Sunday 14 June 2009

The Power of Teams

I stayed with my friend John Stevens a couple of weeks back. We talked for hours. I was particularly riveted by his testimony to do with teams. He has kindly reproduced some of it here. Basically this is the issue. Teams have a great supernatural power. Things happen in teams that never happen quite any other way. Peter Stott takes teams with him. The early apostles always made sure there were at least a couple of them and often others too.
One can put a hundred to flight, but two can put ten thousand to flight!
There is something beautiful about a whole team focussed on one goal and working on it together. And it gets especially interesting when it is evangelistic.
Para church movements were frowned upon in the days of “submission and authority and redefining the vision of the local church.”

This is what I think. Firstly until such time that local churches become more balanced expressions of the whole counsel of God, (does this relate with the phrase the 7 spirits of God?)…remember my vision /picture of the Word as a suspended orb between all the Biblical aspects of God’s nature and character)….. we need specific teams and ministries to make up the lack….

Secondly, I have noticed already so far that the Melchizedek order has little human frame of reference. For instance God suddenly sets apart Paul and Barnabas to reach the Gentiles. The rest of the church at Antioch stayed put. In 1969, Arthur Blessitt was minding his own business of preaching to street kids on the Sunset Strip, when God breaks through and sets him suddenly on a 38 year journey to traverse every country on earth – even the closed ones- carrying the Cross. So, I guess there will always be teams called to specific jobs in specific callings….just as it was also for Mel Tari in the Indonesian Revival. The theory that everything will issue logically and smoothly out of local churches, as we thought in the 70s and 80s….well It clearly isn’t so. Perhaps it was good that Morris Cerullo never listened to anyone!!!!Eh!?

John’s piece is so much more though. It is an encouragement that we will never feel right for the job and God understands this as well.
What works in reaching out with the gospel?

Is it a valid question to ask ‘what works’? As if there is a methodology out there that guarantees success.

I think that it is true to say that presumption the classic fault of the rational man. Once we land on a workable thesis we test it beyond its endurance and suffer the inevitable disappointment when y doesn’t follow x .

One of the most encouraging paragraphs in the New Testament is 2 Cor 4v7-14;

‘But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us…’ That’s verse 7. That’s true revolution. That’s taking the rational western liberal man and consigning the invention of the enlightenment and modernity and post-modernity to ‘an earthen vessel’. For all this progress you are still an earthen vessel. The real secret, hidden from those brilliant thinkers, those philosophers, is the treasure within.

Our fault is when we detach the two and over emphasize our humanity or diminish our humanity in the light of His divinity. The treasure has no value in itself. Only when it can be transported, and for that an earthen vessel is all that is required.

‘We are perplexed but not in despair’ v 8. If verse 7 is revolution verse 8 comes as a shock. Surely, our rational minds feeding on verse 7, say, surely if verse 7 is true it follows that all we have to do is ‘be’ and the treasure will make itself known through our calling, our gifting, our serving, our giving and so on. And yet the apostle is perplexed as is his team. That I find hugely encouraging and liberating!

I’m often perplexed but if the apostle was then I’m reassured.

Story One. I’d been a Christian for a matter of months. I was 18. A friend offered me a lift home. On his car key-ring dangled a picture of a beautiful girl. I asked him who she was. He said ‘My fiancé. But she doesn’t look like that now’. It turned out that she had anorexia nervosa and was close to death. We were both lab technicians for a pharmaceutical company. Our lab leader was compassionate and allowed my friend to spend hours researching anorexia in an attempt to save his girlfriend. Meanwhile God stirred in my heart to offer to pray for her. I spoke to my friend and he agreed and so a few of us at church prayed that weekend. The truth is in fact that having plucked up the courage to say to my friend ‘I believe God loves your fiancé and wants to heal her, will you let me pray for her?’ I forgot all about it. But on the next Saturday morning I was due to go with a small evangelistic team handing out tracts in a local market. As we were praying just before going out, the heavens opened (get literal) and the rain was so loud on the roof we couldn’t hear each other’s British prayers – so we took a very important decision and decided not to do the evangelism. Our leader asked a question. Has anyone got anything from God? I piped up, embarrassed that I had forgotten to pray during the week. I remember praying something like ‘God would unblock the barrier preventing her from getting up and eating’ and everyone said Amen. On Monday morning back at work my friend came in almost jumping with joy as his girlfriend had started eating. She had suddenly got out of bed on Saturday morning at the same time that we prayed. Now that is verse 7.

My rational response was ‘so now everyone will ask me about Jesus and we’ll have revival in the lab…who’s first…’. It didn’t happen. No-one became a Christian. No-one asked about it. Not one soul. I was disappointed, a little angry perhaps, certainly perplexed.

Later that year at Exeter University and in the maelstrom of meeting many people, I often shared my faith sometimes with roomfuls of people pumping me and other Christian friends with questions. I witnessed to a large number of fellow students. I probably told people Story One. Not one jettisoned their agnosticism, atheism, or spiritual lethargy.

