreached Muslim stronghold. It does not have to be some great thing that few have ever dared to try, or some amazing idea not yet conceived. Re-building a broken down wall can also be doing a new thing. Having a worship leader might be breaking new ground for MY church. The gift of administrations might be "new ground" at my church - but be fully functioning and decades mature in another church.

So I limit myself where I could comfortably expand - in an effort to guard my heart, as my heart is so easily distracted from its primary focus. But I am then expanded beyond where I am comfortable.

To be called to the pioneering plow is to quite often live on the edge of exhaustion, the verge of frustration, and the brink of disaster. Who in their own human strength can carry a sword in one hand and a hammer in the other, and be effective at both? Who can both build and re-build? Who can plow new ground while simultaneously harvesting? Who can function when "this" area abounds, and, at the same moment, "that" area other suffers painful lack? The pioneer can and does. Because the pioneer quickly discovers s/he can do all things through Christ who gives the strength.

Settlers merely get to defend what others have built - and they get to feel really important and "at war" for doing so, and in some ways, I guess they are at war. *grin and wink* (fighting and scratching for their title and position and niche in the great big machinery!) But it is the pioneer who has to BOTH build and guard. That's okay, because the pioneer prefers the unspoiled view...like the bumper sticker that says, "If you are not the lead (read: "pioneering, ground-breaking") dog, the scenery never changes." To be expanded beyond where I am comfortable is to become more than I am. A pioneering church will take, and mold, and make a leader out of a perpetual follower. A pioneering church will take, and mold, and make a military *general*, a strategist, a leader of leaders....out of what used to be "just" a leader. Will it be comfortable? No. Will it be worth it all? Only in the end.
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There is so much more. But I've shared enough for now. Thanks for listening!

17 comments:

Sheila said...

Dan, you are kind! Thank you for making room for my muse. You really are wonderful - certainly undeserving of any anonymous anger.

As I re-read my own words (first draft, truly, typed allllll-at-once) I almost feel the need to apologize for the utter practicality of it all. I'm almost embarassed. Worship leaders? Nurseries? Gift of administrations?

When we say we want to plant churches, we are pioneering. If we are planting a church in any country other than third world, all these afore mentioned, seemingly pragmatic, boring elements MUST be put into place at some point, or the whole work suffers - even if and when we find ourselves in the middle of a great spiritual awakening! (Don't we long for the day!)

So yes. "Pioneering" can be answering the call to take two ugly rooms, where some parents leave their babies, and then volunteers are haphazardly gathered at the start of every service to care for them - sometimes total strangers - and painting those rooms a happy shade of sunshine yellow, then refusing to accept any volunteer who is not a known member of the church! Pioneering is easily defined as twisting the treasurer's arm for safe cribs, standing your ground for new carpet for the crawlers (contributing a great deal of the funds yourself!) recruiting stable, well known workers and signing them up a MONTH in advance, calling them weekly to remind them.....and then training them to *pray* for the babies, hug and love them, watch for signs of abuse or sickness, and sanitize your hands between diapers! ;-) All of this, nurse-pioneer Susan did, years ago, and my life was dramatically blessed. I began to be able to participate in church services, and God dropped a prophetic gift on my life in that very season - lo and behold, I was actually able to learn and grow in it, since I was out of the nursery! (What decent new mom would leave her twins in that old scenario? Not me.)

Pioneering can sometimes be radical and a touch exotic. But most of the time, it involves *building* where nothing has been built before, or re-building what is now in disrepair. That is practical work, requiring patience and pracitcal tools. Mostly, it takes sterling character.

Oops. I just said another VERY UN-exciting thing. You might want to give me the boot!

;-)

Baxter's Boy said...

Don't EVER apologise for this or for the practicalities of what you have written!! That is a wonderful demonstration of the variety of the Kingdom of God at work to me. I am awful for tending to see everything in terms of a vision and the spiritual side of it. But I am not so good at the practicalities of my passions and what I long for and to see.

That's why I was so excited by your discussions and wanted more readership of them. Because you and the ladies at Harvest have obviously been thinking about how pioneering will actually WORK. And that's vital!!

Let us not ever forget that - yes, pioneering IS exciting! But at the same time our call is to PLANT and BUILD!! And we need a people passionate for both!!

