“Where are you going?” I was often asked this question, as a child, in the little village where I lived. Usually I answered with conviction “nowhere”, since I had no real direction in my daily meanderings through the paths and woods where I wandered.
In those days it was pretty safe. There were very few child predators in wartime England. Time spent on our own as children was not a thing that put fear in the hearts of our hard working parents. Today, we need a clear ideaof where our kids are, what they are doing, and how long they will be there.
Simply put we live in dangerous times! As children in the natural so also in the spiritual this is a dangerous time for us as believers.
There has been a tendency for Charismatics to be always “on the move” Our churches have been marked by a “cafeteria style” which means “if you cant find what you want here you go somewhere else“.
I have heard amazing stories of believers of 25 years vintage leaving churches because “we are not being fed” In the natural world, a 25 year old would scoff at being hand fed with a spoon! Yet in the spiritual realm their expectation is a life time that never requires any spiritual growth or maturity based on their own seeking after God and reading His Word.
In the Scriptures there is a group of people called the Amalekites. These are also called the “sons of Amalek” and were continually at odds with God’s chosen people looking always to trap them one way or the other.
Deut 25:17-18 Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. 18 When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. (from New International Version)
When we look at this story we see that something was happening here. Israel were on a journey on their way to the land God had prepared for them. They were moving on in the Godly call and direction, but there was a strange thing happening.
Some of the people were losing their place in the marching order. They had started well but were slowly, but surely, losing touch with Moses and the leaders and slipping further and further back in the crowd. They were complaining and making the journey difficult for others as well, with gossip and division marking their regress.
As time went on they were losing sight of the direction of the nation, and they were soon enveloped in a cloud of dust where they suddenly lost orientation and , became vulnerable to the Amalekites who were lurking in the shadows.
The Scripture says we have a similar parallel in our day and time. Scripture says
1 Peter 5:8-9 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (from New International Version)
This tells me that we need to be careful in our behaviour in the Local Church, lest we find ourselves willingly surrendering vision, speaking critically, and becoming a liability instead of an asset to the Kingdom.
This Scripture tells us to “Resist him standing firm in faith”
2 Cor 2:11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (from New International Version)
There is definitely a plan of the Enemy to deceive many believers now as he did with Israel in the Wilderness, and have them drop out in a cloud of confusion, and become neutralized in their effectiveness in the Kingdom.
Therefore, great care must be taken by those leaving a local church, to ensure that they are not departing without a real sense of the direction and destiny of God. Above all we need a real attitude check to ensure our departure has the purest of motives, and does not spring from pride, rebellion, or a spirit of independence.
Heb 11:8-10 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (from New International Version)
However, there are times in our walk with God when He tells us like He told Abraham that he needed to set out and leave for an unspecified destination. For Abraham and those with him, this was to be the beginning of a journey of faith leading to a destination that they were unable to define.
Many people today, are hearing a distinctive call, as Abraham did. They know they have heard, and may seem to be “abandoning ship” without an inadequate explanation. Yet they have heard from the Lord and are stepping out in the same spirit of faith that Abraham did.
Another good example is when in Acts 13 Paul got a word from the Prophets separating him and Barnabus to a new ministry.
Acts 13:1-4 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. 4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.(from New International Version)
The church, and the two of them, were unaware of where their mission would take them, how they would be supported financially, and when and if they would actually return to Antioch.
The preceding thoughts are two sides of one coin. On the one hand there are those who carelessly drop out of their local churches, because of offence, fickleness or care-less-ness. These are not seriously considering the dangers of “falling into the dust” Their moving on is not a result of a sense of mission and forward movement in God, but rather one of inertia, indifference and lack of a sense of being joined or accountable to anyone for anything.
The other side of the matter is that there are some who are moving on without a clear and obvious situation to step into but they do so, without rancor, bitterness, or their own agenda, seeking the permission of their overseers.
Since they are unable to articulate an acceptable explanation, they are often considered, “rebellious” and having a ”bad spirit” by their leaders. This breaches personal relationships that would otherwise be continued profitably for both parties.
It is true that there are those who are falling back in the dust, who lay claim to being treated badly, but they frequently are the cause of their own troubles. Bad attitudes and spiritual naivety are leading people into isolation and often into spiritual deception. The Amalekites are still with us!!
So in the present situation of turmoil, there needs to be a clear headed look at people and their true reasons for the present extreme mobility in the Body of Christ.
Those who are leaving need to go, where possible, with a sense of release and blessing from their local church. For them they need to step out not just drop out . They need to step out to become a catalyst for change rather than a critic for destruction.
At the same time, since there are new things happening all around the Body of Christ. Local churches need to be willing to expand their umbrella and covering to different expressions of the life of God. Fear of innovation and creativity are making some leaders become defensive and threatened in their position in local churches.
Some of those who have vision that goes beyond the present scope of their local church need to look for ways of pursuing this vision with patience, and the co-operation of their leaders, rather than simply abandoning ship. Both parties need to avoid anger and bitterness since this will impede either party from being able to walk in the blessing of God.
If you are moving into something new that you see God doing, don’t take your “chip” or bitterness with you since you will only infect the very thing you are trying to support or initiate.
Sadly, many new things that are being initiated, will be destroyed. They contain a kernel of truth, but the truth is over ridden by the entrenched bitterness of its promoters in relationship to their former spiritual home. Thus the Enemy achieves his goals and the Amalekites strike again.
If we really have something new or renewed from God it will automatically attract others without the need on our part to denigrate something else.
In the natural world we encounter the Butterfly who begins as a caterpillar and then goes in to a hibernation stage in a chrysalis . Then the caterpillar emerges. It comes out as a beautiful butterfly. Whilst the butterfly can never fit back into the chrysalis without breaking its wings, it must honour and respect the provision of God which kept it through a period of change and transition allowing it to be born to its ultimate destiny .
There is a principal in Scripture that teaches us that what happens in the natural realm is paralleled in the spiritual realm. The church ( the company of believers) is going through a time when something new is appearing out of the apparent hibernation and irrelevance of the past season.
There is a butterfly slowly emerging . It cannot be confined by its immediate past , but must recognize with thankfulness that it is springing from something that had the ability to preserve it an release it in due season.