Showing posts with label revival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label revival. Show all posts

13 January 2010

REVIEW - Organic Church, how long will it last?

Neil Cole has just published 'Long Live the Organic Church: A Response', a short article in Christianity Today. Long Live the Organic ChurchIt's well worth reading. (And see also a fine post by Bill Heroman.)

In particular, Neil reminds us that we shouldn't 'live for success, but to follow Christ every day'. We need to be planting seeds that will grow and bear fruit for the future, not building structures that look alive but are not. A fossilised seed might look pretty much the same as a living seed, but plant them both, water them in, and wait... eventually you will see the difference!

Father's purpose and plan for each of us is a living seed, bursting with potential. This is what it means to have a heart of flesh. My own personal purpose and plan would be a mere fossil, a heart of stone. He has given me a heart of flesh in place of my original one of stone. Now I must use it in loving obedience - his plan not mine.

Neil quotes Bob Logan who said, 'Success is finding out what God wants you to do and doing it.'

Here's an extract from Neil's article. If you like what you see click through and read the whole thing, it's only two pages. It's also worth reading Mark Galli's earlier article to which Neil Cole is responding.

If we truly saturate our society with vital followers of Christ capable of making disciples, the world will change. I believe that simply connecting God's children to their spiritual Father in such a way that they listen to his voice and courageously follow his lead will transform society in broader, more holistic, and longer lasting ways than anything else we try.

The change, however, will not be for every generation. In fact, it could very well be that our most serious problems are caused by thinking the decisions we make today will be permanent. We end up establishing methods without the people hearing from God themselves and making their own choices. The result is a lifeless religious institution.

Homer Simpson once said, "I guess people never really change; or, they quickly change and then quickly change back again." In a real sense, all transformation is only momentary. There is a reason for this: We are called to live in the moment. Love is the fulfillment of all righteousness and it is always a choice. We are to love God with our whole being … every day. Who you are is really a lifetime of decisions made in specific moments, which make up the person you see in the mirror. God wants us to choose him every moment of every day, not just once at a middle-school retreat campfire.

Each generation must face its own tests and make its own choices. Our children do not become Christians because we choose to follow Christ, but because they do. If they are only living out the choices of their parents, their faith is not true and will remain fruitless religious conformity. This is also true for religious organizations.

29 December 2009

Movements - Long term success

There have been many movements in the world's long history. Political movements - philosophical, art, and literature movements - scientific and technological movements - and not least, religious movements. Romulus Augustus, the last Roman Emperor in the WestAlmost all of these have failed after a few decades or centuries, many are forgotten, consigned at best to dusty tomes on library shelves.

Every organisation created by human ingenuity and effort has a lifespan and runs its course. Consider Communism, the idea that the Earth is flat, the Roman Empire, ancient Greek culture in what is now Turkey, the Gaulish language once spoken in Europe, the British Empire, Woolworths, or Real Tennis. All gone!

Some of these movements depended on repression, terrorism, crushing military might, or technological superiority for their spread and survival. Communism, Islam, and the Roman Empire are movements of this kind. Others have depended on ideas or beliefs that have been accepted freely, and paramount among these is the church. The first disciples followed Jesus by choice; he called them and they decided freely to follow him. And although the church sometimes depended wrongly on abuse of military or political power (as with the Crusades or the Inquisition) these were temporary and clearly contradicted Jesus' teachings about love.

Even within the church there have been monastic, doctrinal, denominational, and revival movements to mention just a few. Again, most of these have failed sooner or later. Consider some of the great Catholic and Anglican monastic orders. Most of these still exist, but as mere shadows of their former selves.

So what distinguishes successful and failed movements? It seems to me that coercion sooner or later fails, and fails absolutely. But the teachings of Jesus remain as powerful today as they were 2000 years ago. They are still seized upon eagerly by those who understand that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He was, is and will always be a success in the hearts of ordinary people because of his love and compassion. Alone among the originators of the world's religions, Jesus is an entirely attractive character who harmed no-one and called his followers to do the same. And his movement is alive and well today.

Where it has been complicated by methods and organisations it has failed again and again. But always the ideas and teachings of Jesus have moved on, leaving the methods and organisations behind and growing again in fresh pastures.

So let's be very careful to avoid any kind of worldly power, control, or system of management. And let's get right back to the roots of our faith - loving the Almighty with everything we have and everything we are, loving one another and our neighbours with the love we apply to ourselves, and yes - even loving our enemies. Those are the hallmarks of a movement that will know no failure or premature end!

