Beyond constant change

‘Constant change is here to stay’ was a catchphrase from years back. True… but we are stepping beyond the ‘constant change’ right at this time. I wrote a little yesterday from Pope Francis ‘change of era’ statement, and today I received an email… but a little background first.

Two days ago as I was walking the dog, and I know exactly where I was, I was thinking about Bob Mumford. Truth be out, I have not thought of, nor prayed for him in decades. I do not know the last time I heard his name. Bob was well known in many circles connected to the New Church Movement, and was one of the writers in the influential New Wine magazine of the 1970s / 80s. He moved away from the ‘heavy shepherding’ tendency and as far as I know was always seeking to be on the cutting edge. So into my heart comes his name… I hesitated to pray for him as I was not sure if he would still be alive or not (I now know he is 90 and still focused!!) but one aspect of his deposit spoke into my situation. Anyway… today comes an email from Chris Larkin and in a line that said ‘One of these friends in the US yesterday [the day Bob’s name came to me] sent me a booklet by Bob Mumford…’

[Here is a link to the booklet]

I find it interesting that I come across Pope Francis 2015 speech a few days ago (yesterday’s post) and then Bob and his article a few days later. Both are coming from a more conservative end of things than I do but both are saying in their contexts ‘change of era’. Here is an extract from the article I give the link to above:

I am deeply convicted that this present threshold is the transition out of a 500-year season in Church history. Much of what has been embraced as “the Scriptural norm” within the Church is being challenged and modified. In 1994 I locked myself up with sixteen books on Church History with the determination to understand the pattern of its progress from Pentecost to our present day. I discovered that since its birth the Church has gone through a major and often convulsive transition approximately every 500 years. Somewhat surprisingly, I discovered that much of society was often sharing in the same spasms of transition.

It so resonates. I still hold that we will see some tangible relief this year to the current pandemic, with a sigh of relief and proclamations of ‘back to normal’. Next year though will show us clearly that there is no going back, as difficulties bite at a deeper societal level. The era change will become even more visible. As I wrote yesterday I have no idea if into the crises we will witness the (always) soon return of the Lord, or we have thousands of more years. If the latter it becomes clear that it cannot be a thousand more years of exploitation, ‘for in the time you eat from that tree you / we will surely die’. The unsustainability of life-styles that has developed over the past centuries cannot be projected into the future.

Let’s come back to how all this might affect those who have been touched by the Spirit of God (‘they received the Spirit just as we did’ being a major continual criterion) and seek to follow the path of their Saviour (a political term related to the inhabited world). Pope Francis is not suggesting the end of the Roman Catholic church, but for something very different to come out and through it; Mumford is not suggesting the end of charismatic church, but suggesting something very different come out and through it. I do not have any issue with either institution, though am not identified with either. I have no issue because I have no spare energy to work out if I should have an issue – my energies are focused on what I should be involved in, what I should be doing (maybe a little bit of ‘what has that to do with you’ as Jesus said to Peter concerning his colleague John?).

For some years I have been saying that the future is connected to

The multiplicity of the small, and
the richness of diversity.

One size does not fit all. I am very exercised by Paul’s work in the Imperial world, what I consider he thought was filling up what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ. He understood his global world, the one-world government situation, the engagement of the ekklesia as the means of keeping everything aligned to Rome, so was very busy in seeking to see in every polis another ekklesia, this one being the ekklesia of Jesus Christ. Deeply political, with no alignment to the right nor the left, but to heaven’s values, with a work to be done. A challenging work, without any coercion or top-down legislation, seeking to align each polis to heaven. I consider what we have focused on – church (ekklesia) is not lining up too favourably with Paul’s work, and our focus on individual salvation falls short of the strongly political message of Paul (imagine for a moment what was the content of the daily lectures that lasted two years in Ephesus). So in that sense, uncritically, I suggest we are so pre-Pauline.

The situation has shifted. One might say we are in a global scenario, heading toward a one-world government. But that would be to miss some huge elements. The Bible teaches there has always been since the Garden a one-world government system. It simply calls it the ‘world’, controlled by ‘the devil’. No need, and hugely blinding, to shout about the ‘deep state’. It is also to miss the point that we are not only being globalised but also tribalised at the same time. This means we cannot do what Paul did (where is the ekklesia and polis today? things have changed since the first century) but we must work for the same apostolic vision, and with the same apostolic element of ‘with great patience’.

