The Lord is preparing his Church for a reformation as momentous as anything that has happened in the last 500 years. In this context I was privileged to attend a seminar on the relationship between Church and Marketplace by my friend Peter Kentley from Melbourne. The gathering was hosted by Victory Life, an assembly famed for the leadership of tennis great Margaret Court and one of the largest churches in Perth. There was general agreement amongst those present that there has long been a significant gap between the activities of Sunday Church and the Monday-Friday work life of Christians. Many avid marketplace believers have found that when they have tried to share their passion to bring Jesus into the workplace with their pastor it has fallen on deaf ears. Sensing that this gap between Sunday Church and workplace Christianity must be due to sin I was permitted by the meeting to share some things from the Lord. This teaching is a development of what I saw and said last Saturday.
I saw an image of a large tower, like the Tower of Pisa, tumbling over. This is a picture of the Tower of Babel, but the striking thing is that it is falling down from its place in the church (cf. Rev 2:5). The hand of the Lord is using the prevailing evil of our time, “equal marriage”, to expose to the Church that she no longer has a voice of moral authority in the nation (cf. Hab 1). As Babel falls I can see the true form of the Church that Jesus builds rising in its place (Matt 16:18). This is a very encouraging image; but to grasp its implications we need to identify in what sense Babel has occupied space in the Church.
A Name for Oneself
Very few in the Body of Christ intentionally set themselves up in a high place; but the Babel dynamic has been dominant throughout much of the history of Western Christianity. The builders of the Tower assembled in one place with an eye on heaven united in a single vision and mission, to “make a name for ourselves,” (Gen 11:4). The sin of the Babelites was one of pride. God judged their arrogant attempt to establish themselves by splintering their community (11:7-8). The evidence for the presence of pride in any community is its fragmented state; “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov 16:18). Evidences of a Babel spirit can be seen in the Church across the centuries through the God ordained judgement of our dividing into many denominations?
Apart from brief periods of accelerated Church growth we call “revival”, Western Christianity, from the time of soaring Catholic cathedrals to towering Protestant pulpits, has taken the “high moral ground” and spoken down to sinners. We have given pronouncements about what is right and wrong but have not always lived true to our declarations (Matt 23:2-3). For as long as I can remember the main charge against Christians in Australia has been hypocrisy, and in recent years our moral authority has been stripped away through numerous sex abuse scandals. This is both blatantly obvious and its focus falls on traditional churches. Yet the pride of Babel can take the most attractive modern forms, such as, “A Church so large in size that the city and nation cannot ignore it.”(Hillsong). Neither churches old nor new have succeeded in transforming the marketplace of our land all because these words have been true of us; “when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash…. And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.” (Ezek 13:10; 30). Perhaps now that the land is being destroyed before our eyes, and that it is plain for all to see that without a godly reformation in the Marketplace the Christian character of Australia is doomed, the Church may at last listen to true prophets of the cross.
The transformation God is working today involves the revelation of a humble loving Father who empties himself of the Son’s heavenly presence so that in turn the Son might “fill all things” (Eph 4:10; Phil 2:5-11). The Father’s plan has always been to fill every space of work and culture with the life-giving presence of his Son. The invisible Father is glorified by making himself present in the flesh of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 1:18; Matt 12:28). This godly dynamic of humble love comes to a climax in the cross. At the very moment when Jesus feels forsaken on the cross he is standing in the gap for all those who have ever laboured in the workplace without a sense of the presence of God (Isa 53:12; Mark 15:34). In his suffering humanity Jesus’ feeling of being abandoned by God is highly visible, but beyond our senses as Jesus is dying the Father’s humble love extended to enduring the absence of his Son’s intimate presence both in heaven and on earth (John 14:9). All this happened so that Christians might partner with the intimate presence of Father, Son and Spirit in discipling the nations in every sphere of work and culture (Matt 28:19).
The centuries old gap between Church and Marketplace will disappear as humble loving spiritual fathers/mothers empower God’s children to take his kingdom into the world in the power of the Spirit (John 10:36; 20:21). The cost of this to Christian leaders is that some of their best people will become less visible in the Church. Such a shift involves a major faith step and a great change of paradigm for pastors. Yet as Babel comes down in Church as we have known it Jesus will build his Church (Matt 16:18).
After decades of praying for marketplace transformation the thing that encourages me to believe this can soon transpire is the atmosphere of war with our secular culture into which we are rapidly entering. In this context I have had another spiritual vision. In the realm of spiritual conflict I see the sharp sword of the Spirit with its pointy end in the spheres/domains/mountains of work and culture but its handle in the hands of the pastors of this city (Eph 6:17). Their task is train, equip and release all of God’s people for works of ministry in the world (Eph 4:13). This call to impart the wisdom and knowledge of Christ for the re-discipling of the nation in the name of Jesus is an immense one which cannot be realised in a single generation (Eph 3:10). Only the most humbled leaders can embrace such a call. The depth and breadth of this sort of spiritual reformation has not been seen in Western Christianity for centuries.
The way of the cross illuminates all history. The glories of the Early Church cannot be separated from the persecutions of the Roman Empire (Luke 24:26; Col 1:24). When in the twentieth century the Lord wanted to raise up a miracle Church in China he used the communist party to clean out the influence of Western missionaries. Today he is using the avalanche of “equal marriage” to turn his Body around to embrace the unity between gathered Church and Marketplace Christianity that has always been his will. In this time of war we need no longer need to “look to the past” (M.Court) ways of doing Church but with forward vision see an increasing number of wise Christ-centred pastors working to extend God’s kingdom in the world. But it’s not all on the shoulders of pastors. There is a prophetic challenge for working Christians; your time of hiding hide from the world in the busyness of the Church is about to be stripped away. Church and Marketplace together – there is no other way forward for God’s kingdom in our time, and these are exciting times indeed!