I was worn out. I had all this treasure. I was perplexed and more or less I gave up witnessing. The years rolled by. I spoke in tongues. I prophesied. I saw a few miracles of healing. But no fruit from my witnessing. Deep down I was crying to God. ‘This should work. This should work. God what is going on?’

I felt the impact of failure. Then in 1985 I had a fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit and ‘felt’ the anointing in a more tangible way than before. When the Holy Spirit falls on people He often speaks and I had a few verses that came to mind, two from Isaiah and one from the Psalms.

One of the Isaiah verses contained the line ‘and I have given Him to be a witness to the peoples…’ This verse (Is 55v4) refers to the Messiah but on this occasion the Holy Spirit fired it into me – I was the target. And it created faith where presumption had previously been trying and failing to get a foothold.

Within a few months I joined a Christian team taking (mostly non-church) teenage boys on Activity Holidays. The leaders were all baptized in the Holy Spirit and were more or less of one mind in terms of the overall vision for the team and that it must be run by the Holy Spirit.

My particular role was to lead worship and hill-walking. But when some of the lads responded to the gospel in meetings they were passed on to some of the leaders – including me – and we led a number to the Lord. I was underway.

A year or so later, with my young family, we went to Roffey Place Christian Training Centre in Horsham Sussex.. For those of a certain vintage you might know Colin Urquhart. He and Bob Gordon led Roffey. I left the relative comfort of a ‘charismatic’ church and teaching career to go to Roffey because I was hungry for the reality of what we were preaching but rarely seeing. I loved my church and am indebted to many in that church for their witness and their love. Without them I would not have given Jesus a second glance. But hunger is hunger.

At Roffey I was immersed in an army looking for a battle.

Bob Gordon would often say that we’d been invited to participate in a corporate anointing and that there was no place for any of us to do our own thing.

On missions, sometimes on the streets of villages and towns, sometimes in tents or churches, we were taught not to hand out tracts but to be praying, trusting that it was God who would stimulate conversations and ultimately it is God who saves, heals and so on. All this is great in theory. In practice 2Corinthians 4v7-14 is the reality.

Story Two. Mission in Basildon,Essex. (I apologise if you live in Basildon but it is not a place I would choose to live in. For different reasons it could well have been Monty Python’s substitute for Basingstoke). Nevertheless to Basildon we went. A team of about twenty, for a week culminating in a three large evening services at the hosting church. I was billeted with a Ugandan Christian. We both prayed early in the morning separately before heading down for breakfast with out hosts. At some point he looked up and asked me with a smile, ‘John how many will be saved this week?’ I screwed up my ‘faith’ and said, ‘maybe 10?’ He laughed and said, ‘No John there will be more than this, there will be 120’. My only experience of church mission was maximum effort and minimum fruit, his experience was much fruit. 120 individuals came to the Lord that week.
Few if any were saved in the Meetings, nearly all were through the team on the street. A Catholic member of our team had very little confidence in witnessing about Jesus. But he had felt God calling him to wait in a certain spot. And there he had returned day after day. He was about to give up when one day he stopped a woman to talk to her and her story came tumbling out. She was on her way to a shop to buy a knife to murder her son-in law! She ended up giving her life to Christ. ‘We have this treasure in an earthen vessel that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us’. The week dismantled my defeatist thinking and created a new level of personal expectation but in the context of working in a team. Basildon!

I return to my opening sentence. ‘What works?’ I’m sure the Roffey experience I had is the same that many believers have when they devote their time to a team that is led by the Spirit of Jesus.

What works is hunger. What works is being led by the Spirit. ‘Jesus after He was baptized was led by the Spirit into the desert…’ The Greek for ‘led’ is ‘ekbalo’ and is later translated in the same chapter in mark for ‘driving out’ a demon! It is a forceful word. It can be used to describe kicking a ball. In one translation it says the Spirit drove into the desert’. It’s like that. Something you cannot deny, insistent but good.

Up to that point for 30 years the Spirit had not descended upon Him or driven Him into the wilderness. This is important too. Jesus had a long period of apparent inactivity. We are not called into fleshly busyness. Sometimes saying no is the greatest challenge.

‘…they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia…they tried to go into Bithynia but the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them…’ Acts 16 v 6-10

Paul and his team had come to the edge of the world at Mysia. Somehow they knew the Spirit would not let them travel East or West. South was where they came from and North was Sea of Marmara in the corner of the Med. That night Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia saying ‘come over to Macedonia and help us’. ‘Immediately we sought to go to Macedonia concluding that the Lord had called us to preach to them’. Across the Med they went.

This aspect dovetails in with “Life In the Order of Melchizedek” series. Morris Cerullo calls revelation a supernatural burst of advanced knowledge. This is very much the realm Nicholas and Pam move in, and it is the hallmark exhibited over and over again in Arthur Blessitt’s picture autobiography The Cross to be reviewed soon. Time and again he finds himself in the midst of world-changing pivotal circumstances….a real life version of the fictional Forrest Gump.

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