Anonymous said...

I was hugely encouraged by Sheila's thoughts and ideas and very practical discussions concerning what could be so easily a mystical desire ... Pioneering!

The quote that challenged me the most was: "The real question is: Am I a Joshua? Am I a Caleb?".

That indeed is the real question! And it got me thinking and putting myself into the intensely challenging situation that faced Joshua and Caleb. They were old(ish) men when the time came to go into the land. Their peers had died in the wilderness. And there was probably a LOT of the people who sneered at them. What do these "old blokes" know about anything? WE are the radical generation!

Yet to see Caleb's determination. When I go in - GIVE ME MY MOUNTAIN.

God spoke powerfully to me through this thought of yours, Sister Sheila! I am reminded of that verse in Psalm 118 - "I shall not die, but I shall live". I think too often there is a temptation for older people to think they are "past it". That is never EVER true!

I don't think there is EVER any retirement for those pioneers in the Kingdom of God! And we despise older people at our peril! Look at the vast experience that Joshua and Caleb could bring! Did any of the younger people remember God coming down on Mount Sinai I wonder? Maybe God was less manifest with them than He was with their parents? I wonder whether this younger generation "forgot the ways of the Lord".

Thank you so much again for this Sheila - and Dan for highlighting it. Up the elders in our midst!!

Dr S A J Burgess

Baxter's Boy said...

That's amazing you share that Dr B. It's a thought that was on me greatly in church last Sunday. They actually read Psalm 118 and that verse gripped me too! I almost wondered whether God was giving me a word of knowledge that there were some elders there who were really struggling with worth in the Kingdom of God and that He wanted to say that their worth was unmeasurable.

It reminds me of Terry Virgo's closing address to the Stoneleigh Bible Week in 2001. He spoke on the verses from Deuteronomy that deal with "Eagles are meant to fly". And during the message he spoke directly to the elder people among the thousands there and pleaded with them to get the "Pioneering Spirit". He said that they had an absolutely invaluable role standing alongside younger pastors, using their experience and wisdom to advise them.

It is a foolish pastor indeed who ignores and neglects the older people in his church ...

On the up side it is so thrilling among Newfrontiers to see the amount of people that move out from their established churches to "go and plant". I don't know the statistics but I know it's quite a few. One of the elders in our church is leaving shortly to go and plant a church near Birmingham. And that thrills me!

Amen to that - up the elders! We are vastly poor without them.

Sheila said...

Oh - my heart squeezes at the memory of Mrs. Rita Harrington. This woman left the familiarity of our parent church, to plant Harvest Church with my husband and I. She was in her 80's at the time, was prim and proper in every way, had her "hair done" weekly, and had been a member of our parent church for 15 years.

What drove her to do such a thing? To leave the familiarity and comfort of her home church of 800 members plus, to plant a church with a 20-something(at the time) pastor and wife - a church of about 15 core members, and nary a ONE was her age?

We wouldn't have made it in those early years without her. She was our prayer warrior, her presence validated us, or so we felt. She would often shake my husband's hand after a message, and say (quite seriously), "Timothy, that was a fine message you preached, but it should have been a series." Mrs. Harrington was of those who felt no message should be more than 20 minutes.

When she finally went to her reward, we were heartbroken. God has yet to send a replacement.

We do have retired men and women in our congregation now, but, while they are highly gifted and could be indespensable in church planting, some truly are occupied with travel - doing the "retirement thing". Perhaps Dr. B will hear the call of the Spirit to Tennessee! :-) He'd be welcomed, and, after a season of getting to know his integrity,put to work!

Our most valued mentor and advisor? Pete Beck - an older man, late 70's or early 80's, one of the founders of MasterBuilders, the stream of churches we are part of. He has answered the apostolic call, even at his age, and is constantly traveling to small-ish churches, inside and outside the US, encouraging their leaders. He also engages in missions, going to difficult locations.

In our darkest moments, we turn to Pete and he has never failed to be a comforting, wise voice. He has himself planted several churches, and pastored for many, many years - he has forgotten more than we know. We absolutely cannot do without him, and thus this man is destined to live well into his late 90's and beyond - we beg God often to keep him going strong.

Don said...

