New Wine for New Wineskins October 2016

By , October 1, 2016 1:02 am

hootsmongologo01Relaunching The Church

Back in July Catriona and I spent a week with our daughter Ruth and son-in-law Matt in Edinburgh.

I became aware of something during our trip to Edinburgh that stirred me to thinking about what could be its prophetic application. I actually have our son-in-law Matt to thank for this one.

I don’t know about you, but in my mind the stereotypical picture of a person who is into playing computer games in a big way is one of a geeky someone tucked away in a bedroom with a computer and locked into their own private world where the vast majority of their human interaction, if they have any, is with fellow gamers.

But I discovered in July that a new technological craze had emerged that was moving game-players out of their cosy little cocoons and sending them out into the real world to pursue their passion. It’s called Pokemon Go (you can watch a promo trailer here). The promo begins, “Imagine Pokemon in the real world…”

Pokemon Go is the revival and refreshing of an old theme but with a new emphasis on going and engaging in the real world.

It struck me, having spent a day in the company of a player of the game (Matt) and observing his interaction with other equally excited and motivated gamers out there in the real world as we went about our day, that there was a prophetic parallel to all the buzzing action.

For years the vast majority of those commissioned to take the message of the kingdom to the world and disciple nations have been closeted away in their own little world playing their private church games and interacting mainly with fellow believers. But there is a renewed call to go and engage in the real world.

Some time ago I heard the Lord say, “Relaunch the church on the right side of Pentecost…”

Before Jesus ascended back to heaven he gave the church what we have come to know as the Great Commission.  He said, “Go!”  He then told his first disciples not to go anywhere until the Holy Spirit had come upon them and empowered them to be witnesses to him. Not to do witnessing for him, but to be witnesses to him.  When the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost the New Testament church was born speaking in tongues and prophesying as it poured out on to the streets of Jerusalem and began to engage with the real world.

As a result of the first open air sermon three thousand souls were saved and added to the church, and people started getting saved, healed, and delivered on a daily basis out there in the real world, as the first disciples became a continuation of Jesus’ life, an amplification of his message and and extension of his ministry.
   
As I meditated on this I began to see that at some point in the early history of the church there was a return to what had more of the characteristics of a pre-Pentecost and Old Testament model with a focus on buildings and the establishment of a hierarchical priesthood.  This in turn seems to have caused the church to draw back to a great extent from its engagement with the real world and returned it to a place where it was more concerned with ritual and ceremony and was more inclined to be dependent on dead letter dogma than Holy Spirit life.

When the Lord said to relaunch the church on the right side of Pentecost I believe he was saying it is time to restore Holy Spirit empowered ministry to the workplace and the marketplace and wherever people are to be found in the real world.

Those who are locked into an Old Testament, pre-Pentecost model of church will occasionally make organised forays into the real world in an attempt to do witnessing for Jesus, but those who are on the right side of Pentecost and are fully dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit in their every day lives will be witnesses to Jesus with no premeditation and without expending much deliberate personal effort.

The morning we were leaving to go on our trip to Edinburgh I woke up with the words, “No more gerrymandering….” in my mind. I knew I had heard the word “gerrymandering” before but I had no recollection of what it meant. The Holy Spirit has used this tactic on me before so I went looking for the meaning. This is what I found:

gerrymander = manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favour one party or class

Apparently, in the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries.

So what could that possibly mean in the context of the kingdom? How about an end to parochial, small-minded, provincial, and territorial thinking in regards to the kingdom and the church.

In a place like the Isle of Lewis where there are established parishes where certain denominations have held sway for generations it can be intimidating to consider entering a locality with the message of the kingdom and a vision to plant a new church. You will sometimes even be accused of being divisive or a sheep-stealer even though your focus is on reaching the lost sheep who appear to have no shepherd.

So, “no more gerrymandering” could be saying no more parish boundaries that favour one denomination or stream over another, or no more feeling intimidated in regards to planting new churches where there are existing churches, because you can pick up those who have been missed as you glean around the edges.

We are not engaged in a party political contest or competition and so we should give full honour to every other stream of the church as we plant new churches that help to increase the flow and scope of the river.

But as I continued to meditate on the statement, “No more gerrymandering” I began to see a wider implication and significance.
In the Old Covenant pre-Pentecost religious setup that Jesus entered there were many uncrossable boundaries that separated and favoured the Jewish people over their gentile neighbours.

But when Jesus showed up he continually ignored these boundaries as he fellowshipped with sinners, and dispensed the blessings of the kingdom among the Jews and gentiles alike without prejudice or discrimination.

One beautiful example of Jesus demonstrating no more gerrymandering is recorded in John chapter four where it says that he had to go through Samaria.  The reality is that the river runs downhill, bringing healing wherever it goes as it fills up and overflows from the lowest point. Jesus bulldozed and demolished religious and cultural boundaries as he went to the most despised people in his region (the Samaritans) and sat down and fellowshipped with the most despised person among those people. And then, in the course of that encounter and conversation he went on to give us the most profound revelation of worship and expression of the Father’s heart and desire for relationship with us. The result of this encounter was that a whole city was saved from the least of these, from the bottom up.  And people are still being saved who respond in worship from wherever they  originate.

I will never forget what is probably the most simple yet powerful testimony I ever heard.  I heard it on a TV documentary many, many years ago as a woman shared how she encountered the Father’s love as a prostitute on the streets of New York City.  She said, “That night I knelt down a tramp and stood up a lady.” That lady’s life-transforming encounter was made possible because somebody relaunched the church on the right side of Pentecost and crossed all the boundaries established by respectable religion, in order to elect people from the other side of the great divide out there in the real world. No more gerrymandering.

Pokemon as a computer game was apparently dead in the water until it was relaunched in its new format as Pokemon Go that they claim engages with the real world.  Certainly back in July I witnessed many excited people of all ages out and about pursuing the goals of the game.  Apparently in July there were around 45 million players worldwide and there were many news stories generated through different occurrences as a result of the game being played.

We need to remember that the religious scene that Jesus entered was predominantly a stagnant mess of religious rules and regulations that excluded more people than it embraced and placed more burdens on people than it ever removed. But Jesus blew a massive hole in the hypocrisy and impotency of that religious system that was more about promoting and protecting the empty and ineffective traditions of men, and he uncovered, represented and demonstrated the Father’s true purpose as he engaged with the real world and commissioned his disciples to continue his mission.  He then empowered them by the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, as the New Covenant church was birthed and launched in full engagement with the real world.
 
If the church in our time continues in an Old Covenant, pre-Pentecost attitude where it primarily fellowships with and ministers only to other believers within the boundaries it has established it will eventually dry up and die. That is why it is time to relaunch the church on the right side of Pentecost where it is supernaturally empowered and equipped by the Holy Spirit to go and engage with the real world and rediscover the excitement and buzz that brings.

As you launch out beware of our gerrymandering enemy who tries to employ religion and culture to erect boundaries in order to limit our effectiveness and willingness to go into all the world, and to reach the lowest points and to minister to the least of these.

Go!




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