Jesus alone is the one who leads us, our role is always to follow. He speaks clearly to his people, individually, day by day, guiding and encouraging. We must die to self in order to truly live. In poverty we are rich, the humble are lifted up, the powerful are brought low, it's an upside down Kingdom. But it works! And it lasts!

But all human ingenuity, system, power, and organisation will eventually fail - within the church and outside it. For only the Almighty can prevail, and he is love.

06 July 2009

His Church and His Heart

I wrote the following text and posted it on the Relational Christianity website almost four years ago. The original postYou can still find it there.

It provoked little interest, but the Spirit impressed upon me at the time that 'it will return to you and then you will know that its purpose has been fulfilled'. I thought this had happened two years ago though now I'm not so sure.

But Frank Viola's book 'From Eternity to Here' and 'The Jesus manifesto' (written with Leonard Sweet) have made me wonder if now is the time.

For that reason I'm republishing it. The text is covered by Creative Commons copyright but free for anyone to copy, edit, and republish.

Christ's love for the Church

Perhaps these words are a wake-up call to the Church. Turn away from worldly ways, put all your energies into just loving Christ - it really is that simple. For all those who read it and understand it, this letter is a challenge. It is a call for real and lasting change in the way we 'do' church. The focus must shift from adherence to traditions, structures, and practices to merely loving the one who says, 'I will build my Church'. Does his Church love and trust the King more, or does she love and trust the World more? She can't choose both, it has to be one or the other.

A Letter to the Church – His words

My dear people, I love you so very much and I know the love that you have for me as individuals. But I have to explain to you that it's not enough that you love me as individuals, I also need to feel the warmth of my Bride's embrace, I need to see her eyes filled with adoration and love for me. The Church is greatly loved yet she's estranged from me, and I want you to know and understand how I feel.

When you are far away from someone you love there is a deep longing in your heart, a sadness, an incompleteness, a hollow emptiness. And when the one you love is devoted to someone else, then your heart truly grieves. Every thought, every movement, every sight and sound is changed to heaviness and sadness and yearning. And that's how I feel towards the Church.

How can this be?

My Beloved, my Church, my Bride-to-be, where are you? How can you be so far from me? Who has stolen you from me? It is the World that has stolen away my Beloved. Every day she gazes lovingly into the eyes of the World, she walks in the World's ways, talks with the World, rejoices in the World's companionship.

I am grieving for my Bride-to-be. Every moment of every day I think of you and long to be with you, but you don't hear my voice calling. My love goes out but doesn't return to me, my heart aches to be close to my beloved, but she gazes into the eyes of another. I want to walk with you, talk with you, hold your hand, spend each day with you. But my Beloved prefers the company of another. Now do you see how I feel?

Ah, what pain you cause me. How you wound my heart as with a knife. I watch you pass by, hand-in-hand with another. I see you talking and laughing with the World, planning your life with the World. How I long to be close to you, but you are already close to the World. How I long to see you smile at me, and laugh with me – but you smile and laugh with the World. I want to take you to my favorite places and show you all the wonders of creation along the way, but all the time you are walking with another.

Now do you see how I grieve over my Beloved, and why? To understand, to truly understand, you must see how the tears rise in my eyes, feel the wretched hollowness that fills my being, know how I yearn and yearn to gather you to myself.

I will never tear you from the world. Love cannot do such a thing because love does not coerce or demand. Love will only wait in desperate hope, broken-hearted and full of emptiness. I need to show you this, you need to understand how I feel even though it will be no more than the merest hint of what is in my heart.

I am calling you to turn away from the World and return to me. I am calling you, my Church, to stop and retrace your steps.

I am calling you to hear and obey my guiding and leading voice, not the voices of men and women. Turn away from every method, every technique, every system and turn instead to me for I am the Source, the Truth, the Light, and the Life. Above all I am Love. Look into my eyes and see yourself reflected there for I am always gazing upon you.

Don't misunderstand what I say, there are many individuals who love me, walk with me, and dance with me. I love you as individuals, but I also love the whole and it is of the whole Church that I speak here. The fullness of my desire is for my Church. I will dance with her, my Bride, my Beloved. I will rejoice in her when she returns my love, but until then I will walk in pain and anguish as she gazes into the eyes of the World.

Some further thoughts – Merely my words

We must track back before the House Church, back, back before the Charismatic Renewal, back even before the Pentecostal Azusa Street outpourings. We must retrace our steps back before the Methodists, before the Puritans, before Martin Luther. Back, back, back, before Paul wrote his letters, before the events of Acts. Right back to Calvary where our Lord poured out his very life in love.