Sheila, Dan, thank you so much! How can we get the full measure of what Sheila has been writing on the pioneering spirit? Where are all these things found?

jul said...

Hi Don. There is a bit more I think on the comment section of the previous post. I don't know if Sheila is inviting us to join in the discussion with her church ladies or not...haha. Maybe it couldn't hurt to ask? I for one am at least a lady.

Sheila said...

Jul, Don, good to see you! (she says, as she smiles and nods 'round the table) *yawn* I've slept WAY in this morning - but I see Jul has my cuppa coffee hot and ready for me - thanks, friend. (Yes, cream and Splenda...)

I have to admit that the rest of these *particular* discussions are merely scattered replies and thoughts on an e-group that is listed as a "closed" group...just Harvest women are in there, and some of the topics can get - shall we say - personal. ;-) They'd string me up by sundown if I let a MAN in. I can cut and paste my own comments and essays and thoughts here -

There are more essays and even CD's and articles on the pioneering spirit. The essays and articles are imbedded into my hard drive, hoping to see the light of day in a Christian magazine someday, or even become a book when I am quite old.

I'm no networker (gah...bleh...cannot STAND people who do that to me!) so I *beg* you on bended knee to not think that of me. Oh please, don't think it! I'd leave and not come back...I'd slink away in infamy.

But the easiest to make available (if you are serious, Don - I cannot tell by your font - ACK!) would be some CD's...one called "Mercy in the Middle" - an exhortation shared at our Master Builder's national conference in Florida. It is a very personal, prophetic teaching on how pioneering people - if they are going to quit - always quit "in the middle." (This teaching was born from my own facing of the fact that I **am** middle aged...of all things, *I* *AM* a middle aged woman!!) "the middle" is a no man's land for many leaders - they lose touch with the fact that God ORDAINED their "middle" as much as He did their beginning...and their conclusion - or the reaching of some goal.

Then there's a teaching on "Hope!" indespensable in pioneering. (In this teaching, I say that having hope is like having a tiger by the tail...it hurts to hang on,but it'll hurt FAR WORSE if you let go...ACK!)

Then, a favorite of mine, is a teaching entitled "Never Say Enough"...one of Dan's blogs about being spiritually hungry, never EVER satisfied reminded me of this teaching. Pioneering is such a paradoxical issue - because you have to be easily satisfied with very little... for example: going from worshipping with 800 people and a full band with multi media bells and whistles in your parent church....to church planting - which for us, meant sitting with 15 saints in a semi-circle, trying to follow along with our only "worship leader" - a guy who sang badly at the time, and his main guitar experience was that he used to play the bass guitar in a heavy metal rock band before he was saved. He sort of tried to "transpose" his bass experience to acoustic guitar. It was...different. (Yes...been there, done that, in our early history!) We had to be satisfied that God heard and received that worship. (I'm still skeptical)

...yet never being satisfied, even when God is blessing you in all sorts of manifestations! It is okay, and even desireable for a person to ask for YET MORE. MORE of Him, more of His presence, more of His power, and yes...sometimes, even more of His temporal blessings.

Anyhow. I'd send any or all along free of charge, of course. I just have NO idea how to go about it. I'm guessing it isn't prudent to post one's snail mail address, or EVEN email address on a blog that could get read by just anyone. So if you are serious, Don, figure it out for me! :-) I really am - promise - just hoping to answer your question and be a blessing, if possible.

Let's clear the air...(can you tell I've been in ministry circles too long??) If you heard these CD's, and then ASKED me to come minister in your church (suppose your pastor gave you the go ahead!), I'd say NO! So how is that for pure motive? I have been known to turn down invitations, and I'd do it again. I - AM - NOT - a networker. I rail against that type of person.

Otherwise, I'll try to go through my files and see what else is there in regards to pioneering. Since pioneering a church is all I've done (besides raising four children and writing) for 13 years, and all I plan on doing the rest of my life, it ALL relates to pioneering, because those are the glasses I look through. I see everything in the light of that passion.

Don said...

I appreciate your candor and your detail, Sheila. I'm a late-blooming pioneer, having gone from a huge church (that used to be a pioneering church) to 5 years at a small church where I finally got to help out by using some of my gifts, and now to a two-year-old church that is trying to something untraditional in the middle of the Baptist Bible Belt, and needs any kind of help.

