[anzac] "THE DANGERS?" -by Andrew Strom.

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From: "ANZAC Prophetic List" <prophetic@...>
Date: Fri, 3 Oct 2003 10:58:29 +1200
MODERATOR:  Some time ago I spent seven years 
completely outside the church system. These were years
of wilderness, of growth and of brokenness - which ultimately
transformed my walk with God when I came out the other
side. But we all need to be aware of the dangers of this
"Out-of-church" scene as well. I know many people involved
in this and I have seen these dangers all too clearly. Please
keep an open mind as you read the article below:
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ARE THERE DANGERS IN THE "OUT-OF-CHURCH" SCENE?
-by Andrew Strom.

I have become acquainted with a lot of Out-of-church Christians 
over the years. There is often a fair degree of trust between us, 
because they know that I genuinely understand where they are 
coming from. After all, I have spent a lot of time in exactly the 
same place as them.

But there are a number of things that worry me about some I 
have met. My heart is with them in their journey, but I am 
sometimes reminded of the children of Israel who came to love 
the desert more than the Promised Land - and ended up living 
their whole lives there. They never inherited the Land of 
Promise. Their home became the wilderness and they never 
came into their calling at all.

I cannot believe that God sends us into the wilderness to live 
the rest of our lives there. That makes no sense - and it is 
totally unscriptural. The wilderness has always been a place 
of preparation. If we stay there too long, just because it has 
become 'comfortable', then we are in great danger of missing 
God's ultimate calling and everything He has for us. The 
wilderness is a place of training, not a Land of Promise.

Yet I know a large number of Out-of-church people who seem 
to have adopted a 'wilderness' mentality. They have been out 
there for years, they are "comfortable" there, and it seems it 
would take the most terrible shaking for them to even consider 
moving. Their whole mentality makes it awfully hard for them 
to ever join in with anything again - even a true move of God. 
They have become chronic "non-joiners". Just like the children 
of Israel, they see the "risks" as too great. The wilderness has 
become their comfort zone. 

I think it is especially significant that with the Israelites, their 
ultimate moment of crisis came when it was time to leave the 
wilderness and actually enter into the Promised Land. They 
couldn't bring themselves to do it. The risks seemed too great. 
I believe that this represents a moment of great danger for 
today's wilderness-dwellers also. For if they have been "out" 
for some years, then it becomes 'risky' even to think of joining 
anything again - even a "new wineskin". I have noticed that for 
some, even contemplating a 'Body' environment challenges 
their comfort zone and they shrink back from any involvement 
with anything at all. It's a terrible shame. For that was the 
moment when the children of Israel lost everything - their 
entire future.

A 'wilderness' that goes on and on - for year after year - 
without a 'Promised Land' is a nightmare. It is proof that 
something is very wrong. People who become comfortable in 
this kind of environment need to face up to themselves. 
Something is definitely not right.

You see, the New Testament knows only one kind of 
Christianity - and that is the 'Body' kind. There is absolutely 
NO SUCH THING as an individualistic "leave-me-alone-by-
myself" type of Christianity in the Bible. There may be 
wilderness periods, but these do not last forever. They are 
temporary. They are training and preparation times. They are 
not the "norm". In fact, they are nothing like normal church 
life at all. 

I have studied Revival history, and I tell you, there has never 
been a Revival that involved "going off and being by yourself". 
Revival by its very nature is a CORPORATE thing. It is the 
120 in the Upper Room, praying and fasting for days on end 
"in one accord". It is 3000 people coming to Christ in one 
day. It is Pentecost all over again. It is unity and love and 
ingathering. It is the very opposite of separate individualism.

Now, I have no problem with a time of preparation where 
'aloneness' and separation become the norm for awhile. This 
may certainly occur in the lead-up to a Revival. But if it goes 
on and on, and becomes a "comfort zone", then I get very 
alarmed. Revival will never come to a bunch of rabid 
individualists. Such a thing is diametrically opposed to all the 
principles of the New Testament. For the New Testament is 
all about "ONE BODY" - knitted together, unified in one accord.

I am very aware that the churches we see around us today are 
far from being 'New Testament' churches. So I can readily 
understand why people hang back from joining in with them. 
But that is no excuse for becoming "anti-body" by nature. And 
I fear that this is what is happening to a lot of Out-of-church 
people. They are becoming chronic non-joiners. Cynics and 
stand-off-ish. The very opposite of 'Body' people. In fact, many 
are the type that will never join anything ever again. Does this 
sound right to you? Does this sound like a 'Revival' company? 
Certainly not. If you are anti-Body then you are anti-Jesus. 
-I can't see any way around it.

