This afternoon my latest book, “A Catalyst for Change” went public and my new website was introduced, http://www.johnthecatalyst.com. Meanwhile, I was reviewing my first book, published in 2009, wondering about it’s relevance in 2020.
After reading the introduction, I was moved once more by the words heard that morning, “My Church is in foreclosure!” Given that a decade has passed with little felt change in the institutional church, I was compelled to post those words once more.
“On December 28, 2008, according to my journal, this particular book was birthed. That morning I found myself contemplating what my last twenty years of potential service to the Lord might look like. While in prayer, my request became that God provide for me a fresh word of instruction for what likely would be the final leg of my life journey. Ironically, I am sixty years of age (now 71), an interesting threshold in time as I finish the third trimester of my life.
I have always loved stories, and in these last twenty years, I have tried to journal my own, even capturing an autobiography in a yet unpublished manuscript entitled ‘Kingdom Business.’
Trimester is a term with familiar implications among obstetricians, and for this late-term aspiring writer with heart now fully dilated, it became clear that it was time for me to deliver a book!
The reality that came to me that morning was that I had spent the first twenty years of my life hearing about God in church and from my faithful parents; then twenty years were spent personally seeking after God through service within various churches; and now twenty years have been exhausted in the application of principles learned in full service to the community.
I have had a wonderful life, and as Jill Carattini of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries offered on May 23, 2007:
“‘Life is too good,’ she quotes from a friend of F. W. Boreham, to be allowed, at its conclusion, to pass from sight.'” She continues: “His dictum was followed by the theory that every person should sit down and write his or her autobiography. Though perhaps for reasons other than readership or legacy, I do believe, like Boreham’s acquaintance, that there is good reason for every man or woman to tell his or her story. To sit down, without the often-misguiding pressure of making our lives a story for reading, and put our lives in ink is an exercise in living. The pivotal passages of life are worth examining through different lenses of time and space. Autobiography is, as someone said, a seismograph of the soul.”
That December morning as I sat in earnest conversation with God, His response to my question about using this last opportunity to score for Him was answered swiftly, as if He had been waiting for me to pose the question. The reply to my spiritual inquiry was “repent, reposition, and replenish.”
Current mortality rates would indicate that I am truly facing the last leg of my journey. Yes, in football language, I am in the red zone, my last twenty yards on the field; and just like that game played with a pigskin, this wine-skin of mine could potentially be facing both the most challenging and most rewarding years of its life.
Those three words sank deep into my soul, both as words of comfort and promise. I took those thoughts to mean that if I would repent, probably referencing the baggage accumulated over the last sixty years, He would reposition my life for His service and replenish both my strength and my resources for the days ahead. Who wouldn’t become thrilled at the possibility of such extended impact and renewal?
As would any passionate Christ follower, I began to share those words with my dearest friends, both for accountability and for wise counsel. I focused on opening myself totally to His Word and His will so as to allow patience to have its perfect work in me, affording the true confession, the pure repentance, and the cleansing that Paul recommends for renewing one’s desire (2 Cor. 7:11). The thought that God would reposition my life in His kingdom during my own red zone of play was thrilling.
Yet within only a few weeks and during a similar early morning devotional, while my mind was on a completely different trajectory, I heard the words again: “repent, reposition, and replenish.” This time, with the words came a sense of instruction to reconsider the words, both for concept and context. Amidst the intensity of the failing economy of 2009, replete with discussions regarding bank bailouts and global crises, I found myself repeating the words, “repent, reposition, replenish.”
I pondered the alliteration still further—repent, reposition, replenish—when suddenly I heard a word deep in my spirit, a word now very familiar to those who have suffered the personal grief of repossession of goods and homes through recent foreclosures: REPO.
The United States was gripped by a recession unlike any since the 1930s, its financial and political institutions guilty of enabling unsustainable debt, while its pulpits proclaimed prosperity. It was in this context that I envisioned that word, “REPO”, as if written in my frontal lobes, followed by a grieved but firm voice, “My Church is in foreclosure.”
Immediately out of my spirit followed a well-known chapter from John’s Revelation:
“And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book [often translated as a “scroll” or “deed”], and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book [the deed] out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy [as a near kinsman] to take the book [deed], and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshiped him that liveth for ever and ever.” —Revelation 5:5–14
Could we be living in the era in which the Lamb repossesses the deed to His church and, in fact, rightfully repositioning her in the land, thus bringing to pass the prayers of founders and saints across America? After this rightful repossession would God then restore our land?
That book was never intended as a message of condemnation, but rather a message of hope and comfort for those who truly love the church, the body of Christ, so many of whom sit trapped in the pews of the institutional churches of our day.
My hope in 2009, was that it would serve as a wake-up call to those pastors now far removed from public life, some simply maintaining their sanctuaries or worse yet, remaining silent within those sanctuaries, as they await Christ’s return.
The kingdom of God is already among us and, has been since Calvary. Hosanna to the King! Will He return some day? Absolutely! What will be the circumstances surrounding His return? I am no longer certain.
I recall a well-known Pentecostal evangelist, stating prophetically in a meeting that took place years ago that nothing ever happens in the physical world that is not preceded by something that happens within the heavenlies. The physical world simply manifests the spiritual. I believe the financial, moral, and social challenges of 2009 first occurred in the spiritual, maybe decades ago as the watchmen of the church withdrew from the real world.
As one pastor shared, “Like children we crawled into our own spiritual tree houses and pulled the rope up behind us.” Our churches have become places of entertainment for congregants and their families; others trapped in hollow cocoons of religious sanctuaries, twice dead. Either way, the church has left behind a secular society, possibly the natural vacuum created when the sacred withdraws.
However, God is in control, and though generations may pass, justice is sure, and mercy is abundant. In 2009, I trusted this to be a book of prophetic promise that if the church will repent, Christ will reposition her on a planet that is now bereft of hope and, in that repositioning, replenish the church’s health and thus our land. That is the promise we have from His Word. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron.7:14 NIV).
It’s now 2020, still no clear vision and but for Zoom and You-tube, many would be out of business, with bankers hoping for a better use of the brick and mortar.
COVID19 and the long overdue and rightful racial demand for equity, along with a growing technological acumen among clergy, offers some hope as churches struggle to ReOpen. However, as the words of prophets of old remind us, “It’s not by might nor by power, but by my spirit!”
As to what we should be about, more than reopening…doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly!
This we will certainly learn given this once in a generation moment!