The last two weeks have been filled what initially appeared to be random things, but over the two week span, I sensed God connecting it all together, to convey to me, “Don’t Give Up!”
My own journey over the last year has largely been twofold. One has been a growing distancing from what I call “hyper charismania” which has been both delicate and difficult. I have never “fit” the mold of the prototypical charismatic. I was raised the son of Pentecostal missionary parents, who were in turn raised Calvinists in Northern Ireland. I became the first generation “Pentecostal” in the family, and an odd one at that, being a five point Calvinist in most theological beliefs and a Pentecostal when it comes to beliefs about the Holy Spirit. I became disillusioned with Pentecostalism as whole in the 1980’s here in Canada, as it became more and more fossilized and institutionalized, and very religious in form and structure and government. I tried varied other Evangelical “name brands” all to no avail. Some clear cut changes in belief did come though, as I was part of an Anabaptist community for a season, the result was that I became a sincere pacifist and a believer in non-violence, as well as a new understanding of what it means to live out the Kingdom of God. I found the best blend of my Calvinism and Pentecostalism in the Vineyard, and for a season I felt very much at home.
During that season I read Tommy Tenney‘s God Chasers, and the Lord used this to take me into a deeper walk with Him and a new discovery of intimacy with Him and what body life and community could really become. Within weeks I resigned from my pastoral position, and began a journey into relational life in and with Christ. While much was garnered about life in Christ and a new dimension of what it means to gather as community, a lot of the “charismania” that had become part and parcel of my life in the late 1980’s and the 1990’s was becoming more excessive and less and less biblical, with everything from the Latter Rain movement and health and wealth as well as Joel’s army and the tabernacle of David movements. The “Toronto Blessing” equally had it good and bad elements, and I have since then distanced myself from it and all the various extreme charismatic expressions and beliefs associated with it, and Pensacola, and now the infamous Lakeland Revival and its proponents Todd Bentley, Patricia King, and Joshua Mills. Lori and I had been monthly supporters of their ministries, and in 2006 we ceased supporting these ministries due to the charismatic extremes.
The relational house church Lori and I had founded after leaving the Vineyard was very charismatic, in the extreme, and these were not our own foundational beliefs. What you believe in fact affects what you do and how you do things. Realizing that there was a lack of openness toward what the Scriptures taught us as far as being teachable and willing to change, and that by and large the house church was not willing to engage in the ongoing pursuit of Christ and change where the Lord may lead to change. All of us have to be willing to change what we believe if the Lord reveals it to us. Lori and I sensed and unwillingness to go there. As such we were not cleaved to like minded people, and as such it was best that we part ways. These are all dear beloved saints and brothers and sisters in Christ, but our beliefs are galaxies apart and the body life as such becomes more and more difficult when these beliefs clash with each other. Lori and I withdrew from the old house church.
Since then we have gathered with others who desire to gather around Christ, as the Lord has lead us to engage in authentic friendship and community. It is more life centred and spontaneous in its character and expression. We continue to engage and do what we see the Father say and do, just as Jesus expressed it in John 5:19-20. We are engaging with and exploring further what it means to be gathered around Christ and in community.
To that end I bought a couple of books two weeks ago. I bought Rob McAlpine‘s book, Post Charismatic?, and Frank Viola‘s Reimagining the Church. Both of these proved to be timely reads for me, as McAlpine chronicled the Pentecostal, Charismatic renewal and the Third Wave movements along with the current charismatic landscape and its influences which has driven many Spirit sensitive people out of the charismatic chaos that is seen at its worst when one views the Lakeland Revival. McAlpine chronicles the excesses and shows their non-biblical origin but then sets forth the case for a time of “detox” from the system, and a time for healing and re-engagement. Being “post charismtic” is not about being “post Spirit” but about being post hype and post weirdness and excess. McAlpine calls on all post-charismatics to re-engage and become “charis missional”, that is, “Spirit led missional living”, bringing the sense of the leading of the Spirit as well as the power of the Spirit (spiritual gifts) as well as the fruit of the Spirit, engaging with mission and service to others, viewing service of others and the reason for the gifts, rather than self-actualization. I found this to be a refreshing book compelling me to re-engage in a deeper missional way with what God is doing in our post modern culture.
Viola’s book was a great read, in particular as it follows m
uch of the language of the emerging church, which I find to have more of an affinity for than my former Evangelical, Pentecostal or Calvinist modernist expressions of church. Viola calls on us to move beyond the current expressions and manifestations of the modern church and to reimagine what church could be based upon the writing of the New Testament. Viola really explores what relational community could become, as well as various leadership issues from within a relational context really looks like. This book gave me encouragement and hope.
Combine this with the two movies I watched this past week, Batman: The Dark Knight, and X Files: I Want To Believe. In both films one gets to see deep inner struggles with a sense of what is right and what needs to be done, and how we struggle in our identities and struggle in wanting to see things change. In Batman, the DA, Harvey Dent, the “white knight” of Gotham, loses his girlfriend (Rachel) to the beguiling Joker. He himself is burned on one side of his face, as Batman saves his life. His is traumatized and outraged and goes on a revenge spree, filled with uncontrolled rage. Batman comes on the scene and saves Commissioner Gordon’s son, and the DA falls to his death. The question is raised as to expose the deaths committed by the DA, and Batman says the best thing is for him to take the blame, because Gotham needs a hero, and needs hope to confront the evil in the city. It is best to remember the DA as a hero that all citizens can emulate. This really stirred me.
In the X Files, there is a fallen priest with psychic powers who is trying to reconstruct a crime. He is a convicted child molester. Scully has issues with him and constantly passes judgment upon him and cannot comprehend how Mulder can be gracious and open to him. At the same time, Scully is trying to hold her life together, as she is a doctor trying to treat a young boy with an incurable disease, and if the boy cannot be treated, the hospital is going to arrange for the boy to be sent to a hospice and be left to die. She is torn inside trying to help this young child. She also has relationship issues with Mulder. The convicted priest in one scene says, “Don’t give up!” which jolts Scully. She even comes back to demand why he said that to her. The former priest has no idea, and this angers Schully even more. She eventually reconciles that she cannot give up on Mulder and cannot give up on treating the young boy.
Combining the two books, and the two movies, I sensed the Lord speaking to me and telling me to “not give up.” I choose today to not give up.
I choose today to embrace hope. Hope in Christ and in my day to day living, and that He is revealing His Kingdom in me and through me, and that He desires to manifest His life through me as I engage with people.
I choose today to not give up on people. I choose today to not give up on what the church truly is, as the body of Christ, and to seek to see it manifest the fullness of Christ as I gather with like minded brothers and sisters in Christ.
I choose today to embrace life and to forsake religion. No matter where I turn, even in some house churches, there is a spirit of religion at work, that seeks to control and to manipulate and dominate. This chokes out the life of Christ and destroys community and belonging. I choose to gather with those that seek Christ in authentic intimacy and community, where we gather around Christ.
So, today, do not lose hope, and do not despair. Look to Christ, for He is the one building His Kingdom, and He desires to manifest Himself through your life. Embrace Him and His life, and let Him release the Kingdom. Embrace hope, for what He begins He completes. Embrace the joy that can be yours when you yield to Him and let Him do His will in and through you.
It is all about Christ and joining with others who seek out Christ. As we gather with others who gather around Christ, “church” just happens, as the Spirit leads and directs. There is no trying to do anything. There is just resting in Christ, and letting Him manifest Himself in us and through us. This is life, abundant life, and every reason to “not give up!”