To share some of my own experience with you, I know people 
(some are former leaders) who have now been Out-of-church 
for twenty years. Some of them are opposed to the whole 
concept of 'meetings' altogether. (Too "religious", they say). So 
they never really gather with any group at all. They are quite 
happy by themselves - "just them and God". I have to say I 
find this a terrible waste. It reminds me a lot of the 'unprofitable 
servant' who hid his talent in the ground instead of using it for 
God's kingdom. I cannot believe that God wants people with 
strong gifts and callings to spend twenty years off by 
themselves in some spiritual backwater, just because they no 
longer relate to the concept of 'Body'. It is ridiculous. A lot of 
these people have insights that the church desperately needs 
to hear. But we will never hear them because they only ever 
talk amongst themselves.

There is a kind of 'elitism' (or spiritual pride) in all this that is 
very distasteful. I know, because I fully partook of it myself 
when I was Out-of-church. It is the kind of smug attitude that 
says, "Church people are "religious". They are caught up in the 
'system'. We are free from all that. We are the ones who really 
know what's going on."  With such attitudes it is very easy to 
become totally given-over to spiritual pride. It is no different from 
the Pharisees who prayed things like, "I thank you God that I 
am not the same as other men..."

I tell you, when my moment of "crisis" came in 1993 - the time 
when I came out of the wilderness - there were so many of 
these attitudes that God convicted me of. In fact, I came to 
see that there can be just as much pride and elitism and 
'sectarianism' in the Out-of-church scene as in the most 
religious churches! When you separate yourselves and look 
down your nose at other Christians, then you are a Pharisee. 
It doesn't matter whether you are In-church, Out-of-church or 
whatever. Self-righteousness is a terrible evil. And from what I 
have seen, it is rampant in this movement.

It is quite possible to be "religiously" non-religious. It is quite 
possible to be so frightened of anything that even looks like 
'church' that you run a mile in the opposite direction and get 
into all kinds of silly extremes. Some of the things I have seen 
in the Out-of-church scene are almost laughable, if they were 
not so tragic. I have been in meetings where everyone was 
scared to be seen as too much of a "leader", so hardly 
anything really happened. I have been with people who felt 
that singing was too "religious". I have been with others who 
thought that anything 'organized' just could not be of God. 
And I have even come across some who thought that giving 
thanks before a meal was "religious"! 

Do these people ever read their Bibles? Have they not read 
the Book of Acts?

You see, 'Out-of-church' can become just as much a "sect" 
as anything else. Unless we are careful it can become a silly 
little "anti-everything" club. It can even become a "cult" - 
keeping us in a kind of bondage that distances us from others 
and prevents us from fulfilling God's purpose in our lives.

I am talking here about the 'extreme' side of this movement. 
But believe me, there are a lot of people caught up in this kind 
of thing. Let the reader beware!

Before 1993 I myself was caught up in a lot of this stuff. So 
what was it that opened my eyes, and brought me out of this 
7-year wilderness? Quite simply, God showed me how to deal 
with a lot of the 'strongholds' and bondages deep within me, 
and as soon as they were dealt-with a whole lot of things 
suddenly became very clear to me. It was as if blinders fell 
from my eyes.

The major breakthrough came when I got a new revelation of 
the authority that God gives to every one of His children to "pull 
down strongholds" - even in their own lives. I began to see that 
inside of me was 'land' that had not yet been taken for God - 
and that was still in the hands of the enemy. There were 
strongholds of pride, rebellion, rejection and all kinds of 
bondages from the past that were deep inside me. These were 
not 'demons' as such, but they allowed the enemy to have 
footholds in my life that he could use against me. Even though 
I had 'repented' of a lot of things in my life, this did not seem to 
deal with some of these larger strongholds. So it was time to 
bring out the big guns.

God showed me that I needed to ask Him to shine His light on 
these strongholds, so it would become clear exactly what we 
were dealing with. I was then to RENOUNCE with my mouth, 
but also FROM THE DEPTHS OF MY ENTIRE BEING each of 
these strongholds - being very specific. I was to cast them out 
of myself as "unclean things" in Jesus' name - rejecting them 
with the full force of my entire being. It was to be a merciless 
"search and destroy" mission.

And it worked! Over a period of three days I went through my 
whole life in this way, asking God to show me anything that 
needed dealing with. And one by one these things were all 
RENOUNCED and commanded out of my life in Jesus' name. 
What a transformation! How my life changed in just three days!

After I had been through this process, I found that my eyes 
were open to a lot of things that I had thought were "OK". 
Some of my Out-of-church attitudes towards leadership, for 
instance, I now recognized as being simply 'rebellion'. And still 
other attitudes had clearly originated from rejection and pride, 
rather than anything godly. I realized that I had been just as 
'religious' and smug about belonging to the Out-of-church 
movement as I had been earlier in my life when I belonged to 
a rather "exclusive" Pentecostal denomination. The attitudes 
were exactly the same. It is possible to be very legalistic and 
narrow and judgemental about being 'Out-of-church'.

But now, with these inner strongholds gone, I felt far more 'free' 
than I ever had before. I was experiencing true liberty in Christ - 
probably for the first time. I no longer judged people by the 
outward form of their Christianity, or the 'boxes' they were in, 
but rather by their heart towards God and their sincere pursuit 
of Him. 