And when we arrive back at that point of beginning, then and only then can we see the Church stripped of all her love for the World. Why? Because love of the World began to creep in right there, right after the beginning. Just as, in the Garden of Eden, love of the World crept in right at the completion of creation, so in the Garden of Gethsemane it began to creep in at the completion of the work of redemption. We see it even before Love gave himself up to death, we see it in Peter's use of the sword. We see it later in Peter's denial. We see it in Ananias and Sapphira, in the divided Corinthians, in the foolish Galatians.

Now is the time for the Church to throw off her love of the World, and to turn to Christ who loves her and aches unceasingly for her love in return. He demands her undivided attention, He will accept nothing less.

What does this mean in practice? It means we must stop working for Christ and instead just love him and let him begin working in us. It means we must stop looking for the latest book, and listening to the finest teaching; instead we must look into his eyes and listen to his sweet voice as he teaches us and reveals his purpose. There are many who already know him as a personal Saviour and friend, now the Church as a whole must come to her Lord as Saviour and friend. Do you see the distinction between the many and the one? Although he loves us greatly as individuals, his best and finest is saved for pouring out on his Bride, the Church, in her wholeness. But this can only happen when she turns to him and walks with him along the paths he will choose.

Come, Church of Christ, come. Turn and see his love upon you and respond. Receive his love, dance with him, rejoice in him, make him glad. He is waiting for you, patiently and in great pain.

Chris Jefferies – August 2005

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05 May 2009

Are you an edgling?

Stowe Boyd is a computing/internet/techie guru. He's the kind of guy who tweets from conference sessions every few seconds Stowe Boydand he's almost always worth following. He has his ear firmly on society's sounding board, and he picks up and comments on the most subtle of vibrations.

Back in 2006 he wrote a blog post highlighting the way that influence in modern society is moving from 'centroids' to 'edglings'. You might like to consider which term best describes you.

What he wrote about industry, government, and society is equally true for the church. It's uncanny. We think 'house church' is unrelated to developments in society generally, but it's just part of a much wider trend. House church folks are 'edglings' par excellence.

Stowe Boyd - Stowe is what Wolfgang Simson would rightly call a prophet. He may or may not be a believer, but he is a man who sees core issues. He recognises the difference between the day-to-day view of the majority and unborn megatrends that are bubbling beneath the surface. He knows they will burst out soon and surprise everybody. How does a prophet know these things? Prophets don't know in some mysterious way, they are sensitive to tiny vibrations that others miss, subtleties of heart, mind, spirit. When they speak of these things they often go unheard, they are commonly rejected as fools, interfering busybodies, or enemies of the state.

Here are some quotes from Stowe's 2006 post, see how they mesh with the recent growth of house churches worldwide.

Personally, I favor the term Edgling because I want to move away from media metaphors, and use economic or sociological ones. This is not about who is "producing content" and who is "consuming" it: which is the basic paradigm of media thinking. Instead, it is about control moving from the central, large, mass-market organizations -- which includes media companies, but also other large organizations, like government, religious organizations, and so on -- out to the individuals -- we, the people -- at the edge.

As power moves from the center to the edge the "Centroids" -- those that hold with the centralized power of an industrial era -- will scream about all the negatives that they perceive in the out-of-control future that threatens the basis of their worldview. But the Edglings will find it liberating to get out of the stranglehold on information, communication, and the marketplace that centralized organizations attempt to impose.

Centroid or edgling? - Does that ring any bells? Take a look at Stowe's list of characteristics...

Work and PoliticsTop-down, authoritarianBottom-up, egalitarian
Point-of-ViewObjective, ImpartialSubjective, Partial
FamilyNuclearPost-nuclear networks
Political scopeNationalismRegionalism
EnvironmentExploitative, UnsustainableRestorative, Sustainable
SpiritualityCentralized, Dogmatic, Outside of NatureDecentralized, Enigmatic, Nature based

George Barna - You might like to compare this with George Barna's comments in his book 'Revolution'. Here's an extract from p 13-14...

I want to show you what our research has uncovered regarding a growing sub-nation of people, already well over 20 million strong, who are what we call Revolutionaries ... They have no use for churches that play religious games ... worship services that drone on without the presence of God ... ministries that compromise ... people in ministry ... who seek popularity ... man-made monuments ... accredited degrees.

There's a fresh wind blowing through the church as also through society. People sense that it's time to move on, to change the rules, to move from organisations with centralised authority to organic groups at the periphery, where the edglings are living and meeting in a fresh, new way.

It's no longer about organisations, it's about an organism that is alive and can reproduce in a natural way.

05 January 2009

Prophetic Word - Same old?

