Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January 60.12 in RI: Foundations

There was an expectation coming in that God was going to be speaking to us during this time, and we were not disappointed.  The gathering was sweet and many people felt it was our best yet because of the presence and voice of the Lord we experienced.

As you no doubt remember, it snowed and sleeted significantly last Tuesday, making travel treacherous and time consuming and keeping many people from joining us.  For us, a 1.5 hour drive in good weather turned into almost a 4 hour drive.  We pulled up at around 10:45 as the rest of the group was just getting started.  We ended up having just under 20 people from 4 states after 3 folks from NH arrived at noon following a 5 hour drive!  Many remarked afterwards about the special way that God met with us and spoke to us during the day.  

Praying for RI: In spite of the delays, there was a deep sense of peace and also a sense that God had something very special for us that day.  In the morning, we focused our prayers on Rhode Island.  Steve DuPlessie had come representing the movement of RI pastors that has been hosting prayer summits the last several years.  He shared about the sense of comraderie and mutual support that has come about through the prayer summits, and also about the "Love RI" statewide initiative to bring the church together in prayer, in caring for the community, and in sharing the gospel.  It was encouraging to hear how about the birthing of Love RI last spring.  Just before their first planning meeting, RI was inundated with floods.  Seizing the opportunity, the Love RI team partnered with Samaritan's Purse and pulled together a team of 400 volunteers from churches around the state to shovel out basements and help the hardest-hit communities.  All in all, there was a lot of good news.

However, Cheryl Russell, coordinator for the National Day of Prayer in RI had not heard about any of this.  She was blessed to hear what was happening, but also shared her observations that many ministry leaders felt disconnected and discouraged and even had a sense of "it's us against them" in relation to the churches.  At that point, I think all of us felt we were in the middle of a divine appointment between Cheryl and Steve, one representing intercessors and para-church networks and the other representing the statewide pastor's group. We had them join hands in the center as we prayed over them. It was great to see the two of them blessed through this encounter and let's pray for lasting fruit to come from this.

As a group we prayed that RI would experience awakening along with the rest of New Englan and also for strong relationships between RI leaders and leaders from around New England.  And finally (put this into the "interesting coincidence" box) I thought it was cool that the day after we came down to pray, there was a major sting operation on the RI mob--(Thanks God!).  As someone once said, significant coincidences just happen more often when we walk closely with Jesus, and especially when we pray!

Wrestling Prayer: Foundations

We had a sense coming into this meeting that it would be a significant time of hearing from the Lord regarding "next steps towards the unity of the Church in New England".  I'll do my best to capture some of what we heard the Lord saying during this time, forgive me if my account is too personal.

It is Possible! Ron Stimers (VNE) did a great job leading us into a time of conversation with the Lord regarding "what are practical next steps for us to take for the unity of the Body of Christ in New England?"  As we began to pray, I saw in my mind's eye a skyscraper that was under construction.  I sensed the impossibility of building a sky-scraper--and yet, there are thousands of them that have been built.  The Lord was encouraging me through this with a new sense of possibility--John 17 unity is possible in New England!  I saw large, pre-formed pieces being put in their places and welded in.  Once these pieces were in place in the greater structure, their ability for impact was greatly multiplied.  Once incorporated in the superstructure through just a few points of connection, the entire pre-formed piece made sense and was able to share in the bearing of loads.  I think this image spoke of entire groups and movements being joined into a larger structure superstructure.  On the ground, the pieces had just been "in the way", lying useless in the yard--once connected to the whole, the reason for each part became evident.

Old Foundations As I was seeing this, Roberto Miranda began sharing about the importance of the foundation in construction.  The foundation is underground, out-of-sight, and not directly used by people.  However, the foundation is the most painstakingly important part of the building--if it is done wrong, it undermines the entire building. In their construction project at Congregation Leon de Juda, they discovered multiple old foundations in the ground where they had begun to build the new sanctuary.  The already difficult task of laying a good foundation was delayed by 6 months as these old foundations were removed at great cost to the church.  

"Begin to build"  As Roberto shared this, I sensed the Lord say to me, "Begin to build on the foundation".  I honestly had no idea what this meant, but felt it was connected to the Skyscraper/church that God had shown me earlier.  A little later, Victor Khokhlan read from Ephesians 2:20 about the building God is constructing which is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone."  As Victor read this, I had an "aha" moment--the things God and others were saying finally made sense to me.

God is building in the Spirit.  The building is composed of redeemed people who are joined together by relationships of love in the Spirit.  Not every part touches every other directly--but every part connects indirectly.  However, every part is built upon the foundation--a foundation made up of people.  At the bottom of this building is a foundation made of people who have received a gift from God to be "apostles and prophets", with Jesus Christ "the apostle of our faith" as the chief cornerstone.  Obviously, this applies to the historic foundations of the church.  However, it also applies to us today. If we want to build towards John 17 unity, we need these gifts at the foundation.

