Monday, September 23, 2013

“The Missing Language of Encounter” by Garris Elkins

I have lived long enough to see a few trends develop in the Church.  Some of the trends were healthy and others have caused me a bit of concern.

As a young boy my religious heritage included time in the Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist traditions.  I got saved in a wonderful Baptist Church at the age of eight.  While my name was written on the roll of heaven at that time, it was not until I was 29 years old that I had what I would call an encounter with God. Encounters are those undeniable moments when God breaks into our lives in a notable and tangible way and changes everything.

The Book of Acts could be accurately called, The Book of Encounters.  It was at the frontier of these God-encounters in Acts that the direction of the Church changed and new passion was instilled. Most of the early pioneers had very little figured out.  They lived in the moment and yet they changed the world. What they did have in their midst and in their daily language, was an encounter vocabulary about God. Their language included the anticipation of those wonderful in-your-face-messy-beautiful works of God that disrupted the best-laid plans of man.

Without these God-encounters the Church has a tendency to lose her way and begin to do a lot of good things and eventually begins to think the good things give us life.  That is a trend that will lead us to a dry and empty form of life contrary to what I think God intended for His people to experience.

The trend I am noticing – at least in some of our historic Pentecostal and Charismatic movements – is the lack of the word “encounter” when we talk of God and the gatherings we do in His name.  I am not saying God is not present in our gatherings.  He is always present when we gather, but it seems the pursuit of His presence and the resulting God-encounter language is becoming less and less present in the conversations I hear.

Some pastors are afraid their meetings will get high jacked.  The managers in our midst worry about getting the corporate agenda items completed on schedule. Others are afraid they might be aligned with some of those wonderfully wild and crazy people of God they disagree with.  These fears are leadership, gifting and faith problems that if allowed to rule in our midst can rob us of the supernatural encounters God has planned that will lead us into His preferred future for the Church.

I have been in leadership meetings where the only prayer offered was at the end of our packed agenda where we asked God to take our decisions and do something with them and then protect us on the drive home. We got some good things decided, but there was no encounter.  Without the encounter, a lot of what we do will require a do-over because our decisions were breathed by the wisdom of man, not by an encounter with the Spirit of God.

Trends take us somewhere.  Trends not evaluated and redirected can have us speaking a language foreign to our original calling and have us docking at ports of call not listed on our original Spirit-filled itinerary.

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