If you're involved in church in any way this may sound pretty familiar. The Harvest Now website
It's the start of a new year, 2009. It's time for resolutions, plans, and... prophecy? Same old prophecies you heard last year? Hmm... Read this from Steve Hill.

Steve and Marilyn are missionaries and church planters working in Central Asia. They know what it means to struggle against the powers of darkness. They know the meaning of praying without giving up.

No kidding!

Steve writes...
The flood of prophecies for 2009 have begun to come in. They sound remarkably similar to most I have been hearing for the past 15 years! "This is the year of revival! This is the year of His power. This is the year of increase! This is the year of harvest." You mean it really, really, really is going to happen this time?

Read the whole of his message 'A Prophetic Word for 2009' at his 'Harvest Now' website.

14 November 2008

Release it and let it fly

Have you ever held a wild bird in your hands? It's an extraordinary experience, the soft warmth of the feathers, the bright, shiny eyes, A blackbirdthe quivering of life held captive and quietly biding its time until it can be free again.

Some people keep birds as pets - budgies, parakeets, canaries, or finches. My first wife and I had three budgies over the years and it was a great way to get to know their individual personalities and foibles as well as the more general awesomeness of minutely patterned feathers and the miracle of flight.

But a wild bird held in the hand and then released to freedom, that is something altogether different.

First catch a bird - This is no easy task! Nor would I encourage anyone to try to catch a wild bird, it is certain to cause distress and perhaps injury. But several times I've had to catch a bird that's been accidentally trapped in a building. I've found that a quiet approach is best, confining the bird in a corner and cupping my hands around it gently and slowly has always worked in the end.

I remember this happening at Long Ashton Research Station (now long gone). I worked there from 1970 until 1998, there was an upstairs corridor bridging two of the main buildings and I found a frightened male blackbird trapped there when I came in to work one Saturday - there was nobody else around. The corridor had glass sides and doors at either end that were usually kept closed. The bird flew up and down the corridor and then backed into a corner where I was able to catch him quite easily.

Release - I carried the warm, passive bundle downstairs and out to the main entrance. I set him down on the concrete steps just outside the lobby, he looked around for a moment, spread his wings, and flew away squawking madly. What a joy to see him go, free again at last!

Even more delightful was the immediate appearance of a hen blackbird, evidently his mate. I have no idea how long the sleek, black male had been trapped, but she had hung around waiting for his return. And now, here he was, none the worse for his ordeal.

Freedom for the Church - There's a reason for relating this story just now. Just this morning I read a post by Prayeramedic on The Irony of Actuality. He writes,

I've been reading some more Kierkegaard -- very deep stuff, but profound (when I can make sense of it).

After showing that he has indeed made very good sense of Kierkegaard's words he quotes from another post entitled Uncontrollable. In it, Daniel writes,

Lately, we've been remarking on just how many different people we keep coming across, different spheres of where God is stirring things up, challenging his people to question the status quo, and ask Him once again how it is that He wants us to live as His disciples. What is so remarkable is that the more we scan the horizon, the more we begin to glimpse the scope and the massive scale of this response to the Spirit's prompting. One of the key characteristics of this shift, is that there is a growing understanding that the Kingdom is not run by a chain of command, no hierarchy, and that in fact there never was. As that reality is grasped, it is almost like seeing the ocean for the first time. No one owns it. No one controls it. No one person, and no one group, can claim to even to be able to monitor and record all that is happening amongst those who belong to Christ around the world.

We see people awakening to the idea that they do not in fact need to meet in special, religiously-oriented buildings, but can in fact meet anywhere, be it a coffee shop, park, beach, or home.

Trapped in a corridor - I was reminded of the blackbird. Like the bird, the Church has been trapped in a corridor. In the Church's case it's a corridor consisting of rules and regulations, power struggles, structures, organisations, and doctrines.

Just as the bird can see out, but not get out, so many in the Church have seen outside the box and have wanted to find the way out. But we can't get out on our own initiative, we need outside help. We need the Holy Spirit to steer us, we need the Shepherd to call us on, we need to be rescued and released.

Just in our day, it seems, people are catching a new vision of what it means to be a believer and follower of Christ. It doesn't mean sitting in a pew once a week, it does mean getting out into the world and living transformed lives in which friends, family, colleagues, and strangers alike can begin to see, not us, but Christ in us.

We are being lifted up by the gentle hands of Grace and deposited on the outside of this structure that has trapped us for so long. Now we are free to fly! Sometimes we need to be 'backed into a corner' like the blackbird before we can be lifted and removed from the place where we've been trapped.

Go on, stretch those wings, take a great leap into the air and fly. You have the freedom to do it, right now.