"The ''A" Word: Charismatic and liturgical streams speak openly of apostolic gifts.  Evangelicals have traditionally not spoken of apostles, but then again, we have John Wesley, D.L. Moody, and Billy Graham.  When you compare these men to the "5 fold" ministry in Ephesians 4, it's hard to classify them as anything but apostles.  Has anyone else ever noticed that when Billy Graham came to town, the Church would unite?  Was that just because of a common set of activities and the simplicity of his message, or could it also have been because he had a foundational gift, a gift you could build unity on? 

There is still a lot of confusion among us regarding these gifts.  Some people get nervous when people talk about modern day "apostles and prophets". I think the chief reason for this is that we rightly want to avoid controlling leadership.  After all, the Reformation was a reaction to controlling apostolic leadership in the form of the Pope.  However, it is possible to react out of fear of control and end up in a situation where "everyone does what is right in their own eyes." Controlling leadership is bad, but so is lack of leadership.  What we need is mature servant leadership at every level in the church and especially at the foundations.  Whatever language we use, the bottom line is this: If we want to build towards Unity (Eph 4:13, Eph 2:22), it is going to involve these functions at the foundation.  

Laying Down Lives When you hear the word "apostle" spoken, people often speak of a them as providing a "covering".  However, a foundation is at the bottom, bearing the greatest load.  It is out of sight, buried underground.  Apostles and prophets have authority, but are defined as those whose humble lives, built upon Jesus Christ, support the entire church.  This skyscraper that God wants to build can only be built on top of lives laid down on behalf of others.  These lives at the bottom must have complete integrity.  As the psalm says, "righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne."  The church is God's throne, God's place of rest and power.  These foundations must be full of righteousness and justice just like Jesus Christ. 

Originating in God's Call: Finally, these gifts are only given by God. They're recognized, not bestowed.  It's silly for a hand to want to be a foot; it's silly to force a foot to be a hand.  God has "given gifts to men (Eph 4)".  Our job is to discern what these are and to help build up each part until we're all positioned perfectly, until we're all relating to one another in love, each part performing it's function.

I know that God spoke many things to people personally which we discussed on the way home.  However, this was the biggest takeaway for me from our time of asking God "what are the next steps towards Unity in New England."  Real Unity is possible. It's all about relationships in the Holy Spirit. There's multiplication of power in unity--the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Finally, we need to get the foundations right and remove the false foundations.  As I have been wrestling with this over the last week and talking it over with others, I've been collecting more questions.  Please take a look at them below.


Jonathan Friz

Further Questions:

What are the old foundations that have been removed and still need to be removed in new england to prepare the way for God's Sanctuary? 

How can we distinguish these things that need to go from the inheritance from our past that we need to keep?

What does it mean practically for the New England Church to "build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (with Jesus Christ always as the cornerstone)?  Is this already happening in certain places?  What would it look like at a regional level?

What theological or practical problems do you have with the words "apostle" and "prophet" applied in a modern setting?  Is this problem a matter of words, or do you disagree that we need foundational leadership in the church that is sent from God with a word from Him?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Event Notice: "Israel Mandate: The Church standing in the gap for Israel"

Victor Khokhlan writes: 

We want to invite you to A Special Event of worship, prayer, and teaching: 
                  Saturday, January 29th at 11:00am
      "Israel Mandate:The Church standing in the gap for Israel"
                          Special guest speakers:
       Israel Pochtar - Voice of Judah Ministry, Israel ( A Messianic Jewish ministy in Israel)
        Yacov Ifraimov - The mayor of the City of Ashdod, Israel
        David Bates - State Representative from New Hampshire.  
Please join us in learning what the Lord is doing in Israel as we express God's love and support  in standing with the Jewish people.  Let's pray and believe together for God's promises of His Love and faithfulness to be revealed to Israel.
Rom. 11:15 " ... For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! "
We look forward to seeing you! 
Pastor Victor Khokhlan
          King of the Nations House of Prayer
          9 Cummings street
          Somerville, MA O2145

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Summary of December 60.12 Meeting in Boston

Full of Praise and Thanksgiving

As we entered into the sanctuary hearts were quickly united through anointed worship, heartfelt thanksgiving, and the welcoming embrace of beloved friends—of comrades in the Lord, both old and new.
When my eyes fell upon Pastor Roberto Miranda who had missed the last two meetings because of illness, they welled with tears in extreme gratitude to God as Mary’s song was laid upon my heart, “for the Lord has done great things for him…for us…hallowed be His name.”  I am sure that many of us felt the same.