My wife & I find it hard to worship here, to music led by college students, after having been led by experienced & sensitive leaders with amazing anointings. But amazingly, God does show up at times! Et cetera -- you get my drift and it sounds like you certainly have experienced more ragged-edge stuff. But this is where God has us, and that's "pioneering!" All I see around me is opportunity for Him to do great things -- they're just not yet here in the flesh.

I think that CD about the "middle" sounds very interesting. Please email me at don[at]zapgerms.com, and we'll figure out how to get one to me.

But what's your difficulty with "networking?" In my experience during revival, it was through networking -- by that I mean personal contacts ("divine appointments") made by Spirit-given hunches or introductions -- that led to me and others meeting the people God intended for us to meet, in order to do His work.

If you mean business-style networking with the intent of making sales, I hate that myself. But Holy Spirit-networking is completely different, and part of this whole adventure!

Baxter's Boy said...

This post has been one of the most thrilling I have put on the website because it's been a chance for me to sit back and watch 3 wise and experienced but above all passionate fellow believers talk and discuss matters central to my heart!! I have been so enjoying this. Following Sheila's imagination, I feel like I am sitting at the same table but keeping quiet and just making notes as Sheila, Jul and Don talk out matters of the Kingdom of God!!

Thank you so much guys ... you don't realise how much I learn and love your comments and hearing your thoughts. Let me know if there are any other subjects that I can kick off to get you going again!! ;)

I have been thinking constantly about this whole issue of Pioneering as linked to something that Don emailed me about. "The elephant in the room that isn't getting his presence acknowledge" - Revival!! It is my contention that when revival comes, a pioneering spirit is absolutely ESSENTIAL to receive it, accept it and maintain it. Because Revival brings ultimate change. I see it as God saying "Right ... I've left you trying to manage My Church and you haven't really done a very good job. Move over. I'm coming in to take over".

And that is why, Don, I wonder why so many have changed their views and acceptance of revival. Because they just aren't happy with the implications that it will mean! Are they prepared to accept and receive God in WHATEVER way He turns up? It's a bitter pill to swallow for some I think.

There's a hint as to my next post ... it's brewing and it's about revival!

Sheila said...

Bring it on, Dan!

I'm playing hooky from church, with a backache. Ugh. I'm hobbling. Don (with an 'o'), I'll email you, smiling the whole time I type in the address..."zapgerms", eh? Is this some window into your personality?

In regards to networking, I can't tell you how many times some man has introduced himself to my husband and I by saying, "I'm apostle so-and-so, going to fifteen nations, have written three books, and by the way, here is my card, I'm available." THAT is networking.

If he were "all that", he'd be booked up, not available. *snide grin*

My husband is highly relational. I didn't used to be, but I am now. ;-) (I'm a, shall we say, "independent personality", to whom God is painstakingly teaching the INTERdependence of the Body of Christ.) Chances are, if you met my Tim in Cracker Barrel (a southern US restaurant - maybe everywhere?) you'd not even find out he is a pastor unless you asked, much less an amazing musician, much less in full time ministry, affiliated with other churches, and even sought after once in awhile. ;-) He'd tell you about me, about our children, and he'd ask you about YOUR family. He just wants to know you as a person, not a "persona".

When someone introduces himself or herself via "persona", we immediately give each other a secret "look", and begin being irreverent. By golly, we yank a grin and a giggle out of 'em come....heck or high water. We eventually get to the REAL person behind the persona, and it is always a much nicer, more refreshing person.

Right now, our feelings on networking can be mis-construed as "sour grapes", after all, we've only planted one church so far. When we've planted two or three or 500, we might be tempted to adopt a persona. (NOT!) We both, hand in hand, pray often for the grace and wisdom never to do to other people what has been done to us by men who think quite highly of themselves. God bless 'em. There have been many who, when you get past the persona, are quite wonderful.

I just want to be the sort of gal who is MORE than meets the eye, more than I'll tell you....I never want to be less than you expected based on my ego, less than I toot myself to be.

As to revival, Dan....I'll tell you its getting bashed in my circles. Not by me, but by men (tired men - pastors) who my husband and I love and are in relationship with. "Living from revival to revival with nothing in between"....I've even heard men say, "I've had it with the revivalist mentality." They truly feel that they are DONE with it.

