A sister shared a dream with my wife several years ago, looking for someone to speak into it. Mary Ann showed it to me and I received an interpretation. It very well addresses this blog post.
“I was in a car. Driving. Only the car went backwards. On and on at high speeds. It was frustrating and a bit frightening.
Then I was in a house. The father of my childhood friend was there too and talked with me. He said there’s something he thinks I need to know. I knew it was in connection with the wild ride.
He said there’s something in the Mennonite faith and practice. Ten points that throw a net over anyone trying to escape. And as he said that I was pummelled by evil spirits. Then my alarm rang.”
This is what came to my mind when I meditated on her dream: The occupant of the car driving backward at high speeds represents the people who realize that something is seriously wrong with the Mennonite church in which they grew up. Possibly propelled by severe trauma they experienced within the church, they back away from “Mennonite” in a panicked frenzy. However, this is where grave danger lies. Backing up is often necessary to get turned around. However, it is not a safe mode in which to travel. The car needs to be driven forwards so that one gets a full view of what is ahead. In that mode the driver must turn towards God and go where He directs. The way now travelled is new and God alone can lead in the right route.
The second part of the dream is related to the first in that the high speed “backing up” represents an intense reaction to the past rather than a focused pursuit of God. This is where the evil spirits come with their counterfeits (nets) to snare those who are leaving the church. The “points” of Mennonite faith and practice are where we have erred from the Biblical gospel. Here are some examples:
– We have been satisfied with a theological knowledge of the Holy Spirit without the experiencing of His Presence and power. Satan can produce a multitude of false substitutes for manifestations of the Spirit which include signs and wonders. When people have been accustomed to seeing absolutely no visible presence of the Holy Spirit this metaphysical display can be impressive.
– When God’s Presence is absent, church services can be woefully dead and dry. Again, religious hype, wild music, frantic expression etc. can be used as attempts to replace the joy of true worship of God.
– We may have had “plainness” and hyper-modesty pounded into us. At the same time, moral rot was hidden beneath modest attire. Our reaction can easily be immodesty and garish display. This does not honour God.
– It is not unusual for Scripture to be taken out of context and wrongfully used as a hammer on those who dare to think for themselves. I have met too many people who have been unable to read the Bible after such experiences without getting a painful flashback. This is a tragedy that will require some healing to take place.
I could go on but the idea is that Satan sends his deceiving demons to take advantage of the pain and reaction caused by past traumas to lead into error those leaving the church.
Until a problem is correctly identified it cannot be solved. At the time of this writing I realize there is a poor electrical connection that prevents me from starting my skid-loader. I have spent considerable time attempting to locate it but am currently still searching. Once I have found the broken circuit I will go about executing a plan to repair it. Trying random things to start my machine without a thorough knowledge of the circuitry and why it is not functioning could be damaging. Finding out the problem and not progressing to a solution would be foolish.
This is how it is with the church. On my post, “Elephants in the Room”, I cited how the issues that the church is currently facing are being brushed aside and ignored. As one who is attempting to address these matters I am accused of being bitter with the institution. As long as a problem is not recognized and accurately identified there can be no solution. So what path is there to take for those desiring to see God’s Kingdom move forward?
This is the question rightly being asked by young people today which I will try to address. The Scriptures hold an example to help us find our way.
Some of the seven churches Christ addressed in the book of Revelations had serious internal problems. The faithful believers within were told to hold fast to their faith; people were called to repentance – yet there was never a suggestion to “find a new church”.
A favourite verse of mine is 2 Chronicles, 16:9 : “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” For many years this passage has been a beacon to me. The “little known” prophet who spoke the words was thrown into prison by King Asa because the message contained words Asa did not want to hear. As the prophet languished in confinement he may have wondered about the value of his spoken words that had cost him so much. Unknown to him, those same words would inspire men for millenniums.
This is what they meant to me. As a simple farmer and only an ordinary layman, I had the grand opportunity of being a part of the kingdom of the Maker of the universe. My effectiveness for Him was independent of my status with men. It all depended on how my heart was related to Him! With Him I could make a difference!
History has proven this to be true. In seemingly “dead” churches God has brought powerful spiritual awakenings through the intercessions of “ordinary” people. In the testimony of Duncan Campbell he tells how two young teenage girls met together twice a week for some time to pray for their parish until the Spirit testified to them that revival was coming. That day on the way to visit an old seminary colleague, Duncan met one of them weeping by the roadside. He stopped his motorcycle to speak to the distressed teen. After a few words he realized that he was speaking to an anointed servant of God. He spent some time hearing her story and praying with her before proceeding on his way to the church to visit the pastor.
Upon his arrival he discovered a group of young men gathered at the building discussing how much whisky they would need to furnish a dance they were planning. Suddenly, before he had an opportunity to speak, the prophesy given to the girls began its fulfillment before his eyes. Great conviction of sin seized the young men and they fell down in repentance in his presence. Over the next days the movement of God spread through the parish until even the pastor was soundly converted! Many similar stories are recorded in history where God responded to the prayers of those whom He had moved to intercede in behalf of a “dead” church. I know these revivals are real since I have spoken personally with a pastor who was a participant in one such Divine visitation.
However, God also works in other ways. There is a very traditional ethnical group of Mennonites in which young people are experiencing radical conversions in spite of the church failing to present the gospel to them. Many of these converts remain in their environment for a while, leading others within the group to salvation. In this way God can bring His gospel to an otherwise closed people. A converted young man whom I befriended taught Sunday school there for some time before being asked to leave.
The Anabaptists found themselves suffering terrible persecution from the state churches as soon as they allowed themselves to be baptized as believers. For them being faithful to God meant meeting in secret and being hunted as criminals. Until tradition replaced faith this despised group of Christians grew rapidly.
Twice in my lifetime I have been pushed out of a church because I have refused to allow myself to be forced to comply with a dishonest agenda. When this happens, a person can rest assured that God will be faithful to lead from there.
The conclusion is this. We must learn to know the God of the Bible Who guides His children! Some He may lead to remain for a time where they are to “strengthen that which remains”. Others He may lead elsewhere. His Church is made up of those who have been born into His kingdom through regeneration and are following Him. Institutions fail but God does not. His children are the “apple of His eye” and He will tenderly care for them as they follow His leading.
It is a tragic reality that, while today “religion” flourishes in the Western world, true faith is scarce. Matt. 5:13: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” At the same time as I observe the ineffectiveness of the church, I also see the rapidly increasing anti-Christian sentiment in society. In lieu of these parallel events I feel that this Scripture is close to fulfillment. In such times God gives special strength and wisdom to such as love Him….but woe to those who only know “religion”! Woe to those who have built their faith on tradition! Woe to those who thoroughly “know their Bibles” but have never known an intimate friendship with its Author!
The way to prepare is to pursue God with the whole heart and learn to follow the Shepherd. He will show you where to go and with whom to associate. Find others who hunger for Him and let their friendship encourage you. This may lead you beyond denomination lines. His “church members” are His children and are not defined by the institutions of men. When persecution comes, our relationship with Christ is the only thing that matters.
Malachi, 3:16,17: “Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”