After a corporate expression of prayer, Jonathan asked us to reflect upon the passing of 2010 in light of the year soon to come, and then to minister to one another in small groups of 4-5.  We were asked to pray and ensure that all were filled to overflowing with the goodness of the Lord. 

From the reports that I received, that is exactly what happened; for some tears of healing flowed freely, for others prophetic words of exhortation and encouragement were received joyfully as the peace of His presence descended upon us all. 

One sister noted that she felt a deeper level of unity and connectedness…more so than at any of our previous meetings.

We then had a time of silent reflection to draw even nearer to the heartbeat of the Lord…allowing Him to put the finishing touches on what He had already begun, before receiving communion.  Roberto Mirandaled us in communion…which seemed to be a beautiful prophetic punctuation of what many had already received from the Lord. 

The Discussion: Twofold—God’s Activity and the New Wineskin of Revival

 Gregg Detwiler’s report on God’s activity among ethnic and immigrant churches sparked the fire of engaged conversation as he gave voice to the contextual face of the “Quiet Revival”.  Gregg spoke of:
·         Earthen Vessels… the quiet revival is a Dirt & Divinity Movement, a undeniable move of God, rough edges and all
·         Exponential church growth through various heretofore unheralded ethnic and immigrant streams
In response:
·         I think it’s fair to say that humility ruled the day as many, if not all could relate to a dirt & divinity movement…of God working through imperfect humanity to bring about revival
·         The fire of hope was stirred and fanned within the hearts of some of the pastors…revitalizing hope that God has, could, will and has used them in this most unusual season of revival

For years many of us have looked to the Great Awakenings as inspiration for what we hope to see God do in our day.  However, it is clear that what God desires to do in our day will look very different from any move of God in the past.  Many have been sharing their sense that God  is forming a new wineskin, a new form to contain the wine of His Spirit in our day. 
We then asked the question…“What does revival look like for us now relative to this new wineskin that we have been hearing about?” 

 Some ideas from our discussion:

 ·         New Wineskins (forms) that are essential
o   Making space for and valuing the Presence of God above anything else (learning how to worship) and recognizing that His Presence is what brings life (vitality, revival)
o   Intercultural relationships and connections
o   Move of God must be sustainable and steady (Used metaphor of the difference between ground water and sudden rain in the desert)
o   Expecting a bottom-up grassroots effort rather than an elaborate structure
o   Although there is a tension between structure and freedom, we will need structure at some point to have relational and functional unity
§  Marriage is an example of a structure (wineskin) that allows for both relational and functional unity between man and wife.
o   Part of the structure is the need for the leadership of elders and the elder function
§  On the other hand, the expectation that “A” leader will rise up and lead the battle in New England is not a realistic one
·          New ways of thinking and acting (mindsets) that are essential
o   Living lives that are characterized by real love in action
o   Creating safe places where people experience love and are able to open up at the deepest levels
o   A Discipleship culture that models by example and prioritizes spiritual growth
o   Developing a burden for the lost and what awaits them apart from Christ
o   Thinking Generationally: We need to bring together the old and the new.  It is important for the older generation to release and bless the younger generation rather than quenching them. 
o   Also we need to bring together elements from the Historic church without quenching the new thing God is doing
o   Recognizing and making decisions for the good of the “Kingdom of God”, not just “my church” or “my denomination” (Having a Kingdom Mindset)
 Thank you so much Boston Missionary Baptist Church for opening up your doors, your arms and your heart…for your graciousness and service.  And most especially for the easy parking mid-week in BostonJ!!!
 Blessing and peace,

Gabrielle Beam, New Beginnings Christian Church, Darien CT with notes from Ron Stimers, Vice President, Vision New England

A Humble Attempt: Our history of covenanting together for prayer in New Hampshire

In recent months we are more and more aware that God is on the move in New England.  In New Hampshire, 5th Friday has become a fixed tradition of county prayer gatherings in each of our 10 counties!  The third annual Solemn Assembly grew to 1700 participants in Plymouth—not to mention the national platform that resulted from its connection to the filming of “Monumental”, a documentary focusing on “the faith of our forefathers” as the foundation of America’s greatness.  The fourth annual Boston Night of Worship also grew to a 5500 person multi-ethnic worship event.  Recently Vision New England gathered over 30 NE leaders to reflect and recognize that prayer networks, pastors’ fellowships, and breakthrough evangelism is happening all over NE. 

