Where we live in southern Alberta, close to the Canadian Rockies, we have a unique weather condition called “The Chinook Wind”. This occurs especially during the winter months and is a warm wind of Pacific air which comes over the mountains from the west and brings dramatic temperature change.
In the winter when temperatures are between minus 20 or 30 Celsius, the Chinook arrives and can bring a dramatic change in temperature of sometimes 25 degrees in an upward direction in a couple of hours.
The result can be that there is dramatic thaw and water begins to run in an atmosphere that was previously frigid. Not only temperature changes but atmospheric pressure can also change giving rise to mood changes in people and causing their reactions to be different from usual.
We are living in a time of Chinook changes in our world. In the realm of finances our whole society has been racked by events which have dramatically altered people’s ability to trade and to have financial security.
The Political world in Canada has been rocked by this as has also happened in the rest of the Western World where governments and leaders find a change of mood and temperature is upon them, accompanied by a shift in loyalties.
One picture of this can be seen in the election of President Obama in the USA , a democrat and the first black person to hold the Office. His election campaign saw a shift in thinking of many young people and also many who have claimed to be Christian and have always voted Republican. This is a change of mood and will have repercussions around the world as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran find themselves dealing with a leader who is definitely different to those they have become used to working with from the USA.
The Christian world, especially the evangelical – charismatic – pentecostal section of Christianity is not exempt from these winds of change affecting every other aspect of the Western World.
Just as economic crisis is on us and political crisis is looming in many nations in the Western World and in the Underdeveloped Nations, a similar crisis is at work in the spectrum of the Church with which I have identified for more than 50 years.
To-day like never before this expression of the Church is facing adverse and different winds which are creating a new atmosphere. This atmosphere is having both a positive and negative impact, and one which we must not just survive, but which we must face up to and respond to if the church is going to have a continued impact on our society.
There is a mood or wind of disillusionment at work in the Church today. Over the past 30 years there has been a long season of building of personal kingdoms in the Western expression of Christianity. The process involved has carried with it much that can only be described as spiritual abuse and financial exploitation of believers who have co-operated believing that they were advancing the Kingdom of God, only to find they were advancing leaders own agendas and that the Holy Spirit and the Word of God had little in common with what was being presented as the Gospel.
Today, having lived through more than 55 years of fundamental Christianity it is easy for me to see that there is an undercurrent, a wind of protest that is arising as people quietly drop out of the pretentious expressions of Christianity looking for something which is more biblical, simple, and evangelistically productive than that which they are leaving.
In addition to this, the pursuit of “success”, which has been promoted by so many groups, is resulting in a dwindling supply of leaders in local churches. Whilst people are offering their money, they don’t have their time to offer, since they must work long hours to produce the success they have been led to believe is their birthright. More and more church “lay” leaders are burning out because of a lack of time for personal devotion and family life, and sadly, the too-high expectations of their full time brothers and sisters in ministry.
Not only this, but also we have seen a great distress caused in the Body of Christ by significant leaders, who, pursuing their own agenda, have fallen deeply into moral and financial sin. This is resulting in massive, expensive buildings being re-possessed and sometimes finding secular use after millions of dollars of Kingdom money was invested in them by well-meaning people. The high profile moral failures continue to provide fodder for exploitive television and comedy shows, and discouragement to confused church members.
Acts 27:14-15 Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the “northeaster,” swept down from the island. 15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. (from New International Version)
Like Paul in the book of Acts, the church finds itself the victim of a “northeaster” that is bearing us down toward rocks which we are finding it hard to avoid.
In addition to this we had a space of almost a year when many of our fellow-believers were convinced that Revival had come to the world through some highly promoted meetings in Florida. Some, including some of the leaders of this movement, were closely convinced that the Second Coming would take place and that Jesus would return to that very place during a meeting.
