Listening for the Voice of Jesus, what He is saying to us as individuals and as a community, is essential to our journey of obedience. How can we follow if we don't listen? How will we know to take the next steps if we don't discern what He is saying? "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me" Jesus said in John 10:27.
Yet, when Jesus wrote, spoke, to "the Church" in Revelation 2-3, I find it intriguing that He actually wrote to the "Seven Churches" in Asia Minor. Perhaps one take away in this is that there is never really one uniform "word" for the whole Church. For all who follow Him. There is no "one size fits all" option. Of course, it is important to note that what has been discerned to be the Canon of Scripture is the "go to" for all of us. Yet even at that, the myriad of interpretations and applications of the text can be quite staggering.
When people ask me, "David, what's the Lord saying to the Church today?" I am often befuddled and somewhat disconcerted by the question. I really don't know. I am having a hard enough time discerning what He's inviting our local church into, let alone our National Family of Vineyards in Canada, without needing to discover what He's speaking to everyone, everywhere.
1. "I see you" He says, "and here's what I think about what you're up to." Our task is to discern together what the Lord is saying to Vineyard Canada. It is not our responsibility to be a mouthpiece to the whole Church. Simply to love the whole Church. This is one of the things we are reaching for in our fasting and prayer times, both nationally and regionally; within our Foundations Team; the work of our National Initiative Vineyard Pulse; the annual Prayer Summit; and the current Worship- Waiting -Weighing Tour. In it all, we must be truthful. There may be moments where we need to express our encouragement, concerns and even challenges to each other in the Body of Christ broader than our own movement, but this is always done recognizing that Jesus alone is the head. As Colossians 2:16-23 warns us, if we go "on and on about our revelations" while embracing false humility and a worship of angels (the messengers rather than the Message Himself) giving the impression that we are more connected to the Head, Jesus, and that others are not so, we may actually be in danger of being totally disconnected ourselves.
2. As Jay Pathak the National Director of Vineyard USA says so well, when the Lord is exposing and revealing things, let us courageously turn the mirror on ourselves more than anything, and acknowledge where we need to repent. We are not primarily trying to call out where our brothers and sisters have strayed. The appropriate space and place for calling things out may come, but let's remember as Jesus tells us in Matthew 7, as translated in The Message, a "critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own." It's good to remember as well that repentance is not so much visceral with a resulting "quick fix" as we respond to the work of the Spirit, but a moment of metanoia - an actual re-thinking and re-aligning of perspective and conviction, so that we may be able to sustain the kind of change in behaviour, attitude, and activity the Lord is calling us to.
3. In the quiet confidence that comes from walking in obedience to Jesus, let us define ourselves more by "who we are" rather than by "what we're not." I know I fall into this trap far too often. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:13-18 MSG, "we're not making outrageous claims here, we're sticking to the limits of what God has set for us ... We're not barging in on the rightful work of others, interfering with their ministries, demanding a place in the sun with them. What we're hoping for is that as your lives grow in faith, you'll play a part within our expanding work. And we'll all still be within the limits God sets ... we have no intention of moving in on what others have done and taking credit for it."
4. And in it all, let's not lose the "main and the plain." Celebrate the ordinary. Ordinary local church. Ordinary rhythms of life. Ordinary people, loving God and each other. One foot in front of the other. Eugene Peterson describes this faith journey as "a long obedience in the same direction." I like that. Discovering the extraordinary, in-breaking work of the Kingdom, into our ordinary lives as much as in any conference, gathering or YouTube experience. Hearing the "word of the Lord" as we walk out real life, in real time. Each day. Each moment. His presence, precious and ever so near.
As much as whatever we're facing in community seems to be what the whole world is experiencing, or at least we think "surely everyone knows about this," the truth is, in the big picture, hardly anybody knows about us, no matter how big a deal we think we are. As much as what we feel God is speaking to us, whether individually, in community or in our civic, regional and national settings, it's probably not something everyone needs to hear, let alone agree with. For real. That's ok. This is what it's like being consistent candlelight, yeast and sheep in a world that longs for fireworks, silver bullets and being the dominant wolf pack. Let us give ourselves to being a good witness and loving well, patiently keeping in rhythm with what the Father is doing, moment by moment, so that people would actually see our good deeds, not our meetings, songs and motivational speaking. A "light shining on a hill", as Jesus so eloquently put it in Matthew 5:14-16. Then glory will be given to the Father. People will know that we follow and worship Jesus by the way we love each other in real life and living.
Step by step. Let the kingdom come.