Sometimes I’ll jot down notes and ideas on a 3×5 card or a scrap of paper. The paper eventually finds its way into a pile on my desk, and someday, sometimes, I’ll retrieve it, or find it by chance. The trick then is to remember what I was thinking about when I wrote the note and how it’s relevant — or if it still is. The note I found today was about discipleship, and I wrote it about a month ago while I was thinking about the pilgrimages people had been making to places like Lakeland, Florida… and to Pensacola before that, and to Toronto before that, and… well, you get the idea. People flock to stuff like this, to get a blessing, to hear the “latest word,” or to get some kind of healing.
And a phrase came to my mind: “What did you go out into the desert to see?” The words are those of Jesus, to the crowd who witnessed John the Baptist’s disciples coming to question him as to whether or not he is the messiah. His reply, of course, was to send them back with a message consisting of less-than-oblique references to a selection of messianic prophecies about the blind seeing, the lame walking, leprosy being cured, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised, and good news being preached to the poor.
To the crowd, he continues, pressing the question he had already posed to them by suggesting an answer: “A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? Were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people who wear beautiful clothes and live in luxury are found in palaces.” (From Matthew 11 and Luke 7.)
He presses the crowd a little on their motivations and expectations of what they’ll see. These days, perhaps some of the people the crowds flock to see are wearing beautiful clothes and living in luxury. And they make it look easy… waving their hand, saying a prayer, and delivering healing and blessing and telling the future with promises of fruitfulness, prosperity, and happiness.
I thought about the problem I had with “discipleship” as it exists in these movements and in the charismatic churches where I spent some years, where spiritual formation was distilled down to a crisis moment at the altar each week. And it’s the same motivation behind it all. That’s the thought that struck me so that it was worth writing down… a realization about this chasing after revival, whether it be traveling to the well-known revival “hotspot” or crawling to the altar each Sunday for prayer or taking in every conference within 200 miles because “You won’t want to miss this blessing!” The promises they make to get people to attend reveal the expectation. God is here, and you can get to know him and see him up close. These are not the kind of promises that men can make, or can deliver in a set time or geographic context. Things like this — the knowledge of the Holy — do not come on demand. But that’s not what we want to believe… we always want to take the easier way, and that’s what I wrote on my 3×5 card.
— we do it to take a discipleship shortcut.
We should know better, but we keep refusing to believe that no such shortcuts exist. What do you think?
I think this post is spot on. It’s exactly right.
There’s a related question I’ve been pondering: how the use of the gifts has been mostly to impress and build a goods-and-services, market/consumer conference circuit in which people “dispense” their gifting as some sort of product, and the consumers seek to take this shortcut and expect some sort of “deliverable” end result of attaining greater spiritual experience in their lives (after having attended the event), greater intimacy with God – or whatever. Like you said, a discipleship shortcut that can be bought on the market and consumed.
I have been wondering: what is the purpose that highly accurate prophetic words (like the recent Sharon Stone word regarding the financial crisis) are meant to serve? I don’t really know Sharon’s ministry, but I know that most in the charismatic culture have been using these gifts to promote a conference circuit and make an industry out of it.
But what is God’s original design and intention? Just to let us know that He knows so that we won’t fear? Like Jesus told us that in this world we would have tribulation, but not to fear because He knows about it? Maybe that’s part of it. But I don’t think we even know how to respond to the prophetic word, or how to ask God what we should do with that information. We’re too busy being impressed with the gift, we forget that God is trying to speak to us and maybe we need to do something with that. (Or maybe we don’t – like I said, it could be just for reassurance that He knows all). These are some of the questions I’ve been pondering… Sorry if I’m getting a little off topic.
Having had a charismatic background myself, and gone even more in depth than the weekly crisis discipleship, seeking inner healing streams etc. I have no confidence in almost any of that to make any difference in my life. Sad really. Discipleship is what I do in my family now, and where I am making progress. Whilst I am still in full time church leadership (maybe for no more than a couple of months more) I find that no one in church is really interested in life discipleship.
The church that I’m involved with here in the UK is linked with Sharon Stone’s ministry, and I have been involved in leading events with her, and why she is very polite and nice, she prophecies at the speed of light and reminds me of my days at New Life in Kelowna (12 years ago). These words, although sometimes accurate are often ambiguous, and I am concerned by the way people are left to try and work out “what to do” about it. My personal encounters with the prophetic in these environments could leave me to wonder why I am now not leading worship in stadiums and influencing governments leaders and worldwide heads of state! Really! But, I’m not disappointed – I’m quite relieved.
