As many of you know, I had the privilege of being invited to be an elder at my church about 8 months ago. And not to be flippant, but the job has been somewhat ambiguous. In TFC the elders are a sort of unofficial body. We don’t vote on anything, we don’t review anything, we don’t write any checks. Likewise, nobody votes us in or out and there is no official body that oversees us. We aren’t mentioned in the bylaws nor do we operate under any written set of guidelines. Instead, it’s a group of people who serves at the head pastor’s convenience and pleasure and we meet periodically to discus the spiritual health and atmosphere of the church. And so in many ways I’ve been showing up with a kind of ‘so now what do we do” kind of look on my face – trying to figure out what‘s expected of me and what the rules are.
Now that said, I don’t mean to suggest that the church or the pastor takes the group less than seriously. We are far more visible than the church council as we are usually the folks who wind up on the stage praying for new babies or missionaries or whatever. Most every service we are mixing with the people during worship, praying or them or counseling them or whatever comes up. And I take the position very seriously. The Bible has several non-trivial things to say about elders specifically including the authority to anoint and pray for the sick. It’s just that in may ways, the job description has been very vague and free-form.
Let me also say that while we are a Foursquare church, I’m told by folks who know such things, that we are uncharacteristically calm and contemplative for the denomination. That’s not to say that we don’t believe in and walk in the gifts of the spirit, but I guess everybody is pretty low key about all of that. Which is part of the reason the tongues + interpretation that I witnessed a few weeks ago was a new experience for me. And in some ways it was so totally underwhelming. It was like this matter of fact, zero hype, thank you Lord sort of event...and it felt so right to me.
One of the (long delayed) thoughts coming back from SC has been an observation about Christian hype. I see that I have a certain distaste for the super emotional displays that often accompany revivals. Now I’m not saying that such a thing is at all wrong, it just isn’t me. But I also can’t deny the obvious ting that I JUST affirmed – that kind of expression OFTEN accompanies revival type moves of the spirit. So I’ve wondered if I’m somehow jaded or cold (lukewarm?) or if there is something else going on here. Just to cut through any tension, what I’ve come to believe is actually very simple and has been in my face forever: 1COR 12:4-7. Basically, people have different personalities, don’t wig when they experience God and express themselves in different ways according to their personalities...oh, duh.
But principles (and scripture) aside for just a moment, it’s been incredibly powerful to really SEE that happening at my own church. So there CAN be a word given and its interpretation with minimal fanfare – and that works with my personality and the personality of my church. We can pray for, and see healing, even resurrection, without a Wigglesworth (Bentley?) punch in the gut.
Anyway, what I really wanted to write about was a new event hat goes in a similar vein. A few weeks ago one of the elders had a vision and he thought it was likely a prophecy. Now in just about any other place I’ve been where prophecy was ‘practiced’ the words shot out across a room like a ping pong ball. The prophet spoke and everybody kinda went, “oooh, cool.” But then there was no sense of follow up (was the prophet accurate), no sense of responsibility and really no real sense of the reality of the prophecy. They have always been treated sort of like a pep talk from (maybe) God where it wasn’t really a matter of being true, or accurate or even particularly important.
But the last elder meeting we had was entirely devoted to evaluating this prophecy, basically line by line, and thereby performing one of the explicit written roles of the elders – evaluating/judging prophecy. I don’t know how this will sound, but I felt like I was somehow acting as a grown up where I previously been mostly a child. We were in no way quenching or limiting he spirit – in fact we were taking a less than popular command of scripture seriously and trying to bear the responsibility of our office with sobriety. The result of that meeting, and the unanimous decision that the prophecy was in fact valid in no way diminished it’s value – quite the opposite. Now, instead of a random utterance in the course of other things it will be presented to the whole body as something serious, something specific that God had intended or our body, and something we all need to take into account. (and let that answer anybody who wants to know the details of the prophecy – I think it was for TFC and to blab it out there to the world would be inappropriate).
This was also the first time I really felt the weight of this office. Rightly diving the word is no small thing, especially when you’re going before the whole body to say -”We think this came from God – you need to pay attention.”.
Anyway, there is still a lot more to write on this topic, and how it fits into a larger conversation I’ve been having with Jesus, but enough for now.