Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Are our gatherings characterized by more than words?

"For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power." [1 Cor 4:20]

This Scripture has captivated me over the last couple of days as I reflect upon God's mission and how that impacts our personal lives and community experience within our Simple Churches. Earlier in his letter, Paul has spoken of coming to Corinth with "fear and trembling", humanly feeling very weak. Yet this was precisely so that their faith would not rest upon him and what was humanly possible, but would rest upon the power of God because of the tangible demonstration of the Spirit's power in their midst.

The consistent interplay of God's power being perfected in human weakness. We see this not only in Paul but also in Jesus of Nazareth. It is in the realm of our humility, our brokenness, our dependence through prayer, our willingness to take no glory or reputation to ourselves but simply to serve, that God's power is manifested and his Name is glorified. But let us beware of overly embracing what we cannot do that we lose sight (or faith) of what God is more than able and willing to do through his power. What does this mean for our Simple Church gatherings (amongst other things)?

Later in his letter, Paul will seek to redirect the community in Corinth to correctly understand the purpose of the gifts of the Spirit, and their application during the believers' time together. His emphasis is upon the importance of edification of the believers and the place of prophecy. "Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy .. the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding (edification) and encouragement and consolation (comfort)." [1 Cor 14:1, 3] Our love is to be 'empowered' through the manifestation of the Spirit's power, in this case through words from God that have the power to build us up in the faith, to put courage in us to persevere in life and witness, and to heal/comfort us in our pain.

If we are faithfully following Christ, serving Him in the world, then we are engaged in a battle against forces that can overcome us - the world, the flesh and the devil. We are not meant to 'go it alone' but need the fellowship of one another so as to more fully experience the fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are the army that marches on it's knees, knowing that it is only the power of God that enables us to overcome. So, we need to seek this power - not for our personal pleasure, but in order to remain engaged in the battle for God's renown. This will take some vulnerability and honesty in our gatherings. Honesty about our stumblings (without the fear of rejection), vulnerability about our pain, and acknowledgement of our fears.

But this is not that we should wallow here, but rather pray for the power of God expressed through his prophetic word ... that we should speak words of hope, healing, deliverance, forgiveness, anointing that have creative and re-creative power through the anointing of the Holy Spirit. "Jesus appointed twelve .. so that they might be with him and he might send them out .. to have authority to cast out demons." [Mark 3:14-15] There is here a rhythm of being together, but also being sent out to overcome the power of the enemy. Our Simple Churches are meant to be such 'powerhouses' where love is pursued and the Spirit's power/manifestation is eagerly desired.