For Those Who Have an Ear
(Note: The following was written in 2001. Since that time our daughter has graced us with three beautiful and charming grandchildren.)
I talked with my oldest daughter today. Her physician has estimated that on July 27th she will give birth to her first child. She told me she is ready today for her baby to appear. She is both weary of being pregnant and at the same time excited to see her daughter. She plays games with her baby. She presses her hand to her belly and feels her daughter respond by pushing back with a foot or an elbow or a knee. She sings and feels the tiny form within her rolling this way and that. The months of waiting, the months of discomfort and limitation, the anticipation and excitement will soon crescendo into the finale of a new beginning. A new life will take its place in our lives and in our world.
And so in the realm of the spirit and the eternal a new “child” is readying herself for the day of her birth. My granddaughter is to be called “Emma.” This child will be called the “Church.” Hear what the Spirit says to those who will be part of this birth, and part of the church.
The prophets warned you. They said it was happening. The “change.” They said: “In five years you will not recognize the church of Jesus Christ unless you move with the change.” Then they said, “Within three years from now the church will become so radically different that those who do not have an ear to hear what the Spirit says will miss it completely.”
You didn’t want to hear the prophets. They used scary words like “reformation” and “revolution.” They challenged your theology and your understanding of God. They forced those who would listen to run to God and they forced those who would not listen to either flee or to force the prophets out.
The prophets were the spokespeople, the mouthpieces God used to talk to you. But they didn’t look like prophets to you. They didn’t sound like prophets. They were coarse, unschooled, without credentials or appointments. They were so obviously wrong and yet they were so obviously right.
They warned the denominationalists: “You will become obsolete if you don’t listen, learn and change.” They warned pastors: “Release your people or they will release you.” They warned churches: “You will become nothing but empty, dusty, irrelevant and rotting buildings if you refuse to embrace the wine God is serving.”
So many Christians denied it, leaders denounced it, denominations shuddered at the prospect and hoped these were false prophets speaking lies and distortions. But they weren’t. They had heard from heaven. They were speaking not only truth - they were speaking salvation. God simply loved His church too much to allow it to remain as it was. Dead, or dying. Wallowing in despair or selfishness, business, silence or noise, without purpose, mission, vision or direction. Ever learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.
And now frightening reports are circulating: People with wild hair in rainbow colors, segregated into dreads, people with rings in their ears, noses, lips, bellies, eyebrows are calling out to a God of change to redeem them. People with bodies adorned in tattoos are calling on the name of the Lord, and they are being saved.
Cult members are worshipping Jesus in their temples. False teachers are embracing God’s gift of grace and mercy and are being reborn. And the hollow shell of religion echoes with the voices of astonishment and confusion and denunciation.
The temples of religious accomplishment are more than crumbling; they are crashing down, crushing the unfortunates within their walls. Denominational officials are tallying their numbers and are whispering in despondency lest their constituents discover the truth: The gauges of success – numbers of conversions, healings, fillings with the Holy Spirit, adherents, all are sliding off the scale like rain off a steep tiled roof.
The definition of “church” men so carefully crafted has been exposed for the charlatan it always was, forcing us towards God’s definition of “church.” This is the thing I have called the “Emerging Church.” It is the thing prophets saw and intercessors heard. It is the thing that caused the Spirit-sensitive to anguish over, to look for, to strain to gaze into, to cry out for and to pray would appear in their sight.
Just as an infant, growing, developing and thriving within its’ mother’s womb eventually must come forth, so must the true church of Jesus “Emerge.” She must come forth through labor and travail and trembling and pain and fear and great, exciting anticipation. Like the baby that emerges from within the confines of its mother, so is the church emerging in the fullness of God’s time.
The labor and travail and trembling and pain and fear are now passing. With great, exciting anticipation, those who have ears to hear the Spirit’s voice are receiving a Kingdom, not made with hands, but fashioned by the living God for it’s eternal purpose – to receive the harvest of the multitudes God has prepared for this final, glorious hour.
Update: Emma Louise Ford arrived healthy, pretty and noisy on July 19, 2001. Amy's days of anticipation are finished. We still await the arrival of the Church.....