The Lord has graced Barb and I by timing our lives to just brush against or lightly be involved with numerous ministries just before they got off-balance or fell apart completely. To stay with my aquarium analogy, we’ve swum in many aquariums but moved to other aquariums just before the water started to stink.
Taking the best away
We were with and then gone from the PTL Club in Charlotte a few years before financial and moral failures caused its collapse. We were at and gone from Rhema a few years before others caused it to become name-it-claim-it and the prosperity gospel. I worked with and was gone from Global Harvest and New Life Church before various doctrinal error and moral failures occurred.
All this experience I post on our web site, and some believers when reading my ministry experience automatically label me or assume they know what I am all about, or refuse to read or listen to me because of these preconceived ideas. Sometimes I feel like asking them how they’d like me judging them based on whatever job they held in 1980, but I realize they are wounded and immature and just laying someone else’s sins at my feet.
But the fact is, Barb and I were grounded in the faith in home based ‘prayer meetings’ when we were teenagers, and no matter what ‘aquarium’ of the faith we landed in next, we always longed for the open ocean experiences of swimming in the Spirit those home meetings provided. We knew we didn’t fit into any ‘aquarium of faith’ we experienced, we just hadn’t realized why – yet.
Plastic or real?
If you’re a fish used to swimming in the open ocean, how do you describe those wonders to a fish who has only known an aquarium?
To a fish who has only known a plastic coral reef, how do you describe the real one? An ocean going fish has seen animals an aquarium hasn’t ever seen, like an octopus for instance. How do you describe an 8 armed boneless animal that shoots black ink when scared, to a fish who has never seen one?
You would use words they were familiar with – eight, arms, black, ink – but those familiar words describe something they’ve never seen nor experienced, so the image in the mind formed is very different than the animal you are trying to describe.
The mind tries to wrap itself around the words but cannot for there is nothing to compare it to in their life experience.
That’s what I’m saying
When we would land in yet another aquarium and talk to leaders about the ‘open ocean’ freedoms of the Spirit we had experienced as teenagers and that we longed for in their aquarium – they didn’t understand us.
We tried to describe what we were looking for using familiar words and phrases – letting God set the agenda, worship as long as we wanted, accountability through the strengths of relationships, leadership giving away their leadership to empower people - but they looked at us like we were from another planet. We were at an impasse because we used the same words, but I was describing the ocean and they were describing their aquarium.
So about that ocean…
Everyone I talked to only knew the temple and temple terminology and had only heard scary things about the open ocean. Things like cult, and danger, and off-balance, and accountability with a huge question mark.
They spoke of people swimming in the open ocean of house church in early days because of persecution, with one sweeping statement providing themselves an excuse to ignore the fact the New Testament was written by apostles doing house church to disciples doing house church, and that Word they claim is the final authority in their lives they’ve understood completely out of context all their born-again life!
Square peg, round hole
And so through the years I’ve always felt disconnected. I was keenly aware of Christ in me, so I couldn’t yell and scream to bring Him down or get His attention with that crowd. I knew the blood of Jesus was once poured out as a ransom for many and that was the only use of it spoken of in scripture, so I couldn’t go with the drawing a blood line in the sand people. Jesus said to simply command demons to leave in His name, which I have done many times and had seen it work, so I couldn’t relate to the crowd that went through the formulas for deliverance.
I know Christ is in me so I don’t need to pray for an open heaven, so I didn’t relate to that crowd. I saw in Acts they changed cities by winning people to the Lord from home based meetings, not by trying to call down demonic spirits, so I couldn’t relate to that crowd.
I could read in the scripture the highest and best revelation was a person learning how to hear His voice and I was willing to pay the price to walk with Him, so I couldn’t relate to the people who sought a short cut by getting a prophecy from someone - as a cure all for life’s problems instead of paying the price to seek Him themselves with all their heart until they got their answer directly from Him.
I read I was not to love this world nor the things in it, so I couldn’t relate to people believing God just for more things. I read how the apostles did not manipulate people for their money nor live above the people they ministered to, so I couldn’t relate to those who thought God’s stamp of approval is to live like royalty.
So I’ve been a fish from the open ocean placed in aquariums all my life. No wonder I never fit in.
Trying yet again to describe an octopus
So it was I told a Bible school leader he should not be teaching his students to yell and scream out to God at the top of their lungs each chapel service, but rather focus on Christ Who already lives in them, and teach them to hear and walk with Him - but he thought I was talking about another aquarium and therefore couldn’t understand me.
I used words like ‘Christ in us’ and from Romans 5:1-5 that we have peace with God so we don’t have to scream and yell to get His attention, and while he mentally agreed, he had no idea what walking with our Father and Lord in that way looked like. He had nothing to compare my words to in his life, because he had always been a formula-based Christian. His style brought in students which meant money which meant a bigger and more influential ministry, and it was in fashion to yell and scream to get God’s attention.
And so it is when someone asks about what house church does about ‘the 5-fold ministries’ I tell them the original context of ‘the 5-fold’ is in the home, and it works amazingly well in the home – humbly, in day to day walk through life manifestations of God’s gifts. They haven’t seen that aquarium, for in their aquarium the 5-fold are royalty heard only rarely in the auditorium, and are elevated almost like a rock star.
When they ask about accountability and I describe accountability in house church is through the strength of relationships, and that Jesus’ teaching is our guide – if you know your brother has something against you (or you him), go to him and heal the relationship. They can’t relate because in their aquarium accountability is measured by attendance, giving, and volunteerism.
They have never seen an aquarium like what I describe. Then if they dig a little more, they discover it isn’t an aquarium after all; it is the open ocean they’ve longed for all their lives, but have been afraid to enter for fear of hurt, deception, and eternal failure or damnation.
I use the same words they know – gifts of the Spirit, leading, revelation, teaching, discussion, community, extended family of faith, being intentional in your relationships - but they have never heard those words used in that way before, so they have no idea what I’m talking about.
You can only read about house church so much, you can only hear about the open ocean so much, but your mind won’t be able to wrap itself around it. You have to experience it and THEN all the puzzle pieces make sense. It isn’t so much what’s taught, it’s what’s caught.
More next week…blessings,