Jonny Clark - Exile
Before Jonny spoke on the subject of exile he brought our attention to the need to invite God to search our own hearts when, to all appearance, it is others who are the problem.
My mum was praying for me -- she is quite close to God -- for mountains to move out of my way. Felt God speak a word for me that may be for you too. It is easy for me to see mountains in others. 'That person is my big mountain'. Thomas Merton said, "Often when we find ourselves criticising others it is because there is something in us that is broken." It is easy to look outside but it is a distraction from the real mountain that is in us. Don't be afraid to look inside. Maybe God is wanting to work more on you than circumstances outside. Paul could be at peace in all circumstances and be at peace. Some of you this morning when you think of mountains and obstacles, spend some time with God today and allow Him to put His finger on things He wants to touch. We need more money and housing, I need this person to migrate to Australia, but perhaps God wants to soften your heart.
Exile -- I don't know if I'm taking you in or out!
I say these words with a great love for YWAM and words some of you may relate with and some of you may not. Want to share boldly this morning, don't want to hold back and speak what I feel God has put on my heart. Hope this is a word from God to us. I am a YWAM kid. In 1983 my 49 year old father and mother and 4 kids stepped on a plane in New Zealand to go to become missionaries in England, two years later went to Northern Ireland. I knew nothing about it. They say that parents should consult with their kids over these big decisions. I wasn't, I was just told we were going...ha ha ha. I had an incredible childhood in YWAM. I had a lifetime calling to missions at the Meyerhoffen Conference in Austria in the 1983. In Denmark in 1985 at the GO-Fest, deeply impacted. Spain in 1989, thought it was going to be warmer than it was. Those experiences shaped who I am today. I speak these words with a real love for YWAM.
Six months ago heard a man speak -- Roy Searle, founder of Northumbria Community -- very impacting message. I want to take a little bit of what he said and bring it to us. He painted a picture of Europe today. Particularly in the UK, we have seen huge decline in church attendance. In the 1980s one million people left the church. And that pattern is repeated throughout Europe. 1990s had a decade of evangelism, Alpha course swept the world and one and a half million left the church. Roy said that we are in exile and can say with the psalmist in 137 "by the rivers of Babyon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion...our captors ask us to sing one of the songs. How can we sing one of the Lord's songs in a strange land?"
The beginning of hope is understanding where we are. If you are in prison and think it is wonderful then you will be there for 100 years. The beginning of hope is knowing that you are in prison and that you can dig yourself out. For the joy set before you, you dig your way out.
Maybe today we are not OK. If we keep saying we are OK then, as my African American friend once said to me .... Denial is not just a river in Egypt. I live in one of the most religious countries in the world. In 1969 it had one of the highest church attendances. And the troubles began, Protestant versus Catholic. And people were being bombed and killed. We had a September 11 every two weeks. I thought it would never end -- violence and killing every day. In the midst of this the church was not being a prophetic voice but in denial. To this day we have big problems in Northern Ireland. Six years ago started a base in the epicentre of the troubles but there are more churches than anywhere else. To this day there is one church and they broadcast the gospel out into the street. The preachers aren't very good and people run away to avoid it. They are told: they are going to hell, the wages of sin is death and they see unemployment, drug abuse, alcoholism, child abuse, paramilitaries and the church isn't talking about this -- al they ta about is that people are going to hell. And this church has a big gate around their church with the biggest padlock. If someone thought, "Yes, I must be born again." and wanted to get in, they couldn't. It is a picture of how we are living today. We are speaking these words so confidently unaware that the people around us aren't listening and we make it hard to get in.
Jonathan Sacks said -- "religion is like fire, and like fire it warms... but it also burns and we are the guardians of the flame." We are the guardians of the message of Jesus. People ran to Him, there were no padlocks, He didn't sit there with pointing fingers. He embraced people and we must return to this message if we want to leave this place of exile.
Where are we as YWAM? Everything is OK, revival is coming? Or do we need to see some radical change. The programs that have existed for years, do we need to change them? Or will we keep doing what worked 30 years ago. Europe has changed. We are aware of Omega Zones and we have seen 4 great pandemics -- Aids, Poverty, Ethnic and religious conflict and global warming that will always affect the poor in Bangladesh and Mozanbique more than it will affect me in Belfast. If we are going to be prophetic we must address these issues, there is no way out of this. Jesus worked where there was need.
