Wednesday, May 07, 2003

So we try to make sense of this house church-home church-simple church thing..........whatever it is we want to call it. The vast amount of wisdom to be gleaned from those far more experienced and sharpened than I exudes like honey from our veritable slew of blogs on the subject. And believe me, I lap it up. Practicalities, how-to's, personal philosophies on the form and function of community building within the house church/monastic centers (whichever applies to you) permeate our posts as we scope out the horizon ahead of us and fine-tune our vision as church planters extraordinaire. But there's something of which I don't see a whole lot.

There's something that Jesus told Peter (Matt. 16:18,19) that applies to us by proxy, if for nothing but the sheer nature of the fact that we as church planters join Peter in his confession/recognition that Jesus the Christ stands front and center in this effort.......that He is the Master Architect and foundation. Jesus even volunteers information about that other kindgom diametrically opposed to the Kingdom of Light emerging.

When Jesus tells Peter that the "gates of Hades will not overcome" his church built on the Rock, there is a locational presupposition here that is often overlooked. This presupposition is based on the existential reality of church planting.....namely that two opposing kingdoms are in spiritual conflict and the church plant CAN (but is not a guarantee to) become a repository for the "walking wounded" to find healing.

To say that the gates of Hades will not overcome His church presupposes just where He chooses to plant it. The implication is that Jesus seems content to establish His church right where the yawning, gaping throat of hell lies- not in the rural, pastoral fringes away from the strife and contention. In fact, the gates of these two kingdoms clang in proximity to one another because Jesus calls us to go to where the ravages of chaos, deception and demonic rage abound. In a time long past, these forces glided along, seemingly unchecked in their apparent upper hand. And even in light of the Christ event, we still reckon these forces of deceptive darkness as something to be reckoned with, as an enemy on equal footing in power. But why aren't we talking about storming the enemy's camp, proclaiming the victory, sidling up to the blind captives and dangling the keys of victory in the bewildered faces of a declawed, defanged enemy? Because I think we still assume it's a battle.

Doesn't Hebrews 2:14 say the devil is defeated/destroyed.......rendered powerless? How much power does a powerless enemy have? Are we not more than conquerers in Him (Romans 8:37)? Why do we still battle a defeated opponent? It is true many believers are still in an experiential battle with these dark forces but that doesn't make it theologically sound. Why do we often agree that Satan is defeated but buy into being instructed on how to battle a defeated foe? Is Christ's victory on the cross more notable than complete? If the enemy is vanquished from his prior position of power, why do we progress trying to conquer enemy territory, especially as if he were able to somehow take it back? Why does the church seem to "functionally" believe that until the Lord returns in "final victory" we will still be engaged in an ongoing battle against the enemy?

These beliefs SEEM reasonable and profoundly impact how we view church planting (that is, if we recognize the imperative to "proclaim release to the captives, sight to the blind," etc., ALL of which point to not only the prophetic element of Jesus' work and identity, but ours as well). There is no New Testament mandate to seek out and fight the devil. There is, however, a great deal sad about rescuing the "blind, poor and emotionally and spiritually downtrodden" (Luke 4:18-19).

Church planting has brought me to realize experientially what true victory in Christ is as we allow Him to be Who He is, to do what He says He can do as He displaces the father of lies person by person, memory by memory and time after time. There was once a time when I thought that we could/should be the "coolest" church thingy around. I was gearing up to try to be able to do that. Thank God I know better now because there's nothing about our "hip-ness" that Jesus says will actually bring freedom and healing to those he seems pleased to bring in our midst.

We are a haven, a "cabin in the woods" (thanks Chris Marshall) for these walking wounded. This "restoration discipleship" is the best kind, because when a young adult who was sexually abused as a child hears from Jesus that she's not dirty- she is better able to choose her relationships based on how Jesus sees her and ditches a dead-end relational cycle. Because when the Man of Sorrows shows that He took upon Himself my nakedness, shame and sense of abandonment, I find I don't have to be doomed to a life of relational isolationism in perpetuity. I am not really alone. I heard those words and a I knew those words, but I needed the Word of Life to speak in the midst of my darkness. There's nothing like being "freed-up" that allows discipleship to blossom.

Therefore, I expect the calls at 3:30 am like I got last week from a demonized guy who's seeking freedom. I expect to see scores more of those "diagnosed" with various and sundry ailments of spirit and mind come into our fray. As I think on it, there's not any less than 80% of us Veritasians who do not have some sort of "issue" that we bring to the table. And it's not that we are any different from any other church, newly-planted or long-established.....God's making us pay attention to these wounded masses in our generation and he wants to do something about it. Furthermore, we've all been given the equipment to handle it. No demon-hunts, territorial reclamations for Jesus.......just doing the Kingdom work and deal with what we have to deal with in His name. The Kingdom and His righteousness suffices to cause the enemy to be displaced.

I see His church a lot differently now in light of seeing what Jesus has done and stands ready to do. I hope it's not all about doing things in a new way.