My *heart* understands what they are really saying (on one hand), but there is a part of me that will always long desperately for....that "r" word.

So do tell us what you're pondering.

Don said...

I think I understand what you're saying, Sheila. (BTW, the "zapgerms" is just my hobby-blog, about infectious disease news -- zapgerms.com). I learned, as I know you have, that there are many pastors/evangelists who are just pursuing a profession, rather than responding to a "woe is me if I do not preach the gospel" spiritual call on their lives. Plus, for most men, their job is the most important thing about them, and I think that's true in the Church as well.

The leaders of the church I was in for many years did their best to downplay their calling when not actually performing their ministry work, so they set a good example for us, much like your husband's talking with people of just about everything *before* his job duties.

I remember during that the revival, Bob Jones is s'posed to have said, "Whether you take a nap or raise the dead, the [spiritual] pay's the same." That's a great way of saying that many people who carried a great anointing during the revival thought that somehow they were responsible for that anointing, and/or that God didn't want them to enjoy normal life even in the middle of revival.

Heidi Baker (irismin.org), who carries an amazing healing anointing for her missionary work in Mozambique, said at a conference I attended last November that the Lord had spoken to both her and her husband about relaxing some and letting Jesus truly handle the job. She said they had both begun to enjoy life more, after being missionaries for so many years, because they were realizing that since the vision God had given them for their work in Mzbq was so clearly IMPOSSIBLE to fulfill as human beings, it was time for them to leave all the worrying up to Him as to how He was going to accomplish it all through them and their helpers. In other words, they're maturing more in Christ, trusting Him more and believing that He wants them to enjoy their lives on Earth, even though their daily lives are almost totally different from us middle-classers in the First World.

Regarding revival -- in the past 10 years, I've remembered many times the Zen Buddhist saying (not that I'm advocating their religion!): "Before revelation, much hard work; after revelation, much hard work." Like most blessings from God, revival reveals as much about the pot as it does about the potter.

If these pastors you mention are just living from revival to revival, then they're being very poor shepherds of the sheep God has entrusted to them. Like Heidi and Rolland, they need to learn to flow with the waves and tides of revival, and especially to use the dry times between waves/tides as opportunities to build the spiritual disciplines into their flocks while casting vision and preparing for the next revival.

Are these pastors exhausted from riding the last revival wave, but -- continuing this metaphor -- not expecting to have to expend energy to teach their flock how to paddle out to catch the next wave? Paul instructed Timothy to be ready "in season and out" to preach and teach his flock, and evangelize. Revival's power and presence makes it much, much easier to harvest, but the "much hard work" before the next revival consists of plowing the ground, planting the seeds, training the flock how to use the planting and harvesting tools (sorry for all these word pictures, I'm on a parable-type roll here).

Plus, the challenge is *not* to just dry up till the next revival, like some frog burrowing into the mud, but to stay in the Spirit, moist and supple so the next New Wine won't burst the container. Bill Johnson (ibethel.org) in California has his church members going on short-term missions trips overseas, where the power of God is flowing freely in power evangelism/healing/deliverance, then coming back to California and combining their experience with servant evangelism, expecting God to show up in power, just as He does in the 3d world. He's not just waiting for the next revival, but is believing -- like some others -- that God is ready to give a multigenerational revival for those who can believe Him for it.

These pastors need to read some Bryn Jones!

Baxter's Boy said...

That's very timely that you mention about being "tired" with revival Sheila. I was having this very conversation with my best friend Scott on the way back from Brighton tonight. There are certain pastors today (SGM included) who do not believe in revival. I know that because I asked them!

Why is this? Well my generation can only just remember the Charismatic Movement beginning to ebb slightly. I can remember endless times of worship and tongues happening here and there, but really my memory fades. Even my parents are beginning to forget the awesome Dales Bible Weeks when Ern Baxter was there.

Time may heal - but it also makes us forget!

So the conversation that we were having was around the vitality - the absolute VITALITY of church history!! Of reading about revivals gone by. Of times when God has drawn back the veil between Heaven and Earth and His glory has been manifest. I think reading of revivals will help us keep hopeful. Not just the renewals last century but when for example God touched America through Jonathan Edwards.

