Dry Bones

Last fall I attended a leadership conference in Edmonton. As we wrapped up our final evening a prophet invitation was issued calling us to the spiritual front line. Today this came to mind – this need for those that are equipped and able, to step into the fray on behalf of those who cannot. That there is a spiritual battle looming, if not yet already engaged, for which a vast army is needed. The church has – WE HAVE – been sleeping, lulled into complacency by comfort, pride and idolatry. Not obvious idolatry in the old school golden calf kind of way but in the subtle, distraction, addiction, soul numbing kind of way – those things that we pursue because they feel good and, even if only temporarily, fill a void. That in our apathy and complacency we are like dry bones in Ezekiel’s desert:

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. “And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” (Ezekiel 37:1-3, ESV)

Those of us then called to armour up and enter into the fray are those listening to Jesus, through the Holy Spirit as He instructs us:

“Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.” (Ezekiel 37: 3-10, ESV)

Ezekiel did the work as asked by God. He spoke the words and called the dry bones to life. It must have seemed absurd. The bones were old – “behold, they were very dry”. How could speaking words be sufficient? And yet he did, and they were and breath came into them and they were an exceedingly great army.

Which are you? Are you part of the bones in the middle of the valley or are you, like Ezekiel, being given “words to speak”, a task to do? Are you waiting to receive breath, to be brought to life? Are you waiting to speak, to move, to act on His command?

How can we – individually and corporately – bring life to our community, our city, our country, internationally and globally?
What does this look like for our churches
What does this look like for us as individuals?
What is Jesus asking you to do?

Again: What is Jesus asking YOU to do?

Are we doing enough?

Earlier this season I attended the local Town Hall gathering for The Meeting House. Included with the expected information was the introduction and subsequent conversation about Jesus Collective for which the initial launch and development path is pastor/leader focused.

One of the attendees voiced a concern that for them, an initial launch of pastor/leader focused resources and networking created an “us and them” environment s/he couldn’t support.

Being a “9” (see “The Sacred Enneagram and/or The Enneagram Institue“) it took some time for me to assess why this reaction bothered me ultimately determining the hackle raising aspect being how much the comment echoed today’s self-centred, consumerist mentality.  It unfortunately reflects the culture we currently live in. A “what’s in it for me”, “we should all have access to everything”, “I want that”, “I deserve to have what they’re getting” culture that expects everything from everyone without obligation to give back. 

In considering whether this cry for equal access is valid, these questions come to mind: Are we truly loving our pastors? Are we loving them well? Do we give them all the supports, encouragement and resources they need? 

Given the number of churches folding, of pastors burning out or leaving their ministry in either disarray or disgrace, is there any answer other than “No”?

From the outside, the life of a pastor looks tough, exhausting really – who would pick it voluntarily? The standards to which they are held is higher than the average person or Jesus follower, and if they’re a teaching pastor, scripturally so (see James 3:1). Plus there is an expectation of always present, always perfect, always giving, always loving, always listening, always agreeing and not ever showing weakness, doubt or fatigue. Simply listen to the grumblings after a service or of someone thinking to leave a church or community. Their words are likely to be unfair but represent the pressures, spoken or otherwise, 

Not every community should be painted with the same brush – there are many pastors with strong healthy connections and relationships within their communities and some with amazing supportive relationships with friends/fr-amily beyond their congregation that make their work energizing and fulfilling.

But what about those who don’t? What about those who stand alone, serve alone, struggle alone? In isolated regions or environments? Those for whom the current social pressures could divide their congregation beyond repair? Where reaching out locally isn’t an option because there isn’t a “locally” to reach out too? Or language is a barrier? Or ethnicity? Persecution? Where going against cultural norms is a life threatening choice? Where the parent denomination enforces practices that are counter to the teaching of Jesus? 

At its heart, this goes beyond a single online resource. It’s about overcoming the “I want that too” sense of entitlement that pervades and choosing to dig in, to lift up the people Jesus has commissioned to be on the front lines. To stand alongside them – financially, prayerfully, emotionally. It is about choosing to sacrifice our indulgent need to have everything and give of ourselves. Just like they do.