I had a quite encounter in a friends back yard with a true prophet (unknown) who “read my mail” even though they had never known of or met me before. He had a gracious way of pointing out some things in my heart that needed addressing, and although hard at the time, it was also very encouraging. I’m encouraged to seek the kingdom within me (discipleship) in a way that may naturally flow out of me, rather than to seek something outside and beyond me, that in all probability will never happen. I still have my vices, but am learning more from the recovery movement about tackling them than I ever have done from church or on the floor at a conference.
I appreciate the emphasis from post and comments on a pilgrimage of perseverance overriding a hyper-revivalist/renewalist mindset of release and relief, of a journey where people come alongside to support us on our way instead of yank us onto their path.
Having worked in “recovery movement” ministries to people with certain pervasive/life-dominating problems, I saw the same issue – wanting a quick-fix – manifested in a wide range of different theological wrappers. In fact, I felt the same pull toward shortcut, as I suppose everyone does at some points. So it isn’t like I don’t “get it” about the desire for results. I know I/we want “Snap, zap, the end of the crap.” But that is RARELY how God works.
Anyway, when first-time callers would contact us, a question they’d typically ask was, “What is your success rate?” I heard it so often that I ended up doing some short speech by rote about research indicates blah-blah-blah different rates of change blah-blah-blah depends on the person blah-blah-blah. I know what they were truly seeking was hope, and if they didn’t care about what God said about these areas of brokenness and sin, they wouldn’t even be contacting us. There were already in devastating circumstances of woundedness and usually acting out based on those wounds and related temptations.
Eventually, though, my own answer to the question of “What is your success rate?” was this: Our success rate is 100% for those who follow Christ as disciples, for the rest of their life, regardless of whether this issue ever changes in degree in temptation intensity or not.
Very thankful there are 3×5 cards to be had, Bro. Maynard, and that you keep a stack with you for just such moments of revelation! And thanks for sharing it with us …
The Triune God is far more patient and persevering with us than we could ever be with our own journey, wooing and comforting us – not whacking and tricking us. It is
… oops. part of comment got stuck in the wrong place. reverse those last two sentences and skip the dangling “It is …”
I think that God is trying to get us (us = the body of Christ) to reconsider what we are doing “in the name of Christ”. I have been and currently am, connected to the “pentecostal / charismatic” side of the Church (the very fact that there are more than 1 side, bothers me greatly, but that is whole other conversation) and I have been re-evaluating everything I believe for the past couple of years. I went down to Lakeland and I personally witnessed some miracles but I agree with you and those who have posted comments here that there has got to be more to walking with Christ than simply chasing the next “move of the Spirit” and “getting a fresh word” from a “mega prophet”.
I am not trying to be divisive or to tear down any person or specific ministry…there are great strengths in both sides of the camp and I believe it is high time we “reach across the isle” and seek to grow up as one body caring not about the next “feel good” teaching, word or movement but about knowing Him who was crucified on our behalf. I don’t believe that either side has all their ducks in a row, I don’t think we can until together we learn not FROM each other but WITH each other.
I don’t know if what I am saying is helpful or not but I too am frustrated with the current state of things and want to simply know Him more…
The problem is the camp I came from would agree with your statement 100%. I can hear them now amen-ing you. See they preached “discipleship.” They had steps to disciple people. They taught them to read their Bibles, pray, journal, meditate on scripture, witness, give and even rest. It was all there (maybe that is not what discipleship is about at all but it was touted as such) But what you are defining WAS still there. There was the feeling that walking this Christian life was a lot of hard work but maybe…just maybe…God would come through for you and you would win the “Instant God Lottery Jackpot.” Cha-ching!
It seemed to me that once this was offered it made all the hard work of being a disciple very burdensome and even boring. Instead of dealing with your sin, your vices or your longings you could always hope for that instant fix, instant healing, instant deliverance or instant prophetic word that would make you instantly better. I was left with the feeling that even though we know the answer to the question is discipleship we really believe that the next conference, move of God or prophetic speaker will truly bring change. And therefore – the discipleship shortcut of which you speak.
Like so much else in the movement, they may say one thing but live an entirely other reality.