Antioch Network Foundations
What I Hear God Saying
By George Miley
When Hanna and I go on quiet retreats, it is my practice not to work. These are times to rest, be with the Lord, and be renewed. But increasingly I am finding that during periods of retreat I experience a strong sense of God speaking. In April 2005, in the stillness of the high desert in southeastern Arizona, I found myself recording what follows. It seemed to be something God was saying, at least to Hanna and me, and perhaps to Antioch Network. I subsequently sent this to the Antioch Network leadership council.
April 14, 2005 – Santa Rita Abbey, Sonoita, Arizona
What I Hear God Saying
Note: This is being committed to writing that other brothers and sisters in Christ may respond to it with any further insight and/or correction the Spirit might give. It is offered with the conviction that we hear God most effectively in community.
1 – I believe God is calling his Church in the 21st century to a unity in the Spirit of broader dimensions than any time in the last 500 years.
Some are speaking of a convergence movement. This unity will be fueled by our abandoning critiquing and critical attitudes toward other sections of the Body of Christ. Such attitudes have their roots in pride and contempt— things foreign to who Jesus is or what he taught. There will be among us a new depth of love for one another. Love does not require that we forsake our convictions. God’s love in us takes precedence over our convictions, freeing us to honor and love others who have convictions that differ from ours. Historically, rupture in the Community of Jesus has come when we have placed our convictions before love. Jesus taught us not to do this.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” – John 15:12
2 – I believe this will involve us loving the historic church, including the original Messianic (Jewish) movement, and the church of the first 500 years. The church of the first 500 years is mother to us all.
During the 20th century many of us learned to love Christians and their churches who were not part of our own tradition but were our contemporaries: denominational churches, fundamentalist churches, charismatic churches, evangelical churches, ethnic churches, etc. In the 21st century, God’s Spirit is calling us to love those Christians and their churches who are not part of our own tradition and not our contemporaries—those who make up the historic church.
These are our spiritual forefathers and mothers. God is calling us to honor them. Many whose Christian convictions differed in some respects from ours paid the price of following our Lord with their lives. To honor them will involve developing a more thorough and appropriate understanding of church history. Simply reading much of what our fathers and mothers in the faith wrote will connect us with the depth of their experience of God.
3 – I believe God will bring a revival in liturgical worship.
This will be linked with our rediscovery of the historic church. We who have been formed in the free church tradition will gain understanding of and appreciation for the foundations of liturgical worship—the role of symbol and drama in communication, the power of spiritual disciplines and the role liturgy plays in establishing them, the effects of congregational participation, the value of intentionality and forethought, the richness of that which has endured for generations, the Lord’s Table as a healing service, etc.
Along with rediscovering the power in ancient liturgies, new liturgies will be written. This does not mean that every church will suddenly become liturgical in the traditional sense. (But it is true that every church has its liturgy, and a revival in what is traditionally seen as liturgical worship will enrich contemporary worship patterns.) Nor does it mean that there will be no free expression during liturgical worship—free expression enriches liturgical worship. Rediscovering historic liturgies will offer new depths to contemporary worship.
4 – I believe honoring our spiritual fathers and mothers will bring us to a new humility before God.
The history of God’s people is a history riddled with error. The descendents of Abraham are our original spiritual fathers and mothers. The record of their walk with God, transparently recorded in the Old Testament, is replete with error. As we turn to study the historic church, again we find much that is error—some grievous. We are never to deny or minimize this. God doesn’t.
By honoring Israel and the historic church, without denying, minimizing or justifying the error, we position ourselves to understand more deeply God’s mercy and compassion for lost and broken humanity. We also position ourselves for greater insight into our own error. We will be led by the Spirit to pray with Nehemiah, “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands…I confess the sins we Israelites [20th century born-again Christians], including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you”—Nehemiah 1:5-6. In honoring Israel with her error, and in honoring the historic church with her error, we will more deeply connect with God’s love for us with our error.
5 – I believe God will do a new thing in Europe.
This is linked with a high respect for the historic church. Free church (non-denominational church) leaders will repent of pride and contempt toward Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and historic Protestant churches. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and historic Protestant churches will repent of pride and contempt toward each other, and toward free churches. All of us from Gentile churches will repent of not appropriately honoring Messianic followers of Yeshua, our elder brothers and sisters in the faith.
As we retrace our steps to our roots in the New Testament and the early church, new forms of the church—new wineskins—will emerge. This is crucial in order to hold the harvest in the Spirit which is coming. God will manifest himself again in power and grace in the heart of Western Christendom.
6 – I believe God is restoring a powerful, Spirit-filled understanding of the monastery.
New monastic communities are already in formation in a number of places. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a 20th century martyr in the midst of Nazi evil and persecution, formed in a historic Protestant church, delivered a clarion call for this: “The renewal of the church will come from a new type of monasticism, which has only in common with the old an uncompromising allegiance to the Sermon on the Mount. It is high time men and women banded together to do this.”
These new monastic communities will be characterized by the vigorous pursuit of intimacy with God overflowing into apostolic outreach. Such communities are to relate to local churches in humility and servanthood, being one with them in “family”, fellowship and community, positioned to be centers of resource and encouragement, mentors to developing leaders, and springboards from which new churches are being birthed.
7 – I believe God is raising up a new generation of leaders, now in their teens, twenties and thirties, who will grow mighty in the Spirit, and lead God’s people into his future.
God’s future for his Church will not involve us doing what we are now doing better. It will be a new way that is rooted in the old way. In one sense the Church is always changing; in another sense the Church has never changed and never will change. God doesn’t change and neither do his ways. In periods of great transition God’s leaders have repeatedly looked back to the church of the New Testament era and of the church fathers and mothers. We are now transitioning from the modern era to the post-modern era, and the church will be profoundly affected by the mega-transitions around her. These younger leaders will have the wisdom and humility to look to spiritual fathers and mothers to come alongside them as they mature into all the fullness of that to which God is calling them.
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