PHASES of the WILDERNESS"
-by Andrew Strom
I have been part of, or around the 'Wilderness' Christian scene now for almost twenty years. I know many "Out of church" Christians, as well as 'House-church' Christians and even many others who sigh and cry for God to bring great change to the church - but who still remain within the institution itself. Most of us have been on a very similar kind of journey.
When I look back at my own experience and also that of others, it appears that there are a number of "phases" to this Wilderness path that God has been leading so many of us on. I want to talk about some of these phases in this article.
A very large number of 'Wilderness' Christians have been at one time very active in the church. We helped run the "system" – so we know how it works. We were leaders and organizers and activists of various kinds. And very often we were pretty "self- righteous" along with it. We had little time for 'slackers'. You were either ultra-committed or you were "lukewarm", as far as we were concerned. Many of us saw ourselves as the 'real' Christians, surrounded by a sea of mediocrity. We gladly placed all kinds of burdens on ourselves in our zeal, and given the slightest opportunity would gladly place them upon others also. Our holiness was very "performance"-based - very 'outward' - always "busy for God". Most of us were modern-day Pharisees without even knowing it.
And so one day, God intervened in this tidy little world of ours and brought a series of shocks designed to set us on a totally different path. -A path of questioning everything, and of devastating truth. A path where we would come to the end of ourselves and truly discover intimacy with our Creator - no longer based on 'works'. A path where 'religion' and striving would cease.
And so we discovered "Rest". And it was good.
There is nothing in the world like a former Pharisee who has discovered the deep truth of 'Resting in the Lord'. It is an absolute life-changer, it really is. But for a Christian activist or preacher, our "activity" dies so hard. And God has a remedy for this. It is called "time". He used it on Moses. He used it on Joseph. He used it on David. And he will use it on you. The fact is, God has all the time in the world. If it is going to take ten years to kill your selfish ambition, your striving and your desire for a "big ministry", then He will take the time. Then he will bury that thing six feet in the ground. And He will turn the coffin over so it is facing DOWN.
God knows how to force ambitious men to "rest" from their own works. He has been doing it for a long time. And when He is done, we will "walk with a limp" for the rest of our life.
And so our "deep need for our own significance" dies. Our dreams for a "big ministry" die. Our "great ideas for God" die. And we simply sit.
It literally becomes beyond our ability to "dredge up" enthusiasm for another "great idea" of man. We simply are not interested any more. And so we sit.
Now, it is at this point that myself and some of my "Out-of-church" friends take diverging paths. -Because I believe that all of this" unlearning" and this Wilderness have been preparation and a 'training ground' for what lies next. I cannot believe that we are supposed to live there forever.
But as I have commented in other articles, I know people (many of them ex-leaders) who have now been completely "Out of church" for 20 years or more. And it seems to me that they are stuck there. They are so "at rest" that nothing will move them. I have seen more and more that the greatest danger for people like these, who have "died" to all ambition and to the "need to lead", etc, is that they go to the other extreme and almost NEVER DO ANYTHING FOR GOD EVER AGAIN. And I believe this is as great a tragedy as "striving" ever was. It is no different to "hiding your talent" in the ground.
There is a time to "break out" of the Wilderness mentality. –To literally 'break out' of it. After years and years, this is what God Himself brought me to. -Literally 'RENOUNCING' it. Because otherwise you can "sit" forever. And it will slowly kill you.
How can we be God's servant if, with a world going to hell all around us and a church loaded with compromise, all we do is "sit" for decade after decade? Can this be right?
But all too often, I have seen that no 'trumpet call' will rouse such ones. -No crying with a 'loud voice'. Distrustful and suspicious, ever fearful of "running off in the flesh" - they sit. And possibly they will still be sitting there on the Judgment morn.
As the prophecy stated, the terrain has now changed. I truly believe it is time to move. For years I have warned that this day would come.-That the season would change. -That the time would arrive when we need to leave the Wilderness and move forward in God.
If you have read my "Out of church" articles you will have seen these warnings again and again. The Wilderness ends. It cannot be our habitation forever. One day we must go forward and begin to 'take the land' - or be out of the will of God.
However, I must say this. I believe that a deep 'wilderness' experience is one of the most essential prerequisites for leadership in the coming move of God (-and yes, He is calling many of YOU to be leaders. GET USED TO IT!) Is it possible to go through this 'Wilderness' within the church system? Yes, it is. But very often I have seen that God has taken people completely outside for a time.
In the coming move, God does not want "controllers" leading his people. He does not want men full of ambition who use His precious lambs as 'stepping stones' on their way to the top. He wants no "superstar" egos, no Corporate Machine. He wants leaders who have had all of those desires CRUSHED out of them, and who simply love Him and love His people.
-Which is why it is so CRUCIAL that those who have DIED to these things do not simply "sit", but ARISE when the time comes and take their place. For it is only "dead" people that God can trust as leaders in an hour such as this. 'The Lord has need of thee'.
I am not talking about merely becoming 'Facilitators'. This is a much deeper issue that we are discussing here. I am talking about saying "Yes" to God and simply rising up and taking the place that He has assigned you - whatever that is. It is quite possible to WORK and be at "rest" at the same time. It is quite possible to be a leader, and for it to be 'RIGHT' and anointed,- rather than CONTROLLING and wrong.
So has the time come for YOU, my friend?
God bless you!
Kindest regards in Christ,