At the recent Promise Keepers Clergy Conference in Atlanta, a burning kept rising within my spirit - re-igniting a "John 17" fire that God had placed within me from as long ago as I can remember. Let me tell you what happened.
It was a day that will go down in history, once we are departed far enough from it to gain perspective. I believe it was a day in the life of the Church that will go into the record books as akin to Azusa Street and yes, the Reformation itself. It was a day when the demonic strongholds of denominational division and racial prejudice in the Church were dealt a death blow by the Spirit of God. It was a day of reconciliation, where American Indian, Chinese, African-American, Latin, Jew, handicapped and every minority you can think of was hugged and blessed and loved on. It was a day when God destroyed principalities and powers through the greater powers of love, humility and repentance.
It doesn't matter that you may not have been there. What happened during that day happened in the spirit realm, and everyone will see the fruit of it in their own sphere of influence. For as certainly as God dealt a blow to demonic powers in the spirit long before the actual walls of communism came down in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union some years ago, so the fruit of February's spiritual victory over principalities will manifest itself in significant, practical ways in the months and years to come.
It was a day when Dr. Joseph Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute, repented before James Ryle, pastor of a Vineyard Christian Fellowship, for his failure to affirm and support him as a brother in Christ. It was a day when Wellington Boone stooped to wash the feet (literally) of Tony Evans as an act of reconciliation between blacks who have differed on kingdom priorities. It was a day when Henry Blackaby, a Southern Baptist, called upon every Christian to enter into an intimate experience with God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. Oh, what a day it was!
As I listened to an Atlanta radio station on my drive out of the city the morning after, I heard the story of what had happened in the press booth high above the crowd of some 43,000 pastors on that day. One broadcaster said she had never seen anything like it - hardened news reporters sitting in the booth weeping copious tears of disbelief and joy at the sight of a 45 minute sustained hugging session between whites and non-whites on the floor below.
Gordon Dalbey later reported that "MS" magazine had sent a lesbian journalist disguised as a man into the meeting, who later confessed at being overwhelmed by the sincere love poured out to her through the pastors - a love she had never before seen in men.
In addition to the incredible moment of racial reconciliation, there was also an equally incredible moment when God tore down the walls of "denominationalism" - defined as self-exalting strife, contention and division between denominations within the body of Christ. As something eternally powerful was going on in the spirit realm, Steve Green sang a song of blessing over what was happening. Dr. John Maxwell roamed the stage hugging everyone over and over again proclaiming, "I don't know what else to do! I don't know what else to do!" God Almighty was at work and we were all left stammering.
John Webber, Jr., a Southern Baptist and news director for Family Life Radio was quoted in the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper as saying, "I sensed that this was going to be one of the biggest events in church history of this century and it has lived up to my expectations."
What a day! And what a day for a church addict! Yes, I've been a churchaholic all my life - the fifth in a consecutive line of pastors, now a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church - and this Promise Keepers Clergy Conference was nirvana.
I have loved and hated the church - seethed and wept over her, attacked and embraced her, all my life. Talk about ambivalence anxiety! During one 10 year stretch, I refused to worship in a church, and at another stage, I went to three different churches a week and as many as twelve conferences a year - looking for the real, looking for the genuine, looking for "John 17"! Born and raised mainline Presbyterian; saved and sanctified Evangelical Free; groomed and cast out from the PCA for believing in the gifts of the Spirit; ten years a Vineyard "sign & wonder"; missionary; para-church; media church - I've done and seen it all - the pride, the arrogance, the seeking for position and a name, the cold, the dead, the hypocritical - and I've seen it all in me. Now, finally, thanks be to God, who has come to rescue us from this body of death! He is on the move and whosoever will, is invited to get on board.
Last year, I checked into a hotel during a trip where I was going to videotape a course on how to minister to people who are trapped in sexual sin and brokenness, and was startled to find two hardcore porn magazines stationed neatly at my bedside. God immediately showed me that Satan was trying to take me out, and I found no small measure of delight in turning the moment over to the Father to destroy the power of the enemy. As I threw the magazines into the waste can and smashed them to the bottom with my foot, God shouted triumphantly in my spirit, "I will crush Him under My feet!"
I believe that was a prophetic proclamation to me that God is releasing unprecedented power in this hour to bring about the completion of all of His purposes. He is setting free hopeless captives, and He is preparing His bride for His imminent return.
God "has given us the ministry of reconciliation . . . . and has committed to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Cor 5:18-19) And in Atlanta, Georgia last month, it was finally happening! There the "Promise Keepers" met the Promise Keeper! The answer to Jesus' prayer in John 17 was finally beginning to manifest! Remember how Christ pleaded with the Father:
"Holy Father protect them (the Church) by the power of your name - the name you gave Me - so that they may be one as We are one. . . . I pray that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one: I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me." (John 17:11, 21-23)
The Atlanta event was a mighty example of God purifying for Himself a bride (Titus 2:14). The pastors, in turn, in yielding to that work of purification, were becoming the fulfillment of 1 Pet 1:22, which says: "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart."
There is undoubtedly more to come in this purification or "making ready" of the bride of Christ, but when that work is complete, hear what the Scriptures say will then take place:
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready." (Rev 19:7)
Hallelujah! Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
- from "Mastering Life" Newsletter # 16