My favourite account is of Sarah Edwards "decently and in order" behaviour ... She had to be carried out!! ;) Now THAT'S a pastor's wife Sheila!! Hee hee. How's that for a role model!?

But I really do in all seriousness sympathise with the "tired" viewpoint. I get it every now and then and I have only been longing for revival for ten years.

I think Don has bridged the gap superbly by reminding us that the Spirit isn't absent in between revivals and our absolute imperative is to soak in Him and cultivate a relationship with Him!!

That is why one of my greatest thrills is that our church week of prayer that has just past centred around the key prayer that the Spirit would be MORE manifest in our meetings. That prayer will never make it onto a statement of ecumenical togetherness in any sense ... but that prayer will change the world if God answers it.

James B said...

Okay I have to get a bit practical and a bit controversial on you ... sorry! ;)

I've noticed that any mention of the Together for the Gospel conference has been notably quiet around these parts ;) But I have no doubt that it wasn't been followed very carefully.

For any who weren't aware ... the four gentlemen who threw this thing together have written a statement. It's here:

http://www.challies.com/archives/001826.php

And my first question for you discussing folk is this: IS this statement a "Pioneering" statement or a "Settlers" statement?

Secondly does anyone join me in my concern that the Holy Spirit gets a cursory mention. Article IV - He is noted as being part of the Trinity and that's IT.

Thirdly while I am be a wee bit more egalitarian than Dan ;) Doesn't it concern anyone that these blokes make male leadership an absolute in their statement by default so they will stand and fall on that issue, but don't mention the Holy Spirit? Who is far more a part of the Bible than male leadership!

And lastly does anyone join me in noticing that it is a very "negative" statement. "Concern ... concerned ... seduction ... weakened". How about rejoicing in the assured victory of Christ because He is reigning and ruling tonight?

Sorry to be the one to notice that the Emperor aint wearing any clothes, but I would be truly deeply grateful for some thoughts and reflections!

Baxter's Boy said...

Some good and valid points James B. Yes I have been following the T4G thing and I had noticed some of your concerns in their statement. I hadn't said anything about it because it's been covered most prolifically in other parts - their fans are many!

I think the first thing to say is that I believe you are always in a degree of trouble when any ecumenical sort of group or congregation is pursued. Something will always have to be dropped! Now yes the T4G foursome seem to be very good at joking about their differences and keeping lighthearted about what they don't agree on - but when it comes to drafting any kind of formal statement, it's a given - something is going to have to go.

You asked is it a "Pioneering" statement or a "Settlers" statement? A hard question. Some fans of the T4G would argue angrily that they are going places where noone has before. And that may be true. But if you have read the contrasts that Gerald Coates wrote then you will see that there is an awful lot of defensive language going on in that statement. I guess the crucial issue for whether you are pioneering or settling is what your view of mission is. Or in other words - how you believe it's all going to shape out as we head towards the coming of Christ.

Yes .... the Holy Spirit takes a back seat in this statement. How could I not notice!? It quite reminds me of some of the older Creeds where the sole mention of the Holy Spirit was; "I believe in the Holy Spirit". Are we back to that position I wonder?

As for male headship, it's no surprises that their statement gets that slant. They're all on the CBMW panel aren't they? Yes as you mentioned I would class myself as a complimentarian ;) but I would shy away from making it an issue central to the Gospel.

C J Mahaney on the other hand stated quite categorically at one of the SGM Leaders Conferences that "Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is a hill we will die upon". So there's your answer I guess.

I suppose the Biblical test plays true. If it is of God then it will last. If it isn't then Christ promised that candlesticks would be removed. It doesn't have to bother us.

Don said...

Dan, can you provide a link to Gerald Coates's comments on this? I'm interested in his view. Thanks!

Don said...

Dan, I liked your mention of Sarah Edwards: "My favourite account is of Sarah Edwards 'decently and in order' behaviour ... She had to be carried out!! ;) Now THAT'S a pastor's wife Sheila!! Hee hee. How's that for a role model!?"

In his book, Catch the Fire, Guy Chevreau goes on for pages about how Sarah was caught up into Heaven for days on end, during their revival -- leaving Jonathan to take care of the home! It makes for wonderful reading -- have you seen it?