At the same time as the AzusaNow event the other week in Los Angeles, 30,000 church leaders gathered to pray for revival in the USA at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. God is up to something!
Albert Einstein quoted as saying that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. In 1982 Mike Bickle was in Cairo, Egypt and the Lord told him that it was his intention to, “. . . change the understanding and expression of church in one generation.” If that is the case, what will it mean to, "do church differently?” The strap-line of Kingdom Enterprise is “Reimagining Church” - what does that mean?
Understanding the issues - Ecclesia & Koinonia
There are two words in the New Testament that describe “church” - Ecclesia and Koinonia. Ecclesia could be seen as “structure” and Koinonia is “fellowship” - there are issues that will undermine both.
In Matthew 18, Jesus goes to great lengths to stress the importance of getting things right:
Matthew 18:15-20 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
The key to understanding this concept is verse 19 - agreeing in prayer. That’s why anything that hinders unity has to be dealt with. Binding and loosing imply that the church should be exercising spiritual authority in its area of influence. It seems that the minimum ‘gathering’ for this to happen is “two or three” - that’s where Ecclesia and Koinonia come together.
Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.”
Agreeing in prayer as we exercise spiritual authority is a crucial part of understanding the destiny of any local church - that’s why Jesus stresses the importance of rooting out any instance of persistent sin in the body - the kind of sin that would undermine and weaken the church’s ability to exercise its spiritual authority.
The Call to Intimacy
The Lord is looking for those who are prepared to go deeper in their experience of intimacy with him - people whose goal is developing a secret history with God. Some time ago we wrote about Mary of Bethany - the few times she is referenced in the gospels we see that she had developed over time the attribute of living a life of extravagant love and devotion to Jesus.
True intimacy with God is not simply a feeling on a par with a romantic relationship. It goes much deeper than emotion, down to our very souls and reflected by our actions. Jesus is the model of intimacy with God because he and the Father are one (John 10:30) and no relationship can be closer than that oneness with the Father that Jesus experienced. His relationship with the Father was characterised by love and obedience. In love, Jesus came to earth to do his Father’s will. He did nothing on his own, but in everything did the will of his Father (John 5:30). This was most evident in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. Suffering the agony of anticipating what was to come, Jesus asked that the fate He was about to suffer might be removed from Him, but He ended the plea by saying,
“Yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Here we see a perfect example of true intimacy reflected in obedience as Jesus yielded his will to that of his Father.
If we hope to attain true intimacy with God, Jesus must be our model. We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:10), and we prove our love for him by obeying him. Jesus told his followers “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). By obeying him and keeping what He has commanded, he promised that we will remain in his love, just as he remains in the love of the Father by doing the Father’s will (John 15:10). There can only be intimacy with God when we are in good fellowship with him through walking in obedience. Then we can know the joy and peace that comes from trusting him and yielding to his will, just as Jesus did.
Intimacy with God begins when we radically pursue him with our whole heart. David wrote,
“When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to you, ‘Your face, O Lord, I shall seek’” (Psalm 27:8).
God invites us in James 4:8 to
“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”
We are instructed in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The word “be still” literally means to cease from striving. It means to let go and relax, to turn down the volume of the world and listen to the quiet whisper of God. It’s getting still and coming into a place of rest. It means soaking in God’s presence. The result is – you will know he is God. The word translated “know” in this context is literally an experiential knowledge of God. It’s not being still and knowing about God. It’s being still and experiencing his manifest presence. You will experience God. You will know the presence of God.
As we focus our heart, spirit, soul, mind, and body (the whole person) on his manifest presence, we become oblivious to the natural/physical world around us. The key is where your focus is – on the things of God or on things of this world. The last word is left to the Psalmist who exhorts us:
“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalm 84:1-2)