Here I am once again on the writing saddle. It has been such a while, but today is the first time I have had an hour or two on my own without the children since I last wrote.
Some of you may remember the “Light in the Darkness” initiative my husband and I set up three years ago, which was born out of a deep longing to see our faith in action, to open up the doors of the prison that religion can become, and to let the Spirit of Christ roam free beyond the clutches of man-made temples and touch the lives of those who live engulfed by the darkest of darkness. A handful of us had this vision to touch the “least of these” with the love of Christ which we had first experienced. To cut a long story short, God’s providence orchestrated a serious of events and clues which we found and acted upon, and within weeks of that first moment of sharing together our deepest longing to live our faith out, we set up this initiative to provide food for the homeless and families in need. Nearly three years later and way over 600 food parcels later, the initiative has recently suffered a massive blow at the hands of man’s eagerness to claim ownership and control over something which God freely gave, something which despite men’s blind attempts, will always belong to HIM and only HIM. How arrogant and blind the human mind and spirit can truly be.
Some of you know that I recently made the decision to finally detach myself from the institutional church or the church system. Way before I took this decision, in my spirit I knew that this would affect the initiative. Despite the fact that the initiative had been born independently from any church affiliation, as some of the original people involved were not part of the church I attended and most of the initial donors had nothing to do with that church, a year on into the initiative, the church I was a part of decided to cast its eye over what we were doing in the community and give us their seal of approval by appointing the Salvation Army alongside which we were working, as a new Mission Partner of my then church. Despite the repeated assurances of the relevant church members who made such decision that I would continue to head the initiative and that all they would offer besides what we were already doing was prayerful support and new donors, I knew in my heart that a strategic move had taken place in order to cement the future ownership of the initiative, for was I to ever leave that church, the Salvation Army being a Mission Partner now, it would be this church’s role to protect that relationship which had not been birthed inside the confines and workings of the church in the first place.
I have not renounced my Christian faith, my dedication to the initiative or my passion to see the love of Jesus touch the lives of people who have got nothing left besides their addiction, their fears and the hold that the powers of darkness have over their very vulnerable lives. My decision was simply to renounce the church system, period. I was not rejecting the people, my fellow church members whose bond with me I thought went so much further than a mere membership clause. I always understood it as being brothers and sisters in Christ, but clearly there are certain hurdles one has to jump, certain loyalties one has to respect before you can truly be considered part of Christ’s family, at least a certain branch of that family.
It seems my decision to leave the church system immediately declared me totally inept for Kingdom work. Whilst I had an imaginary badge implicitly stating membership to that specific church, the heart behind the initiative, my actions, the vision, was all commendable, worth coming alongside of, supported and encouraged. The moment I decided to no longer be a partaker of the system, I was as good as asked to move out of the way so that members of that church could take over and do what I have been doing well by their own account for the last three years. The initiative at its peak had over 70 donors, half of them nothing to do with my church, some of them not even church goers, and the other half who are members of my church. It was suggested to me in a most subtle way to continue in my role overseeing those donors who fell outside of the church’s care whilst the church would find a new person to take care of the other half of donors who were “loyal” members, and as it seems, more genuine Christians, or at least more worthy of such a task. I had seen this curve ball coming from afar long ago, and not wishing to engage in an unpleasant fight to demonstrate ownership of what was never mine in the first place, I gave on a plate what was so cunningly suggested to me. I know that it is God who made this initiative happen and thrive as I know it will be God who will pick up the pieces of what is left and rebuild it to be something far purer and greater in His eyes for unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed, but if it dies, it produces many seeds.
No man can capture in a box the essence that the Spirit of the Lord is, to brand it its own and to manipulate it to achieve the ends that he has devised and planned, and when we attempt to do so, that Spirit flees and finds itself a new, humble, broken, and surrendered soul who is willing to listen to the still small voice and not the pressures of performance, reputation, a track record, or popularity amongst followers and onlookers.
The way I visualise what has happened to this wonderful initiative is seeing a source of light on a hill inundating with love, compassion, charity, generosity, friendship and sustenance the darkness which is present all around it. This source of light has been severed, amputated, cut in half at the hands of man’s inability to obey Christ’s clear and simple command to remain as One just as the Father and He are one. As ONE we are strong, effective, all the more powerful, we give a testimony to the world, a testimony of a common goal, a common source of grace, mercy and hope. As One we have the ability to knock down walls and to build bridges, to work alongside each other, to multiply the fruits of our labour with less effort. As One we forget about our differences and we focus on the glorious heart of Christ that initially brought us together, as ONE we overcome our pride, our wish to control, our dreams of glory and notoriety, as ONE we kill the flesh and live in the Spirit, as ONE the Light extends and reaches even further. Please note that by ONE, I do not speak as neither does the bible, about one local church, one minute pocket of believers affiliated to a particular denomination or loyal to one man’s vision for the impact of one church in its community. By ONE, the Lord referred to and encompassed the whole Body of believers all across the world united together by an unbreakable bond sealed by the spirit of Christ himself who died to set us free from sin and from the very religion which is holding so many captive in The Church today.
