24 April 2012

falling walls

This week witnessed the passing of Chuck Colson, a great evangelical thinker and leader.  I have personally been present for two of his talks, one brief and one keynote.  In the summer of 2002 I heard him keynote in Colorado Springs, and I will carry with me one of this comments (although I probably do not have it verbatim).

"In October 1989 nobody could envision the Berlin Wall coming down, yet in November of that year it happened."

He said this to indicate the type of work we do when we bring the Christian worldview to our modern culture.  So often making a difference seems to be an insurmountable task; the church often loses sight of its own ability to bring about lasting change to the world.  And, in so many ways it seems as though we are fighting a losing battle, or that we are virtually ignored by either side.  Yet, as Colson was admonishing, we continue to fight on, knowing the truth and striving for its message.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit that changes hearts and minds, we are the laborers who work to bring that message to light and share it with the world.  Since we do not know the inner thoughts of those around us we are often incapable of knowing when things are going to break open, or when God's Spirit is going to pour out in such powerful and visible ways.

That is the way I feel about my current ministry.  Those who know me well, and even those who don't but have caught some comments on this blog over the last few years, can see that I have been involved with a troubled congregation.  Actually, many of the current strongholds can be traced back over fifteen years in the history of the church.  Many pastors, church leaders, and even my academic friends have remarked over these last couple of years that they know of no situation quite like this - which is not what I was going for in being part of a unique church!  It has been a difficult journey, and I have passionately told God that I was quitting many times.  Yet he has kept me here and sustained me by his Spirit.

This past January things were looking a bit better.  But by March the war was raging again, this time in a very disturbing and dark way.  At the center of an antagonistic group that has been causing division for many years was one dragon, sending condescending and condemning letters to me and other leaders - anonymously, cowardly, hypocritically - that came to the brink of personal threat.  We moved forward.  We trusted in the Father.  We followed the Spirit.  What needed to be confirmed in my heart was my decision, made long ago, that my life was not my own . . . neither was my ministry . . . neither was my church leadership . . . neither was my family.  We progressed because it is Christ who lives within me, my ministry, my leadership, my family.

And this dark story went on for a few weeks, but came to a head - along with a few other significant details and situations - that made a way forward for the church, if we were willing to walk the designated path.  We were.  Thank God, we were.  The week prior to Palm Sunday was the last bomb, giving way to something else - would it be a good thing or a bad thing?  That's probably the same questions Eastern Europe was asking amidst the celebrating of November 9, 1989.  In our church, it has been the release of the stronghold which has caused dissension and division for years.  It took the difficult path, of suffering and death, in order to reach life.  But, is that not how it had to be?

In the few weeks since our church has been blessed with the unveiled presence of God, moving in hearts and minds like we have not seen here before (at least, for many years).  Already we are witnessing the transforming presence in families and lives, which themselves were insurmountable obstacles just a few weeks ago.  And there is a peace, noticeable and warming and flowing through the very halls of this building.   Just a few weeks ago I had no real inkling that this would be where we were standing today.  But that is the way these things go.  In March 2012 we were in our spiritual Berlin of October 1989, not yet able to envisage the radical transformation that only God could give.  In April 2012 we saw the Berlin of November 1989, now free and exciting and new . . . and with the world watching.

We never know when this is going to work.  Like the disciples we discover that all of our mourning and devastation on Friday and Saturday will be suddenly and radically changed by what we encounter come Sunday morning.  "Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple . . ." (Malachi 3:1).  Of course, there is a lot of work to do - this is true for every church, for those who broke through the Wall in 1989, and even for those who discovered an empty tomb in 30.  All because we serve a risen Savior, who is in the world today . . . whatever men may say.

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