Prior to Azusa Street

I wrote a blog post a long time ago called Come Expecting and what I wrote in there has rung through my ears quite a few times in the past few months. In that post, I more or less addressed the fact that I wasn’t always that great at coming to worship with the expectation that God would show up. I had seen the power of God really invade the services where people came prepared for an experience and that was an attitude I wanted to take on.

I’ll be honest with you: here I am, months later, still having to work on that.

Click to go to Amazon

And now that post rings through my ears once again as I read Frank Bartleman’s Azusa Street. Now incase you didn’t know, Azusa Street was a big revival out in California in the early 1900’s and Bartleman was apart of it. In his book, he recalls the events leading up to the revival and the revival itself.

Now I’m not even sure I agree with everything Bartleman has to say, but let me tell you one thing for sure: this guy was sold out for Christ. His opinions are highly charismatic and sometimes it seems that he goes a bit over the top (or maybe I’m just a bit close-minded), but all of his beliefs stem from an intense love for God.

Anyways, I did bring up that old blog post for a reason. See, I believe that part of the reason Azusa Street really got going was because of intercessors like Bartleman. The whole first chapter of his book is about what happened before the revival took place and much of is personal stories of himself engaging in prayer.

My life was by this time literally swallowed up in prayer. I was praying day and night. (21)

There are also stories of a group just pushing into worship and coming time and time again to meetings where they maybe didn’t even know what to expect, but knew that there was in fact something to expect.

One night at the New Testament Church, during a deep spirit of prayer on the congregation, the Lord came suddenly so near that we could feel His presence as though he were closing in on us around the edges of the meeting. Two-thirds of the people sprang to their feet in alarm, and some ran hurriedly out of the meeting, even leaving their hats behind them, almost scared out of their senses. There was no out-of-the-ordinary demonstration in the natural to cause this fright. It was a supernatural manifestation of His nearness. What would such do if they saw the Lord? (39)

He also spent time writing the leaders of the revival that had been happening Wales, asking them to pray for what they were experiencing to happen in California. It’s funny too, because Bartleman described Wales as a place that “expected from God” (22). Through a passion for prayer and much, much more, I believe God heard the area’s petition and sent revival to them.

Intercession is something that’s kind of become fresh to me as of late. I mentioned the other day that I had started reading through Shane Claiborne’s new book, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Well, if I were to be honest with you (yet again), I was actually caught off guard when I came to the part of the liturgy that said “Prayer for others.”

I couldn’t believe it, but I actually found it startling to pray for others. I realized that so much of my prayers as of late had been for myself, services, or organizations. I mean, I suppose I was still praying for people here and there, but they were usually coming up to me for prayer or I was recognizing in the spur of the moment that I should pray for them. But to actually stop for a moment and think about people I could pray for outside of a service or the spur of the moment really did catch me off guard.

That’s something else I need to work on, especially since I find myself going through the daily liturgy thinking, “I wonder if today’s liturgy is going to have me pray for people right now.” Praying for others takes time, focus, concern, and empathy and sometimes quite a bit of effort to get to that place. I don’t even find myself taking a lot of time out during that part of the liturgy, but the concern for it that I have now is at least a bit more significant than it was and will hopefully grow stronger each day.

Okay. That’s enough honesty for today.

For more thoughts on intercession, check out Beni Johnson’s book, The Happy Intercessor, or check out a previous post I made on the topic. Also, I’d like to say good morning Justin.

Liardon, Roberts, and Frank Bartleman. Frank Bartleman’s Azusa Street: Includes Feature Articles from The Apostolic Faith Newspaper. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2006. Print.

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Love is Not a Bullhorn Pt. 2

A few days ago I made a post called Love is Not a Bullhorn which was about a story I read in the news. The basic gist was this:

  • A church has been protesting at a strip club and now the strip club is protesting at the church.

My critique was on how this church was acting. The basic gist of what I said was this:

There is a very delicate balance to what you preach. It’s not all law. It’s not all sin. There is the incredibly important aspect of forgiveness that one man died for. You also might recall that He died silently and not with a bullhorn.

The post I made was short, but was also, I feel, important. You can read it here. Anyways, I bring this back up because the story has come back into the news. Now typically, when we hear of a story about a church, it’s a bad thing. The media obviously focuses on the crap that happens in the world because that sells money. But somehow this story has come back into the news and now there’s hope that this church could fix the situation. Here’s what YAHOO said on the matter.