Diversity. It is here. The stranglehold of Reformed theology is coming to an end. The use of the Bible to limit us within fictional boundaries is coming to an end. The mess of reducing the clarity of in / out based on belief systems is here. The growing importance of ortho-praxy as being an element in the Gospel being Pauline or just ‘another gospel’ is here. New monastic movements that develop rhythms, some with common purses, connecting into the oppressed situations that they find in their contexts, many with wonderful testimonies of healing will arise (reminds of numerous times I prophesied this during the ‘Sowing seeds’ era!). Believers who are more connected to those without faith than those with faith will arise, yet deeply connected to a few believers… moving away from the weekly synagogue rhythm (an exilic development to protect faith) and more to the three-times a year connection is here. And if it is going to move us forward and not simply side-ways a deep feminisation, for as I suggest in one of the books (go on you will have to buy it now!!) ‘if anyone is in Christ there is a [feminised] new creation. This we really have to discover what that will entail, and some of the keys will be discovered in hearing what is rising in the town square, for that is where wisdom is crying out.

What will arise in the Catholic world? What will arise in the Charismatic institutional world? What will come through from the Orthodox or Coptic traditions? I don’t know.

Change of era

I really keep up with things… always on the cutting edge of every trend… so just picked up on Pope Francis speech of 2015 (did you notice how cutting edge I am?).

He spoke to a gathering of Italian Catholics in Florence that the Church must be open to change while rejecting a “controlling, hard, and prescriptive” style. Here are a few extracts:

It is not useful to search for solutions in conservatism or fundamentalism. We are not living an era of change, but a change of era.

Christian doctrine is not a closed system incapable of generating questions, doubts, queries, but it’s alive, and able to unsettle, animate. Doctrine has a face that isn’t rigid, a body that moves and develops, it has tender flesh: that of Jesus Christ.

He called in the same speech for the Catholic church to be ‘a free Church that is open to the challenges of the present, never on the defensive for fear of losing something.’

It was the phrase:

We are not living an era of change, but a change of era.

that caught my attention. A clever turn of phrase but something that captured the wider scenario. I recently wrote in a newsletter using the analogies of the current time as being either, we have entered a storm, winter or the beginnings of an ice-age (analogies not original to me). The first two are simply a variation on the ‘era of change’ phrase. The difference simply being of time duration; the third analogy of course would mean a before and after of immense proportions. An after that is not visible to current sight.

Looking wider than changes being encouraged within the Catholic church, or the church that is essentially shaped from the ‘gathering’ the changes are visible within our world. Elections being stolen… or democracy not being respected… are serious accusations, but perhaps we are witnessing the end of an era, for after all elections have been pretty much settled for decades not by democracy but by money and the power that money can exercise. Now with an emphasis on ‘the seven mountains of influence’ we are in danger of adding to the erosion of genuinely hearing the diverse voice from the public square (see the Michele Perry’s critique that I referenced in a previous post:

This week Jeff Fountain (YWAM and the Schumann centre) interstingly pikced up on the ‘Seven Mountains’ in his weekly word newsletter:

I was actually present the first time Loren spoke on what he called ‘mind moulders’ in August 1975. He talked of these spheres as ‘classrooms’ through which nations could be discipled. Given his pentecostal background, it was an epiphany for him about the implications of the gospel for all areas of life. Those from Reformed backgrounds would have recognised echoes of Calvin’s understanding of society, especially as taught by Abraham Kuyper. Others however embellished the idea, creating the Seven-Mountain teaching that God wanted Christians to infiltrate all these areas to dominate and rule non-Christians with ‘Christian principles’. This was not Loren’s emphasis. I am allergic to this power-based concept which unfortunately has been widely embraced. 

The change of era scenario means that we can be looking for quick answers, and the ‘Seven Mountains’ comes into give us a quick pathway. The question we have to ask of all such pathways is whether it is the pathway of ‘those who follow the Lamb wherever he goes’.

The comment of Paul that not only signs and wonders accredited his work but that they were accompanied with ‘great patience’. A long term vision. In writing the four foundational books (by foundational I mean they are pretty much foundational to me – probably not sufficient to erect a tower block on!!) I have suggested, non-critically, that we are pre-Pauline, that we do not really know what he was up to with his ‘got to get an ekklesia in every city-state, province of that blasphemous empire’… In that sense all our best work is probably a prelude to catching up to what he was about, and then a challenge awaits us! I do not think Paul would be doing today what he did then. But he would have the same vision, captivated as he was by the Gospel. So, if that be true, we have to somehow find a way of going from pre-Pauline to post-Pauline (yet being faithful to Paul!). Change of era.

Change of era and a long term vision.

But Jesus will come back soon. Yes… we can spell the word soon but the calendar does not help us.

Paul probably anticipated a very soon coming, maybe in his life-time. We might well think Jesus will come back way soon… maybe, maybe not. We might even go through a crisis that seems to set the whole world back decades / even centuries and have to find a way of moving forward. Maybe. Loads of maybies cos I think we are somewhere between the winter and ice-age scenarios.

Either way change of era; great patience. Uncertainty… if we can hold in we come to place of openness.

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