Begin to live - Let's be clear, it's quite possible for us to fly free - yet immediately start work on building a new structure! That's not what we are called to do. Yahshua told us, 'I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life'. He is the Way so we need to be guided by him and follow the course he has set. He is the Truth so we are to believe all that he says about himself and about the Father and about our place and role in this world. And he is the Life so we are to live his life here in the world, not our own life.

Living our own lives is what got us into this mess in the first place. But now we can fly free and truly be his people in this place.

25 July 2008

Biblical Church - Beresford Job

Over the last few weeks I've been reading 'Biblical Church' by Beresford Job who lives north-east of London and meets with the Chigwell Christian Fellowship. And what a fascinating read!

The book is well argued and provides plenty of references both to Bible passages and to well known and respected theologians and Biblical commentators. Job uses this as a technique again and again, pointing out that his conclusions about the meaning of Bible texts and Koine Greek words and constructions are in agreement with expert opinion. Job is claiming nothing new, but he is stoutly proclaiming that as believers we are duty bound to put into practice whatever we see in the New Testament concerning church meetings and governance.

He makes it clear that this means meeting in homes not specially constructed buildings, having small meetings as the norm (tens rather than hundreds or thousands), and the absence of any kind of hierarchical structure. He further points out that it's normal for a local body of believers to eat together as well as worship together, and that meetings are not supposed to be a 'service' led from the front, but instead are an expression of community involving everyone in an active, not passive way.

On the whole, this book complements Frank Viola and George Barna's best-seller, 'Pagan Christianity'. The Viola/Barna book explains how the Church came off the rails in the first place, and also describes the changes necessary to get us back on track. Job's work takes the revised, corrected 'version' of local church and fleshes it out with recommendations on how to get from A to B, what difficulties are likely to be encountered, and how to avoid the major pitfalls. 'Pagan Christianity' could be seen as a theoretical analysis, 'Biblical Church' as a practical handbook (although there is plenty of overlap).

There is one area where my understanding differs from Job's, and that concerns the place of women in church life. But as Job himself says, there will always be differences of understanding and differences of emphasis in the Church, but the truly important thing is that we can (and must) love one another through differences of this kind. We must extend to one another the right to be different.

My advice? Read both these excellent books!

21 July 2008

Love song of the Welsh Revival

I've just read a post on the Koinonia Life Discussion Forum (KLDF). Someone has recently heard this wonderful Welsh hymn for the first time and was deeply moved by the words and music. A hundred years ago it was popular in the Welsh Valleys during and following the great revival of 1904.

Here it is, explained and sung by Huw Priday, first in Welsh and then in English. The words are very, very moving. They capture so eloquently the purpose in Yahshua's heart, his love towards us.

Here is Love, vast as the ocean,
Loving-kindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His Love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heaven's eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God's mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and Love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And Heaven's peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in Love.

There are four verses, you can read all of them on Steph's Blog along with some further thoughts.

The Welsh Language
Welsh is a lyrical language, a beautiful language. It's said to express emotion and poetry more richly and naturally than English. The Welsh are great singers too, wonderful male voice choirs are traditional in the villages of the south, and at the Eisteddfodau (music and poetry festivals) there are competitions for choirs, harpists, and male and female solo singers.

Here are are the first two lines of the Welsh version of the hymn.

Dyma gariad fel y moroedd,
Tosturiaethau fel y lli.

The Welsh Revival
Perhaps this has been forgotten in recent years, but in its time it was a great move of the Spirit just like Lakeland or Toronto. There is plenty about the revival on the web, the Welsh Revival website covers it well.

What does it take to bring about revival? The first requirement is to recognise that there is nothing we can do to cause revival. We could exhaust ourselves with the effort of trying, yet still get nowhere. A revival is a work of the Almighty, not the work of men and women striving. Prayer is surely a good preparation, but quite simply when people put Yahshua in his rightful place at the centre of everything, and when hearts are overflowing with love for him and for one another, then we may see revival. Love must always be at the heart of it because the Father and the Son are Love and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love. There can be no hint of revival unless Love himself is personally present amongst his people. He is the cause!

It's amazing how many of the old hymns were written during times of personal revival or widespread public revival. We should sing them more often! There are many wonderful songs being written today too, but why throw away yesterday's treasures just because we have found further treasures in our own day?

Thanks for raising this topic. You know who you are.

There are several more versions of 'Here is Love' on You Tube. All worth hearing. There's a delighful recording by the famous singer, Katherine Jenkins, one by Matt Redman, and another by a Welsh male voice choir. (Note: the images in this last video may distress some people.)


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