We are the fleece

July 3, 2008

bible / church / pentecostal / charismatic

Enjoy a previously scheduled post, as we are spending time in the middle of nowhere at Cornerstone Festival.

When I was in college, one of the professors with whom I felt I resonated most was Dr. Mike Rakes, who is now the pastor of Winston Salem First Assembly of God. He is a man with a passion for renewing the church, and helping it engage culture with the presence of God in new, innovative ways. Among all the voices clamoring for the attention of Pentecostals and charismatics today, I believe he is one of the most significant.

In any case, at least some messages from the church are available on their website. Occasionally, we are able to watch live webcasts, and this past Sunday was one of those days. The message given spoke about the story of Gideon, recorded in Judges 6 and following. It is worth a listen when it goes up, and there were a number of things that stuck out and are all worthy of posts, but the one thing that struck me the most ways this: “We are the fleece that society has laid out before God.”

Now, if you are not familiar with the story of Gideon, it is a story in which the people of Israel have turned away from God, who has sent them a judge (Gideon) to deliver them from their enemies. Gideon develops a life of obedience to the God who calls him, and in something of a climax to the story he is given an incredibly difficult task in which he will fight against very large odds. Before doing this, he asks God to assure him by allowing a fleece laid overnight on the ground to be the only moist item, and then the next day he asks God to allow the fleece to be the only dry item. Both signs do occur.

In any case, the message said that society has laid us, as the church, out as a fleece before God. It does not see that God is real because we don’t present significant evidence in our lives that he is. Our task, then, is not to argue with society, or to push ourselves on it, or to try to prolong the death of Christendom, or any number of other things that the church in the West is currently trying to do. None of that will help. The only thing that we are asked to do is live in such a way that we present the presence of Christ. That we present the living God.

Of course, it is very easy for Pentecostals and charismatics to get a thrill out of a statement like this and feel proud of themselves, but the truth is that we in that tribe of Christianity do not, as a whole, make God seem any more real than anyone else does. This is bigger than issues among tribes, or doctrinal stances, or anything else we could use to include or exclude followers of Jesus from responsibility to this idea.