Saturday 31 July 2004

Our mission – an equation with “unknowns”

The thoughts I want to share in this article have been on my mind for a long time, but standing on the threshold of new challenges in my own ministry has revitalized the desire to put them down on paper. When I was a boy I really enjoyed mathematics, an interest which unfortunately over the years has lost in hard competition with other interests. Particularly the equations with the unknown factors used to ignite the imagination. An equation normally gives away an answer – a desired result, but the formula contains one or more unknown variables. The mission of the Salvation Army has a desired result which is known to us all (our mission-statement), but a chase for such a result contains unknown and uncertain factors, and therefore I want to use the equation as an analogy:

The X-factor
There is not a clever spiritual consideration behind the choice of what to put under the “X”, but as far as I remember the equations with one “unknown” were the easiest to solve. Since it is the “easiest to solve”, I will say that the “X” stands for the unknown things that demand a development of my human capacities to fulfil the mission. We tend to put much effort into the replacement of X in favour of skills and knowledge. We arrange evangelism-courses, send people into training, read books on church-growth, attend courses for the “Willow Creek-method”, the “G12-method” or the “Purpose-driven Church-method” and are eager to learn from any congregation that has had success in one way or the other. There is nothing wrong in such an attitude, and be it far from me to join the defenders of ignorance. I believe God can use everything a person knows as long as he or she is dedicated to his will. At the same time there is always a danger involved in our reliance upon adopted knowledge and skills.

When you read this, my wife and I will be working in three countries of which we had only heard a few months back. We have never been to the countries, never learned the languages and do not know anybody from the countries. At this stage you will quite easily understand the picture with the X-factor. You might even suggest that I write this two weeks prior to departure to ease some of the tension in trying to reduce the “unknown” by intensive study of languages and reading of anything that can throw light upon our new situation. And may be you are right, it is easier to breathe when I know that there are unknown factors in my future ministry with higher importance than my shortcomings to solve the X-factor in the equation of mission. I am part of the body of Christ, and other limbs will have to make up for my lack of skills as I daily will make an effort to improve.

The Y-factor
We are clever in many ways in the army, and we receive a lot of admiration but not many converts. There is always a danger that we become so preoccupied with the X-factor that we forget the other “unknowns”. When I was in training in the mid-seventies, I got hold of a book by Leonard Ravenhill with the challenging title: Why revival tarries. The author sets the agenda in the first chapter: With all Thy getting, get unction.

I have seen it in the ministry of other people, in the ministry of sections and special events as well as in my own life – it is only when the anointing is there that something of eternal value is accomplished. You may hear a good sermon, a wonderful piece of music and attend a remarkable celebration – all the X-factors have been cancelled out – and it might even be memorable, but it was not recognized in the spiritual realms because of its lack of “unction”. The mission remains unaccomplished due to the forgotten Y-factor.

When I teach about the anointing I often get two questions.

The first:
“How do I get it?”
It is very simple. I guess that is why it so simple to forget. Everything that belongs to the spiritual realm is contagious. It goes for the anointing as well. To spend time with the anointed one and daily receive the anointing of the Spirit will make a difference. On the contrary will neglect of such relationship dilute an anointing which once upon the time was evident in a ministry, and one becomes but an echo of a great past…if I speak with the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am but the sound of a gong or cymbal.

The second question is a little trickier: 

“How do I know that I have it?”
If we accept the fact that there are links between the Word, the Spirit and the symbolic use of the sacred anointing oil which we see described in Ex. 30:22-34, a brief Bible-study will show us what the anointing does. If a ministry has one or more of these characteristics, we know that it is anointed:

  • Confrontation of the inner man
Oil has an amazing effect of penetration e.g. into fabric. The word of God is anointed and does the same with men: Heb. 4:12-13. An anointed ministry is recognized by the fact that it reaches the inner man and leads to:
  • Conversion from unbelief
When the anointing of the Spirit came upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, Peter’s testimony made people ask: “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). The anointing had led to:
  • Conviction of sin
When the Spirit is present, he will convince the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). I have on occasions tried to convince people about sin without much success, but I have also been together with people in the anointed presence of the Spirit, and they have grabbed hold of me and said: “Joe, I must confess my sins!”
  • Consolation for the sick
The sick is challenged to call for the elders to be anointed with oil and ministered to (James 5:14). An anointed ministry will bring consolation and healing to people and places.
  • Confirmation of the blood
The use of the above mentioned sacred oil included among other things the sealing of the blood from the guilt-offering in a cleansing-ceremony (Lev. 14:14-18). An anointed ministry will always confirm and draw attention to the redemptive work of Christ on the cross.
  • Consecration to Christ-likeness
“One spirit with the Lord” (1. Cor. 6:17) “Oil will flavor the ingredients it marinades” states the recipe-book. When we flow in the same oil as Christ, likeness to him must be the result – a characteristic of anointed ministry.
  • Contradiction of friction
Differences of gifting, of opinion and human chemistry can cause friction. “Now there are varieties … but the same Spirit” (1. Cor. 12:4). An anointed ministry will recognize and rejoice in the value of variety and make it possible to flow in the same direction towards a common goal.

These are but a few characteristics of the anointing. They may be present in theory of many ministries, but are they confirmed by hard facts?

The Z-factor
No other church has a terminology which so evidently recognizes the reality of spiritual warfare as does the Salvation Army. I want to call this the Z-factor. The subject is controversial and will always remain as such. If it is taken seriously we challenge the forces of darkness, and therefore it is in the devil’s interest to get us to intellectualize it. We leave it to the extreme elements in the church – “the ignorant ones” who rush to spiritual conclusions when there are situations, which are hard to explain; while we strive to maintain a respectable and intellectual approach in the hope to at least save our reputation.

It is very dangerous when the terminology is right, but when challenged it is mere words. Have we become an Army capable of performing a nice parade, but useless when it comes to a spiritual combat?

I must confess that the seriousness and reality of this subject has been a discovery of more recent date in my life. Through the prayer-ministry in the city, which we have just left, we discovered how prayers had concrete influence in the daily life of the city. As we prayed, physical and spiritual counterattacks became part of the situation, and made us realize that we need to learn more about the Z-factor. We do not know enough about questions like e.g. territorial spirits, how to operate in cooperation with the angelic forces, our fellow servants (Rev. 19:10) and so on. Space prevents me from writing more about the subject in this article, but there is a fight to be fought, and may be I will return with more in a later issue.

Mission accomplished?
No, there is still a work to be done and we have to continue to work on the variables.

  • The X-factor – how I deal with the challenges to develop my own skills and capacities.
  • The Y-factor – how I attend to and nurture the relationship with the Anointed One and flows with Him.
  • The Z-factor – how I deal with the real challenge in the spiritual realms.
May God give us the desired result wherever our field of mission is!

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