Just back from the European Body Life Conference where Frank Viola and Charles 'Chuck' Wilhelm were the main speakers. This is a first quick post with some first impressions. I have come home with a lot of stuff to digest and will be working through some of the themes in the coming weeks.
We were very generously hosted by a gathering of the saints in beautiful vineyard countryside near the Neckar just south of Heilbronn, Germany. About 70 people from ten European countries and the USA participated.
Main themes were:
God's desire, God's eternal purpose, God's passion, God's plan
God had a plan, a purpose, an intention way back in eternity before time and before creation. That purpose will be fulfilled someday in the future.
Themes that are part of this are:
The Bride of Christ
Salvation is a detour on the way to fulfilment of God's eternal purpose. And it is a problem that so much of Christendom has lost the plot and is sitting camped around the theme of salvation on this detour and does not realise that this is not the destination. We should be moving on to much bigger things.
Church as a gathering of the saints under the headship of Jesus Christ
No hierarchy of institution with professional pastors running the show. No historical baggage and tradition. Church as God, not man, intended it to be.
Grass roots intentional community. We are called not just to meet with our brothers and sisters but to share our lives with them. Hearing God. Knowing God's intention for the gathering and for us as individuals.
Zion, the place where God meets His people.
Zion is a physical place and a spiritual place.
The point of reference
For much of Christendom in this age of individualism the point of reference of the Gospel as presented by the church is 'me'. 'Me' getting saved, 'me' getting blessed, 'me' getting to heaven. And if it is not about 'me' then it is about 'my friend' who needs something - healed, blessed, a special touch. When actually the Kingdom of God is in the first place about the King, His reign, His objectives. By His grace we are included in His plan. So the point of reference should be God and His purpose.
The community of the Trinity spilling over to include the community of the People of God.
I have come away with a much more coherent view of the relationships between the OT and the NT. I can now see it as a coherent whole. The exercise we did looking for related things in Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22 was fascinating. These describe the periods before the the fall and after satan is bound. So here we can get some insight into God's eternal purpose and its fulfilment. (The rest of the Bible is about the detour caused by the fall and the repair job done by salvation.)
And I think I see the contours of a way forward in the context of our gathering. But it will take prayer to know that God sees it that way and it is not just a me! me! me! dream. And it will take time and patience.
The people of God. It was a healing experience just being together with so many saints for so long. And the only doctrinal/cultural issue that really bugged me was whether true worship can only be offered when standing on your feet or whether it is OK to remain quietly seated and let the musicians do the job. ;-) But one of the sisters called me to order and told me to have patience and understanding.
Meanwhile ... back at the ranch
Everything around here is getting focussed on the marriage of our daughter Ruth with Karwan Fatah on 30th June. So it is going to be a while before I get deep into all the notes I wrote at Abstatt and tease out some of the themes noted above.
And it was a bit strange that as I was heading into Germany to hear about God's eternal purpose and spend a few days in a corner of the Kingdom of God, two of my kids were heading home from their effort to save to world by expressing their protest around the G8 meeting at Rostok.
And here is a clip where you can hear her carrying a burden for the women of Afghanistan and the poor Dutch taxpayer financing our troops on a misguided mission in Afghanistan.
Frank Viola stretched me with his teaching about the eternal purpose of God initiated in eternity before time and coming to fruition in eternity after time and us in the here and now struggling to hear God and find our place in His scheme of things. And I get stretched to breaking point when I try to encompass the events taking place at the other end of Germany and the passion of my kids for justice, good government and civil society.
I need a simple theory of everything to keep it all neatly in place!
Frank Viola on Emerging Church