We must walk into the areas of greatest need.
How will we do this? Let me use a bit of my story to unpack what we can do as YWAM...
My last six years -- not because it is incredibly perfect but amidst the mistakes I got a couple of things right. Moved to Belfast -- God told us to go to the place of greatest need -- the Shankill road and the Falls Road, Protestant and Catholic. There is a 30 foot wall in between and so we started community. It has been an up and down road. We rent several houses in the area and have run six 7-10-month DTSs. If we are going to be prophetic then we are going to go to places of great need.
And second, we wanted to run the 10 month community DTS and we had just lost our photocopier, had 200 pounds in the bank and no DTS students and talked to a South African woman who told me about her Zulu community in South Africa. Incredible HIV/Aids and poverty but many coming to the Lord but no one to disciple. And we had no students. I thought that if we couldn't get any real students then we would pay them to come. "Can you send us three students and we will pray to pay for them!" And we got 4 others including Erin. It was an incredible journey. We saw God provide for us and the South Africans for them. We have had 54 students and 20 of them were paid for by us. We have had some Palestinians and Lebanese and the school became a reconciliation DTS. But God directed us to live by faith. By trusting Him to provide for the 20 out of 54 students.... there are some issues of creating dependency but if you do it well it doesn't happen. If YWAM in Europe does it then we can see incredible ways of being strategic. I have a heart to see more and more bases find ways of getting people who couldn't otherwise come. If we are going to be prophetic in a world of poverty and injustice, then we must come in the opposite spirit, then we must have people who can't afford to pay.
It is a great Mennonite thing. John Paul Lederach said in his book "Journey towards Reconciliation" that Mennonites have become very good at this understanding of the scripture to be in the world and not of it found in John 17. He said that they are often good at not being "in the world" but yet they are very much "of the world". God wants us to be in the heart of what He is doing in the world -- transforming it -- but not being of it. He said that Mennonites had retreated and focused on lots of outward expressions of 'not being of the world' and had forgotten that they were actually meant to be in the world. They had become detached from the world. He said that "Holiness is expressed by moving toward the darkness." If we are in exile it is because we have moved away from God and the world He loves. Turn back to Him and turn back to the world He loves and if you do this, your light will break forth.
This is a message for us, we need to have a bias toward the darkness. Need to focus on the dark places and bring His light to it. If we are in exile we need to come out of it and will do it by going into the world and transform it.
John Stott at the end of his life said that if he could do anything different he would have created an order of monks who would follow God with an unbridled enthusiasm. They would be disciplined and follow God. What organisation do you know that could be like that quite easily...I believe YWAM is incredibly prophetic and can be used to bring the church back to God. We renounce personal gain, we are disciplined and have the desire to know God and make Him known. This gathering is a little about trying to reclaim this, not saying you have lost it, neither that I have got it. But let us come with our strains and begin to get transformed by new vision. We can say as in Psalm 126 when the Lord brought the captives back from Zion we were like men who dream, our mouths were filled with laughter...then it was said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them."
We can be like in Psalm 40 we wait patiently for the Lord, He lifts us up and puts our feet upon a rock and gives us a firm place to stand and many will see.
God is in the business of redeeming and transforming YWAM. Our prayer is that this can become a time of coming back to God and letting Him breathe life into what He has done in us. We could be burning with His life in 2008 and not just look back at the past. This is not just the end but the beginning of something incredible. We look at a church in Europe that is in exile and say, "Lord, let Your kingdom come today." and shake off the chains and move forward.
There are a lot of things you could say but will bring it to and end with that. I love YWAM but believe God wants to regenerate us and start many new bases, release many young leaders, not be held back by buildings but must let the Holy Spirit blow us where He wills. Let's stand and declare His goodness.
Prayer. We weep when we remember the incredible awakenings in the 19th and 20th centuries and we want to sing Your song we find it hard. But we look forward to being dreamers again when our mouths will be filled with joy when we see you in Europe again. We call forth a release of new young leaders and vision and faith. We want to see a new thing.