The below has been forming in me for some months, and came to shape during a retreat in Denmark WA during early February 2003.
There is a struggle going on in the soul of the church today between a spirituality of personal blessing and advantage and one of the way of the cross. In many ways, at present, the culture of the entrepreneur seems to be on the rise. This is powerfully reinforced by the direction of contemporary Australian culture.
There can be however no union with the presence and power of God as it is so often being experienced in the two-thirds world unless the church in Australia takes up the road to Calvary. This is a union with the suffering and persecution of Christ.
As the dominant social class presence in the Australian church is the middle class, God is calling his people to become “class traitors”, that is, betrayers of the dominant characteristics of this class.
On his way to the cross, a substantial theme in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus taught that those who go on their own way never mature. “As for what fell among thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life and their fruit does not mature.” (Luke 8:14). In the context of the parable of the sower, the immaturity of the people is a failure to multiply and reproduce one hundred fold (Luke 8:8). Reproduction, materially and spiritual, is the normal fruit of maturity.
Jesus taught elsewhere that there can be no multiplication of a life without a death. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and die, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24). The death in question is a death to self- concern, to the “cares and riches and pleasures of life” that dominate our culture.
Further in the way to the cross, a journey which Jesus must end alone, many try to follow him but cannot bear the cost (Luke 9:57- 62; 18:18- 25). This the fulfillment of Jesus’ solemn word of warning: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether or not he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish it, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish… So therefore, none of you can become my disciples if you do not give up all your possessions.’ (Luke 14:26 -30, 33).
The principle of building upon a foundation at calculated cost applies to God as much as to us. He counted the cost in sending his Son and going to the cross. This is visibly evident in Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane. Likewise today, with his work in the Australian church, God himself will not launch revival until he has brought maturity to his people through the cost of their suffering. The Holy Spirit will not move in widespread power until he is sure that the depth of character and holiness required for a long term work of God is in place, lest God himself be mocked concerning his own pretensions.
To be “class traitors” is to hate in a manifest way the cherished values of our class – prosperity, security and “child- protection”. The easy road is not the way of Christ. Only those who have left behind all that our society holds dear can disciple the nation (Matt 28:19) in the way of Christ. Without this sacrifice power is lacking to transform a culture. It is this lack, despite all the polish and appearance that we are seeing in the contemporary church.
If we are not publicly betrayers of the Australian way of life (not the Australian destiny or redemptive gifts) in its materialism, we will never see the truth and experience the power of the prophetic words of Jesus, “You will be hated by all nations.” (Matt 24:9), because we will never be “missionaries at home”.
We expect our missionaries abroad to sacrifice for the cause of the gospel, but are unwilling to do likewise at home. This is why the presence and power of God so often abide in the two-thirds world but so rarely is experienced in our land.
The matter of prosperity and security is clear, but what does God mean by “child protection”? This is the tendency of Bible – believing conservative Christians of all types of spirituality to want to defend their children’s welfare at all costs. In terms of schooling, career, personal company and so on. God is calling us to give our lives away, and this includes giving our children to him without condition. Some of these precious ones must perish abroad in bearing witness to the gospel, for “they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives even to the point of death.” “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” (Tertullian).
The move of God amongst children and youth must not be held up by the socially conservative values of the older generations. Our children, his children, must be allowed to take Spirit – led risks.
God is calling the church to step out on the edge, to take risks with him. Only by stepping out on the edge can we prove that God is faithful. This may be frightening, but it is wonderful.