This is our third year to come alongside the Networks Romania team. Although it was beneficial for them – described as helping trim the feathers on the arrow so that it flies straighter – the real benefit was for Gayle and I. The quality of the dedicated hard work that goes on is very impressive. The team are not ones to blow their own trumpet and I hesitate to do so, so just one example. Recently Lee was invited to a dinner for some 200 people in Sweden by a wealthy investor. Sitting at the table he asked someone what they were involved in. Later the same person leaned across the table, grabbed Lee’s arm and said ‘Compared to what you do I am sure what I am involved in sounds very hollow to you.’ The amazing part is Lee had not even said what he was involved in.
Stories of favour, of being called on for input could be multiplied many times over.
Practical help with vegetable growing, creating a clothing line, repairing houses, providing firewood and a host of other basic tasks that are anything but glamorous are all part of their invaluable support for the communities where they work. They have also been able to provide school education and some health care. And all of this connected to a people who believe in the supernatural intervention of heaven is wonderful.
We also connected this time with a church in Arad, Adoram, and I was able to teach there for a couple of hours. My interpreter said that it dismantled everything they had believed (about eschatology) but it all hung together. Imagine translating at the same time as ‘that’s just destroyed what I believe’. Funny interlude: last time I had a similar response was when riding with an ex-southern Baptist minister across Texas. About 5 hours in to the journey the conversation turned to alcohol.
No response, then ‘what about you?’
Response (I had not read how to win friends and influence them at the time): ‘I drink it.’
‘But the Bible teaches against it.’
‘It does? What about Jesus and the early disciples? They drank wine.’
‘The wine in the Bible was non-acoholic.’
‘Ah that makes sense of Paul. Do not get drunk on non-alcoholic wine’ I replied.
‘You have just ruined my sermon.’
‘Maybe you had better get a new one then.’
That dialogue made the time pass a little quicker!!
Any way – interlude over… There were a couple of areas that really provoked me while there. First the question of do we need another outpouring of the Spirit or do we simply need to see released what has been deposited already. Now I hope we are not going to turn down another outpouring, but as Sue Mitchell has pointed out the 20th Century saw three global outpourings of the Spirit. Do we need more? Or is God now expecting us to steward what has been given. The hugest challenge has to be the release of an apostolic movement – and thank God there are already ones released – that puts feet to what has been released.
We have the presence of God in the earth, now enough framework of theology and thinking around the issues of the kingdom and empire, that what is really needed is for feet on the body. We are told that the early church grew at some 40% per decade (not stupendous growth – but way beyond anything in the Western world): this works out at 10 people today and 14 in ten years time. If that is a pattern then it is not that we need tremendous growth targets, we simply need consistency and depth. I do not think for one moment that what we saw in Romania is perfect, but if we could see something similar spread throughout the Balkans maybe in 10 years there would be little to show for it, but maybe after 40 years (an apostolic lifespan?) we might have something very different appearing.
Long term planning?
Another aspect that is very noticeable in Romania is the strong support from Sweden for the work there. Some funding and practical support comes from that nation – and from people who would not proclaim to have an evangelical faith. That aspect is always a strong sign – like Paul and his Asiarch friends in Acts. The second aspect that is so encouraging about this is that the nation of Sweden carries a giving and finishing anointing, and for years I have been saying that when we see the gifts of Sweden released we will know that Europe is moving into a new phase.
Always questions… Yesterday we sat with pen and paper to write down reflections, and questions that have been posed to us while away. Questions easily fill a page. Answers… well I am still scratching my head this morning, but as always great to be home!