Thousands, if not millions, of young adults who were greatly supportive of these events were crushed when it became apparent that the leading figure, had no real place of accountability and was in fact, living a double life. All of this while validating and promoting his own and others angelic encounters and supernatural experiences. Thus in the minds of many a big question mark hangs over the supernatural once again, and with good reason!
Today we now have a large wounded group of those who are called to carry the torch to the next generation who are disoriented, disconnected, and confused. This group of people find it hard to trust older Christians, church leadership, what they hear from the front of a meeting, and anyone who they don’t personally know. There is a major bleeding of such people from the life of many local churches as they vote with their feet.
In addition, this age group is oriented toward the information age of the internet and is used to receiving teaching in visual and/or interactive form. They have become more and more disconnected from church life, which for the most parts either produces a weekly “entertainment show” or simply an irrelevant lecture without personal applications
Acts 27:40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach (from New International Version)
In an effort to forestall some of these events, some local churches have opted to “head for the beach”, and thrown everything overboard that they did before thinking they will save the ship!
In an effort to survive the wind that they are fighting, they decide. “No study of the Word!” “No need for prayer!” “No corporate life!” “No regular meetings!” “No need for believers to give regular finances”. I would suggest that these are the things that hold the ship together and we cannot abandon them in favour of the beach!
But yet there is a place for “Winds of Change”. If you drive through Southern Alberta, particularly into the Crows Nest area, you will be confronted with “wind farms” Massive wind-driven propellers are dominating the landscape and by virtue of harnessing those same Chinook winds are actually providing power, light and energy in a total new way in the surrounding areas. Perhaps in the future they will provide the predominant supply of electricity
The Bible tells us in 1 Cor 15:46: The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual (from New International Version)
So as we look at the church today what can we expect to gain from the winds of change that are blowing in our own situation?
Wind farms are ugly to look at, and we actually don’t find them very aesthetic, yet this harnessing of wind power is seen as one of the hopes of the next generation.
I want there to be a next fruitful and successful generation in the church. It may not look the way it looked before and perhaps not pleasing to the eyes of the established church but it may provide, light, power and energy to a new surge of Christianity in our world. Like wind power it may not be the only source of those things but it can be that it will be significant in activating people who would otherwise be “gone with the Wind”!!
God told Elijah
1 Kings 19:11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.(from New International Version)
Not every wind is the wind of God. We need to be careful to judge the present manifestations of the wind that are battering our houses. Elijah was told to judge from standing in the Presence of the Lord. This means it was not to be compared to anything he had previously experienced or seen. In this case it was not of the Lord. So today every manifestation of the wind we see is not the Lord. Some is of men! Some is coming from disappointment and bitterness, and some coming from ambition!
There was a wind in the book of Acts that bought a revolutionary new manifestation of the plan and purpose of God.
Acts 2:1-4. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (from New International Version)
There was a response to this wind that unlocked cities and nations to the proclamation of the Kingdom. Jews and Gentiles alike were blown on by this wind and there was a release of Divine Creativity that led to churches being founded, people being saved and healed, and whole cities turned upside down for God.
We are in a time which we could also compare to the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when they knew that the “thaw” was coming and there were only minimal signs of change. They had to content themselves with what they knew and understood rather than try and work out how it would all work out in the end.
So the winds of change that we are experiencing are going to lead us into the next things that God is going to do. We don’t understand in its fullness but are beginning to see clues in the things that are happening.
I am writing more along these lines in later letters but want to begin to cause some of you to think as I am being caused to think in these days of how and what God is wanting to do with us and through us.
In the story of Paul and the shipwreck where they encountered the “northeaster” there was a promise
Acts 27:22-26. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” (from New International Version)
The promise of God here is this, that in the extremity of the wind that is blowing it’s possible for some of the physical plant to be destroyed or become useless, or “beached” but the church, the people of God, have a destiny to fulfill and will not be destroyed.
We are however at the door of great changes in church life and church expression. For us it is not a sudden change, but a gradual one which will bring us to “shore” as it did Paul and his companions, and where the Gospel accompanied by the supernatural will be heard in our communities.