They [the strip club owner and the pastor of the church] say they’ll negotiate for the first time Wednesday.The decision came after two women from ministries that evangelize to adult-entertainment industry workers spoke during Sunday’s sermon at the church in Warsaw, 60 miles northeast of Columbus.

San Diego resident Sheri Brown and Grand Rapids, Mich., resident Anny Donewald say the congregation should just love the strippers and “let the Holy Spirit draw them out.”

The Columbus Dispatch newspaper says women who attended the church service apologized to strippers who had traveled from nearby Newcastle to protest outside.

This is good news! Not only did this church allow people outside of their congregation to come in and critique them, but they also listened! That is much, much harder to do than you might think. It’s obvious to me that the Spirit was at work in those who apologized.

To the rest of Christians, let’s keep this church in prayer. They are, after all, as much a part of the body as the rest of us. God is already mending some wounds and this meeting between the pastor and strip club owner could be an epic moment of healing. Not just between the church and the strip club, but between the church and every person who read the original article.

Ohio Strip Club Owner, Pastor to Meet over Feud – Yahoo! News.” The Top News Headlines on Current Events from Yahoo! News – Yahoo! News. Web. 16 Aug. 2010. <http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100815/ap_on_fe_st/us_odd_strippers_protest_church&gt;.

Love is Not a Bullhorn

Let’s get something straight here church: you were called to love people and give them God’s life, NOT to speak hell and death over them. Sadly, it’s always our mistakes that make the news:

The owner of an Ohio strip club and some of his dancers have been protesting at a church that has done the same to them for four years…They [the church] come armed with bullhorns, signs and video cameras for posting customers’ license plate numbers online.

There is a very delicate balance to what you preach. It’s not all law. It’s not all sin. There is the incredibly important aspect of forgiveness that one man died for. You also might recall that He died silently and not with a bullhorn.

Jesus never even needed a bullhorn anyways. Why? Because He showed people love so perfectly that crowds would not leave Him alone! They had to have more of Him! They hung on His every word.

Jodi read me an amazing story out of Orson Scott Card’s, “Speaker for the Dead” just the other day. I think it applies well to this situation:

A Great Rabbi stands, teaching in the marketplace. It happens that a husband finds proof that morning of his wife’s adultery, and a mob carries her to the marketplace to stone her to death.

There is a familiar version of this story, but a friend of mine – a Speaker for the Dead – has told me of two other Rabbis that faced the same situation. Those are the ones I’m going to tell you.

The Rabbi walks forward and stands beside the woman. Out of respect for him the mob forbears and waits with the stones heavy in their hands. ‘Is there any man here,’ he says to them, ‘who has not desired another man’s wife, another woman’s husband?’

They murmur and say, ‘We all know the desire, but Rabbi none of us has acted on it.’

The Rabbi says, ‘Then kneel down and give thanks that God has made you strong.’ He takes the woman by the hand and leads her out of the market. Just before he lets her go, he whispers to her, ‘Tell the Lord Magistrate who saved his mistress, then he’ll know I am his loyal servant.’

So the woman lives because the community is too corrupt to protect itself from disorder.

Another Rabbi. Another city. He goes to her and stops the mob as in the other story and says, ‘Which of you is without sin? Let him cast the first stone.’

The people are abashed, and they forget their unity of purpose in the memory of their own individual sins. ‘Someday,’ they think, ‘I may be like this woman. And I’ll hope for forgiveness and another chance. I should treat her as I wish to be treated.’

As they opened their hands and let their stones fall to the ground, the Rabbi picks up one of the fallen stones, lifts it high over the woman’s head and throws it straight down with all his might it crushes her skull and dashes her brain among the cobblestones. ‘Nor am I without sins,’ he says to the people, ‘but if we allow only perfect people to enforce the law, the law will soon be dead – and our city with it.’

So the woman died because her community was too rigid to endure her deviance.

The famous version of this story is noteworthy because it is so startlingly rare in our experience. Most communities lurch between decay and rigor mortis and when they veer too far they die. Only one Rabbi dared to expect of us such a perfect balance that we could preserve the law and still forgive the deviation.

So of course, we killed him.

Works Cited:

Bullhorn Guy. Perf. Rob Bell. NOOMA. DVD.

Card, Orson Scott. Speaker for the Dead. New York, NY: TOR, 1986. Print.”

Dancers from Ohio Strip Club Protest at Church – Yahoo! News.” The Top News Headlines on Current Events from Yahoo! News – Yahoo! News. Web. 10 Aug. 2010. <http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100810/ap_on_fe_st/us_odd_strippers_protest_church&gt;.