I began to notice that in the Book of Acts there were STRONG 
LEADERS (ie. apostles and elders) and a clear degree of 
ORGANIZATION AND STRUCTURE. I began to notice that 
there was discipline and authority (-bad words in much of the 
Out-of-church scene). And I realized that some of my Out-of-
church attitudes had been "reactions" against the present 
system rather than accurate Biblical viewpoints.

With realizations like these flooding my heart, my entire outlook 
changed and almost overnight I found that I'd left the 'wilderness' 
behind. It was time to come in from the cold.

So how do I view the 'Out-of-church' movement now? The fact is, 
I am still convinced that God is doing a preparation work in a lot 
of people, and so the wilderness is as important as ever. I also 
think that we are entering a great season of 'change' in the 
church. And "unlearning" the old ways to grasp hold of the new 
is something that God is obviously pushing. Many of the house-
churches and cell-networks that are rising up are evidence of 
these winds of change. But there is a long way to go before we 
get back to the Christianity of the New Testament. This thing is 
only just beginning.

I am convinced that many of those who are being called out of 
the churches at this time have a leadership call upon their lives. 
In fact, I believe they may well be leaders in the coming move 
of God. Pastor Alan Jamieson's studies revealed that a 
whopping 94% of the Out-of-church Christians he interviewed 
had been leaders in the church. That is a staggering statistic. 
I cannot help but think that God is about to do something new, 
and that He is preparing His leaders in the wilderness just as 
He has always done. It makes perfect sense and it is a 
thoroughly Scriptural concept.

But the fact remains that some of these people are in great 
danger of getting stuck in the wilderness forever. This is one 
of my greatest concerns. For I have seen it first-hand, and it 
is a terrible thing.

I am convinced that in the wilderness there are things that we 
HAVE to deal with if we are to make it through to the other 
side. This is surely one of the principle reasons that God sends 
us out there - to deal with these issues in our lives. 

But just like the children of Israel, the 'test' comes when it is 
time to exit the wilderness. Does rebellion or unforgiveness 
remain? Do problems still exist with leadership or authority? 
Have all the old 'wounds' been healed? Does pride or fear of 
rejection still hold sway in our hearts? These are crucial 
questions for every one of us. And they are precisely the 
issues that make the difference.

There is no denying that to come out of the wilderness is a "risk". 
No-one wants to get hurt again. No-one wants to be rejected 
again. No-one wants to have to cry 'repent' in the face of the 
popular crowd.

But God must have leaders. And they must be leaders He can 
trust. They must be leaders who are not afraid to speak out in 
the face of popular opinion. They must be leaders who see 
things 'differently' and who truly fear God rather than man. They 
must be good shepherds and preachers of the Truth. God must 
have leaders such as these. And if He has to send them to 
"wilderness school" and wait and wait until they are ready, then 
He will willingly do so. For this has always been the cost He 
has been ready to pay.

We will conclude with an interesting email that I received 
relating to all this:
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From:  Marilyn (-USA):

I just got through reading your wilderness experience... It helped 
me know that I have to allow God to heal the pain I experienced 
at the hands of "church" people so that I can associate with 
them again. I was beginning to enjoy the wilderness - being by 
myself.

Just recently, God sent me to a conference with radical worship.  
I told God that He needed to tell me why I was there or I was 
coming home because all He had told me was that I needed to 
spend time with Him and I could do that just as easily at home.  
When I got to the conference, the speaker spoke about how 
important corporate worship is.  God told me, 'When you were 
sick and dying, you spent time with me by yourself and I healed 
you.  But now My Body is sick and dying and you must spend 
time with other members of My Body worshipping Me so that it 
can be healed.'  God had told me that His Body would be 
healed the same way mine had been - while simply spending 
time with Him, enjoying His presence.

God did a major healing on my heart while I was at the 
conference and dredged up all the old junk.  He released His 
Spirit into me again. 

I thought I was all done with this healing stuff until today when 
God gave me a word that said that I needed to allow Him to 
heal the hurts that I had suffered.  When I asked Him what 
these hurts were, all I kept getting were different leaders and 
church people.  I had forgiven them and didn't have any 
bitterness.  I didn't have a hard time asking God to bless them 
or to pray for them.  But when it came to the idea of actually 
having to associate with them again, I couldn't handle that. God 
showed me that I had put up a big wall and separated myself 
because of the hurt.  I even questioned if this was really from 
God all day because I couldn't understand why He would want 
me to associate with the same people who had rejected me 
before.  A guy I know had been telling me yesterday that I 
needed to get in touch with several people in the area.  I had 
absolutely no desire to.  I finally told him that if God told me to 
I would, but I wasn't about to go to these people otherwise.  
Well, God started the process of telling me to do it today.  
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God bless you all.

Kindest regards in Christ,

Andrew Strom.