Author's Note: We moved to Butte, Montana in 2007 with the dual purpose of caring for Ruth's elderly mother, and planting a church. That church plant was eventually unsuccessful, but through that process, the light still managed to shine and dispel the darkness of that city. When we first started taking concrete steps towards establishing the church, we expected that God would be bringing others to us who would grasp the vision and join us in the work. Butte is/was very dark, in a spiritual sense, and I knew that anyone joining us would need help as they entered into the spiritual warfare (SW) that surrounded the work we were doing. So, I started a blog that discussed the Butte-specific SW we were engaged in. It was our hope that it would help get them up to speed and ease some of their own struggles. The topics I discussed, of course, are not limited to Butte but have application wherever one of God's children is working to further the Kingdom of God. You can read the entire blog here. I recently found this unpublished post in some papers I was going through. I will eventually add it to my spiritual warfare blog, but it also has much application right now. So here it is. I hope it blesses you.
September 14th, 2011
But the angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here! For He has been resurrected.”
One of my occasional activities has been to meet with other pastors in town for coffee and conversation. My goal is twofold. First, I simply need the fellowship of other men who have a passion for God and share with me the calling to minister to His people and take down the kingdom of darkness. Second, I am seeking to punch holes in the "ministry cocoons", or, to keep in sync with the rest of this post those "ministry eggshells", we pastors have all built around ourselves. This is a big problem in Butte (and elsewhere). Each church (and pastor) has its own little sphere of ministry and we all stay focused on "our” church and "our” ministry. Picture a city that has these giant, painted eggs randomly placed all over it. There's always lots of activity, good, positive things, happening inside each eggshell, but the world and the lives of the lost just goes on around them, unaffected by the work of the church and unreached by the gospel message. They have no real effect on this sinful world. That image presents us with a good picture of the churches in Butte. I really want to crack those shells and let the light out! So, I've met with a few fellow pastors as a way of taking steps in that direction and found some awesome brothers in the process.
This last May we observed the National Day of Prayer. I had previously had coffee with the pastor who was organizing it and he called me, asking if I would be one of the speakers at that event. Well yeah! I'm a preacher and I love to preach! As I prayed about what to say, the question kept coming up as to what was Butte’s destiny? Why did God place that massive mineral deposit here, in this location? What was His purpose? Certainly, it wasn't put here to generate the vice, greed, and violence for which Butte is famous. So, what did God have in mind? That topic is what I spoke about that morning. The audience in the room was mostly pastors and, not really having an answer, I left the question for them to answer: What is God's purpose for Butte? Really, who is better qualified to answer that question than the pastors who lead the spiritual life of our city?
This blog is intended to be a primer on spiritual warfare and you may be asking yourself what all this has to do with that topic. In truth, it has everything to do with it. Think back to that image I painted, a couple of paragraphs ago. Imagine a city spotted here and there with giant eggs all decked out with Easter colors and Easter themes. It makes sense that Easter would be their decoration theme, doesn’t it? After all, every Christian church has the message of Easter at its heart. Jesus died for our sins and rose on Easter morning, giving us new life and that is the Christian message. The eggs are full of light. The people living in the darkness surrounding those eggs are desperate for that light, but our shells won't let it out! Right now, I really want to start complaining about the doctrinal/denominational barriers that divide and separate us from each other, but those barriers are only part of what is keeping us apart. The real issue is the self-centered and narcissistic focus we each have on our individual ministries. We are friendly with each other, but the reality is that we aren't interested in anything outside our own church. So, we (perhaps unwittingly) maintain our shells, refresh our Easter-themed paint job at least once or twice a year – and keep the light inside. We keep the light inside and keep the hungry, spiritually thirsty masses outside, letting them fend for themselves.
We have to crack the shells! We have to let the light out! We have to look outward and give God a chance to focus us on the bigger picture. We need to see His plans and purposes for the place we live and, together, make His goals the focal point, the goal that we work toward. We need to break our shells and use them to dip living water from the River of Life to give to the hungry and spiritually lost of our world, letting them drink the life of Christ. (See Rev 22:1-2.)
Peter wrote that judgment begins with the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). Spiritual warfare starts with the house of God, too, and that’s why a large portion of my prayers have been that the Lord will break those self-centered shells we have built around our churches and let the light out.