 The NH Prayer Covenant of 2005: All of these things have reminded us that the Lord is faithful to His promise of revival as set forth in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways—then will I hear their prayer and heal their land.”  Years ago, this promise and others from the Word of God inspired Jonathan Edwards to write “A Humble Attempt” to covenant with clergy around New England to meet quarterly for visible, united, and joyful prayer.  This “Humble Attempt” is the same covenant vision that over 70 NH pastors, leaders, and intercessors signed in the spring of 2005.  Yes, it is becoming clear that the Lord is on the move again in New England and isn’t it clear that we must all be very attentive to the Lord’s guidance?

 History of the prayer and unity efforts in New Hampshire: The prayer covenant of 2005 did not come out of nowhere, but was preceded by 15 years of various efforts to foster prayer and build relationships.  A “Power Team Evangelistic Crusade” in 1990 brought together 100 churches and is credited by many as the beginning of these efforts at unity.  Relationships were beginning to form leading to the “Marches for Jesus” (1992-97), “NH for Jesus” (a monthly state-wide pastor’s meeting, 1997), and “Gather My People 2000” (1997-2002) which involved state-wide pastor prayer fellowships and monthly prayer gatherings held around NH.  During this time the Lord was teaching us to build and value relationships. Our prayer and worship together allowed the Lord to take his rightful place among us as the head of the church.  You can’t pour old wine into new wine skins—so we all had to come together as brothers and sisters so the Lord could do a new thing.  We weren’t trying to “organize” denominations to be reconciled—that is impossible!  But when we did form a fellowship of prayer; then we began to see the Lord guide us. 

 2 Chronicles 20:  In the spring of 2003, we hosted “Days of Prayer” for New Hampshire leaders to get away together and listen to the Lord.  This gathering was one of the first and most significant occasions of God’s extraordinary guidance to us corporately.  After a time of prolonged “waiting on the Lord,” a group of eight leaders returned and found that two pastors had received 2 Chronicles 20 at the same time.  2 Chronicles 20 is the impossible story of Jehoshaphat and Judah overcoming 3 armies not by fighting, but by placing worship leaders at the head of the army.  We recognized that when we are outmatched by our enemies, our only hope is to worship the Lord and place our trust in Him, not in our human abilities.  At that time, NH had just become the first place in history to name a gay bishop. Similar trends around NE were a wake-up call that caused us to see that we were in the battle of our lives. 

Worship and Warfare:  God’s word regarding 2 Chronicles 20 grew in our hearts and by the time we renewed the prayer covenant in 2005 we felt guided by the Lord to host worship gatherings all over NH starting  in the fall of 2005.  That summer we were visited by Dutch Sheets and Chuck Pierce, two national prayer leaders.  During our second session Dutch abandoned his notes and said the Lord was leading him “off the page.”  For the next 15 minutes he talked about Jehoshaphat and how we ought to hold worship gatherings all over NH.  He knew nothing of our previous guidance and so we were awestruck at recognizing we were in the middle of God’s unfolding plans.  Since then we have found this same passage has been given independently and repeatedly to other leaders around New England.

5th Fridays Following our year of “Jehoshaphat” worship based on 2 Chronicles 20 we formally adopted Jonathan Edward’s quarterly prayer and worship gatherings which we began to hold in each county.  For practical purposes we chose to hold this on “Fifth Fridays” and this regular pattern has become a fixed star in our NH efforts.  Our prayer covenant includes quarterly state-wide days of prayer, local pastors’ fellowships, and annual retreats or renewal events for pastors and leaders.  Since then we have seen the Lord continuing to increase unity among pastors’ fellowships.  This continues to make a significant impact on raising the spiritual temperature of our state.

The New England Alliance During these last five years, we also have seen that the Lord was working in other locations around NE. Some of the efforts to support prayer and unity in the Body had been going on for 30 or even 50 years and were beginning to mature and yield breakthroughs.  As more and more leaders were experiencing a call to pray together and walk together in unity, the NE Alliance was formed in 2007.  Around this time we also became aware that the Awakening America Alliance and other national prayer movements had the same vision that we did for prayer, unity, and awakening.  This group had planned a county-based prayer day of prayer on Sept. 11, 2008, and they expected New England to have the least participation in their national prayer effort.  Amazingly, NE had the highest percentage of participating counties of any part of the country. 

At this present moment we see that the NE Alliance is becoming a vehicle to spread the vision of revival across NE.  In 2011, the NH Alliance plans to gather all the counties for a NH Night of Worship similar in vision to the Boston Night of Worship.  We also hope that the Lord’s guidance to us may inspire others, and we pray in a special way that the Fifth Friday prayer and worship will be a key part of our vision to unite all of NE in more localized breakthrough.  The Lord can do all things—even in New England.  Let’s remain focused on worshiping Him to see his deliverance and revival realized again in our times.  Amen.

Dick Kiernan is the Field Ministries Director of Alpha NE, and a founding member of the NH Alliance and NE Alliance.  Dick is married to Stephanie and has 5 children.