Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Forgotten Ways

It is a pleasure to take a break from the weighty and controversial series on leadership and "laity" (still in process) and share some a key ingredient of the transformation the Lord is working in his people. From the beginning of this now 2 year journey, the Lord has birthed a desire in me to see ALL of His church reflecting His glory. While the religious system makes much of special events and "special" people, I believe our God wants to unlock something He's put in ALL of us. Christ in us is the hope of glory! This is a theme that runs through just about everything I've read in recent days. I long for the day when more and more of God's people truly walk in their destiny, unhindered by religious systems and small human thinking. The truth is the reality of Jesus' incarnational presence in His people is dynamic and contagious! And yet so many of us are hanging back, somehow convinced that the works of God are for someone else more "spiritual" or "gifted" than us. This thinking is clearly a mindset that sets itself against the knowledge of Christ and must be destroyed.

So in order for all of us to advance to see the life of Christ recovered among His people, we have to learn The Forgotten Ways. The gospel has never changed. But we've lost our way, encumbered by centuries of religious tradition. Now the Lord is removing the scales from our eyes and a growing army of God's peole are walking in a greater measure of Kingdom life.

I'm currently reading the book, The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch with Darryn Altclass. I just passed through a section I'd like to share with you. He's discussing the early Church, and the Chinese church... both flourished under persecution.

Persecution drove both the early Christian movement and the Chinese church to discover their truest nature as an apostolic people. Persecution forced them away from any possible reliance on any form of centralized religious institution and caused them to live closer to, and more consistently with, their primal message, namely the gospel. We have to assume that if one is willing to die for being a follower of Jesus then in all likelihood that person is a real believer. This persecution, under the sovereignty of God, acted as a means to keep these movements true to their faith and reliant on God - it purified them from the dross and any other unneccsary churchly paraphernalia. It was by being true to the gospel that they unleashed the power of Apostolic Genius. And this is a huge lesson for us: as we face our own challenges we will need to be sure about our faith and who it is in whom we trust or else risk the eventual demise of Christianity as a religious force in Western history - witness Europe in the last hundred years.

In pursuit of the answer to that question, the question of how these phenomenal Jesus movements actually did it. I have become convinced that the power that manifested itself in the dangerous stories of these two remarkable movements, is available to us as well. And the awakeneing of that dormant potential, is available to us as well. And the awakening of that dormant potential has something to do with the strange mixture of the passionate love of God, prayer and incarnational practice. Add to this mix, appropriate modes of leadership (as expressed in Ephesians 4), the recovery of radical discipleship, relevant forms of organization and structures, and the suitable conditions for those to be able to catalyze. When those factors come together, the situation is ripe for something remarkable to take place.

To nail down this rather elusive concept of dormant (or latent) potentials, recall the story of The Wizard of Oz. The central character inthis well-loved movie is Dorothy, who was transported in a tornado from Kansas to the magical Land of Oz. Wanting to return home, she gets guidance from Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, who advises her to walk to the Emerald City and there consult the Wizard. On the yellow brick road she acquires three companions: the Scarecrow, who hopes the Wizard will be able to give him some brains; the Tin Woodsman, who wants the Wizard to give him a heart; and the Lion, who hopes to obtain courage. After surviving some dangerous encounters with the Wicked Witch of the West and numerous other nasty creatures, they eventually make it to see the Wizard, only to find out he is a hoax. They leave the Emerald City brokenhearted. But the Wicked Witch, perceiving the magic in Dorothy's ruby slippers, won't leave them alone. After a final encounter with the Wicked Witch and her minions, they overcome the source of evil and thereby liberate Oz. But through all their ordeals and in their final victory they discover that in fact they already have what they were looking for - in fact they had it all along. The Scarecrow is very clever, the Tinman has real heart, and the Lion turns out to be very brave and courageous after all. They didn't need the Wizard at all. What they needed was a situaiton that forced them to discover, or activate that which was already in them. They had what they were looking for, only they didn't realize it. To cap it off, Dorothy had her answer to her wish all along: she had the capacity to return home to Kansas - in her ruby slippers. By clicking them together three times, she is transported back to her home in Kansas.

This story highlights the central assumption there and gives a hint to why it has been called The Forgotten Ways: namely, that all God's people carry within themselves the same potencies that energized the early Christian movement and the Chinese church. Apostolic Genius lies dormant in you, me and every local church that seeks to follow Jesus faithfully in any time. We have quite simply forgotten how to access and trigger it.


Anonymous said...

I think too often believers aren't told about the Spirit of Christ in them when they are taught the gospel, as in Acts 2:38, 19:2-4. So they don't realize the power that is available to them.

Dr. Richard Tompkins said...

In Romans 8:11 Paul states that we have the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead living within us. This power is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God. Paul equates all of these terms as being the same. The risen Christ specifically tells the disciples that this power would come (Acts 1:8). Why, then, do we live is if we are still powerless?