We live in the messy space where the past and the future collide, history and prophecy overlap. There is an area of collision that the church seems incapable of avoiding. It is the zone of movements becoming monuments.
Even the lightest knowledge of church history tells us that:
- Every movement starts with a move of God - sovereign and supreme,
- The Father seems to find a man / woman, who is intense, focussed and fearless,
- He then expresses himself through a group of men and women, in the upper room of prayer,
- They give themselves away in a radical, Jesus loving abandonment,
- They are creative, passionate, Spirit led,
- They challenge the status quo consciously and subconsciously,
- They are mobile, travel, apostolic hearted with a sacrificial tone to their lives,
- They celebrate the many obvious and measurable miracles that accompany their story,
- They often live as if they are the first of a kind to encounter God in this way, humility giving way to pride,
- The revelation of truth that they have received from the Father becomes the "true truth" and others who do not prioritize these truths are viewed with suspicion and criticism,
- The spontaneous and Spirit orchestrated start of this movement soon gives way to structure and form that ultimately will end in a denomination [or implosion as is so often the case]
- The language is the clearest indicator of that stage of the story: "they are a .... church" [Vineyard, Methodist, Assemblies...]
But is there another way? What about this - if the family is God's great nuclear example of life, is there a picture for apo christianity that we can learn from? If the objective of the family is not to see how many children we have nor how many children we keep neatly wrapped in our home, but to raise them up to leave home, celebrating their "leaving, cleaving", what does that say to us? I do not want to repeat the past. We do not know our own hearts. I already see some of the new movements applauding their imperialistic steps. The number of churches "relating / connecting / partnering" with them is already a goal and a yardstick of success. Should that be?
I would like to be in an apo story where the intention from the beginning is to "have kids, to raise them up, to let them leave home and live their own story". When I study Paul, one is never awed by his list of churches in his network, movement or sphere. One is awed by his impassioned commitment to see churches stand on their own feet without his role and investment. He knew that time was of the essence. Persecution and pending death always knocked on their doors, so there was no long term goals of organizational development, nor saving the franchise. "As long as I am around," Paul seemed to think, "my desire is to get you to grow and stand on your own two feet. I will do all that I can, to ensure this happens."
I want to be part of a brotherhood of apo peers who are friends, who do not compete for church's loyalty / allegiance. Rather, the passion to plant new ones, whilst the older churches become bases in their own rights, is the prevailing value. Please can we never sit in conversations competing with numbers. It used to be, 'how big is your church?'. It is now 'how many churches look to you?' - oh the fragility of the human ego - a matter that does not bring a smile to heaven.
I love journeying with churches over decades. That is not to create ongoing dependence but the sheer joy of loving and appreciating each other. Can we have some honest, real and personal apo involvement in churches but done so as to set them free on their faith journey, not keeping them closeted in the shadow of our system? Just thinking...