And yet, what has been done here is the very opposite of what Christ commanded His followers. A perfectly good initiative which acted as ONE up to now, as a whole, attracting the fellowship and collaboration of those who follow Christ and those who don’t, bringing together those who have been found and those who still seek, it has all been broken in half because in the eyes of many Christians today, it is more important to defend our own little kingdoms, to reap what we have not sown, to Lord it over others, to claim ownership, than to promote a love which is unconditional, indifferent of affiliation, creed or race. We preach wonderful, lofty words from the pulpit that speak of unity, grace and forgiveness, but in actual fact when it comes to the crunch, someone like me can be totally erased from people’s minds, consciences, prayers and even consideration simply for the fact that I no longer wish to abide by a system which is purely born out of men’s wish to control and own what belongs to Jesus alone: HIS BRIDE. The love of Christ who initially brought us together no longer seems to be the basis for that bond. Without the love for the system, the Spirit of Christ within me is suddenly rendered ineffective or so it seems.
The Lord blessed me wonderfully yesterday on my birthday when we managed to collect nearly 40 bags of food, the same amount we normally collect with double the donors. Better still one of the donors who is nothing to do with my old church offered to volunteer at the drop-in. I also have had another donor, who is a Warden at another church, encourage me in my journey, as they struggle themselves to comprehend why my old church would deem it better to completely sever a perfectly working initiative on the grounds of my choice to no longer be a member. Is Christ’s family limited by church name and affiliation? Do different churches, Christians who don’t go to church, or the naked child in the plains of Africa who lifts his hands to the Lord in prayer believe in a different Christ to each other? Or can this be the tidings of the false teaching and the false teachers that Christ himself said would abound in the last days? Have we invented a new kind of Christianity where one of the key elements is no longer our complete surrender and obedience to Christ but to man? I even had another donor come to my door to tell me he had trained for 6 years as a Catholic Priest in seminary and He too recognised the travesty of the flawed testimony that the church system is putting out there in the world today. We can kill the spirit of Christ in those who are our own without giving it a second thought, and then expect to have an authentic witness to those who don’t know Christ. Who in their right mind would feel drawn to such a bunch of people who put loyalties and hierarchy over unconditional love, even towards members of their own family? It is nonsensical.
Can a sister in Christ be treated like a cancer in the local family, because she wishes to set her hopes, longing, obedience, love and devotion on Christ alone? Not on men, not on a personal agenda or a vision, not on control systems or a denomination, but on the glorious Saviour who died to free us from all of it? Can the selfless service of a sister in Christ be erased in seconds like a drawing in the sand by the very ones who are called to encourage her in the very work God has appointed for her? Who is man to take away what the Lord in his mercy and grace freely gave?
When I close my eyes as I ponder on all of this, I see the face of Jesus, tears streaming down His face at the sight of a people, His people who squabble over the little things, like a pack of vultures feeding on the leftovers, a people who are so focused on the petty things that they have lost sight of the bigger picture; a people who are so intent on glorifying the works of men, for the praise of men, that in the process they even go as far as sacrificing along the way those who are not willing to come alongside them stroking their egos and vainglory, or the reputation of an institution which is supposed to glorify Christ and not itself. I see the Lord’s heart aching for a people who will betray their own, mistreat their own, despise and reject their own, if in accepting and loving them as they are, their personal kingdoms and ambition come under threat or question.
The Lord is grieved today because His bride is incapable of extending unconditional love, acceptance and encouragement to its own people. They are self-serving and self-absorbed. Tell me, if a sister in Christ can be overlooked in such a manner, what hope is there for those who stand back and observe what goes on within the Body of Christ? Who would want to become part of a body who has the power to amputate a perfectly healthy member? Yes, granted I left of my own accord, volition and choice, but what I thought I was leaving was the system and not the Body. We seem to have forgotten along the way that this is not a man’s body we are talking about but the body of CHRIST himself, ruled by CHRIST, owned by CHRIST, designed, cared for, redeemed and interceded for by CHRIST. It is Christ as the head and not man. A body who has the ability to sever, disregard and blot out without a second thought a member who is healthy does so because the head of such a body is not Christ, but man himself.
I have a vision for the Body of Jesus Christ: a body of people from every corner of the earth, a body which works in unison and harmony to the drum of one and only beat: the Heart of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Spirit of the Almighty God; a body where no affiliation or denomination ever existed or was even entertained, for all members obey and worship the Spirit that rules it, a body where the sole purpose of its members is to honour and obey in humility and utter veneration the God who brought it into being.
I will never comprehend the body of Christ as a spiritual reality which is constantly manifesting in the natural as thousands of minuscule pockets who live to set themselves above all the other pockets within the body, instead of seeking to work together breaking down all barriers, all personal identity tags and visions in order to have the freedom, the honesty and the simplicity to join forces as ONE and bring health to the whole Body. Instead, the Body is assailed by rebellion, mutiny and countless pockets of civil war. The Church as we know it today is dying, as we engage in our pathetic little battles to gain terrain for our little man-made kingdoms, whilst we lose sight of the bigger battle that is taking place between Light and Darkness in the world, worse still, within the Body of Christ itself.
But fear not, there is hope, for Christ has already won the battle. He has overcome death, the enemy and the world, and He will build His Church and come back for His Bride, a spotless Bride without blemish or wrinkle. May we all strive to be counted as worthy of being part of such a Bride. May God help us and may His strength and power shine through in our weakness. Amen.