The Lord works in mysterious ways, but sometimes the Lord opens the well spring of his wisdom and dumps an ice cold bucket of water right down your back and into your stride with no subtlety whatsoever. For me this happened last Saturday in Green Lake Park Seattle WA.
I was there with a good friend and brother in Christ trying a little experiment in public Christianity. I was there for one purpose and God had me there for quite a different one all together.
Here was "The Plan". Take a couple of guys, me and Douglas, and sit under a canopy in a public place and offer people an ear to listen or prayers. Just sit, with a couple of extra chairs, and put out our sign and see what happens. Christians in the public square is not an altogether popular image and we did not want to be the Bible thumping yelling wild man most people think of. We just wanted to be visible and available.
Not much happened for us, but one lady did ask for prayer and Douglas ministered to her. The rest of the day we talked about our different ministries and shared life together while people passed by. Some read our sign and snickered. Most avoided eye contract but all in all it was not the day we were hoping for. This is about the time God stepped in with his bucket of ice water.
Off shore in front of us was a father and son with a tiny sailboat. It was taking on water and the son, about ten year old, was franticly bailing water from inside the craft while his father, standing in the water, helped. It struck us as sad that their day was ruined and we felt bad for the father who must have seemed like a failure to his boy.
When they got the boat out of the water I asked the dad what was wrong with the boat and he said "Nothing. I am teaching my son how to sail and you have to know what to do when the boat capsizes." Wow, I thought. This was a totally new image and perspective.
Now I was thinking how lucky that boy was to have a father like this. "Here son. Take my hand and let me teach you what to do when your boat tips over." I was so moved by what I saw and then I began to understand what God was showing me was a perfect example of discipleship and the horrible job most people and churches are doing it.
Life is freaking hard and it is a dangerous occupation for people who want to take a stand. I don't care what you stand for but when you draw a line, plan on alienating 1/2 of any crowd of people. And if you have the audacity to ask others to stand with you, you better have a good plan on what to do when the boat capsizes.
In the movie Braveheart at the battle of Stirling we see the utter failure of leadership and the collapse of hope in men. The Scottish Lords used their position and power to influence the common man to gather for battle. Armed with little more than dull swords and clubs the ragtag galley of men lined up behind their leaders.
Then came the Northern Army of the King of England onto the field. Row after row, line after line in crisp formation. Heavy cavalry, ranks of archers, seemingly endless infantry and the possibility of more in reserves. The warrior hearts of the leaders fled and the frantic, desperate need to negotiate rode in like a winged lion. The spirit of fear cascaded into the ranks of Scotts and soon they began to leave the field of battle.
Does this sound familiar in the Church? How many Sunday morning Pastors have extolled their flock on the power of Christ in us and the need to be "on mission" and "on fire" for Jesus. The question to ask is to do what? What is the mission? Where is the battle? What is the adventure? Is it just to make it through the week to come back on Sunday? Or to the next Bible study or fellowship gathering? And am I going out there on my own because if I am you can just forget it Joe. If you are going to call me to battle you damn well better have an Army and some idea what to do with it.
Where is the level of training that can help me right the boat when water is pouring in. Don't toss out a book on seamanship and call it done. Get out in the water with me and demonstrate you know what you are doing before you call me out to battle. What do I do when people spit on me, doors are slammed in my face, mobs scream and toss filth. What does my son do when teachers or officials attempt to silence him? What does he do when friends turn on him and he is cast out of fellowships in school? Who is taking my daughter by the hand and teaching her how to hold her faith while university professors deride Christians or people of faith. What do we do then? How do we right the boat back in the water? You better have an answer like William Wallace before you call us out to face the world.
In Korea there is the military legend of Silmido. On the island of Silmido is a special unit composed of 31 dysfunctional social outcasts and criminals under the death or life sentences. When they arrive at the island they are offered a chance at freedom if they can behead Kim Il-sung, the North Korean president.
To all 31 members, it is the ultimate patriotic mission with pride and loyalty; and it is the only chance they have to start a new life that is promised once the mission is successfully accomplished. With their hopes and promising vision, they survive through the most hellish inhumane 'killing' training and are reborn as warriors. They are killing machines, with strong comradeship and respect for each other.
Finally, the day arrives and they receive an order from the head office to carry out the mission. With their supreme confidence, they depart for the North. However, the project is suddenly revoked and they return to Silmido with much discouragement and stress. The hellish training continues but, there is no more mission. The psychological frustration and physical tolerance start to reach their limits. And soon, the members start to lose their focus and unity. In order to regain complete control of the unit, the head office performs public executions of its own members.
This sounds like what happens at the end of an intense Christian retreat or Youth Camp. Let stay up all night in worship and prayer calling upon the holy spirit. Let's bring in a guest speaker to fire up the crowd and raise that passion to its climax and then lets pack up and go home? What the hell is going on with that message? Is it any wonder why most people walking out of these things have glassy eyes and end up even more frustrated than before? What did you fire them up for if there wasn't anything to go burn? Why give them the armor of God and no battle to fight? What kind of a sadist does that? Is that the best the church can offer? If it is then it has a long way to go to reach the standard of Christianity.
Jesus came to restore what was lost and to set people free. What was lost was the heart of man and the brokenness of our fellowship with God. What has us captive is the world and all that the world can do. This is the battle to fight, the adventure to live. To be the arms of Christ in the lives of the broken and lost. To share life together and to stand arm and arm shoulder to shoulder and like William Wallace proclaim to the enemy that we may lose our lives but we will never lose our freedom!