Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A White Hot Faith

When Jesus said, "I will build my church"* I am confident he was starting a movement. He spoke with authority and conviction, and the common people heard him gladly and followed him devotedly. What began as a mission in the heart of God has become a transformative movement that has circled the globe and lasted for two thousand years!

Movements don't follow formulas; they follow passion.

The first great Protestant missionary movement began with Count Nicolas Zinzendof. His story is fascinating. Zinzendorf was born into one of the most noble families of Europe. As a young man he struggled with his desire to study for the ministry and the expectation that he would fulfill his hereditary role as a Count. As a teenager he formed a secret society, The Order of the Grain of Mustard Seed, whose stated purpose was that members would used their position and influence to spread the gospel.

When he came of age as a young man Zinzendorf took a Grand Tour as was expected of a person in his position. On his tour he visited an art museum in Dusseldorf where he saw a Domenico Feti painting titled Ecce Homo, "Behold the Man." It portrayed the crucified Christ with the legend, "This have I done for you - Now what will you do for me?" The young count as profoundly moved and appears to have had an almost mystical experience while looking at the painting, feeling as if Christ himself was speaking those word to his heart. He vowed that day to dedicate his life to the service of Christ.

In 1722, Zinzendorf became intrigued by the story of the Moravians after granting a group permission to live on his land. So taken was he with them that in 1727 Zinzendorf left public life to spend all his time working with the Moravians.

In 1731, Zinzendorf met a converted slave from the West Indies. The tale of his people's plight moved Zinzendorf deeply. As a result two young men were sent to St. Thomas to live among the slaves and preach the gospel. This was the first organized Protestant mission work. It grew rapidly spreading to Africa, America, Russia and other parts of the world. In two decades the movement resulted in more missionaries being sent out than all Protestants had sent out in the previous 200 years!

The missionaries that went out were were laypeople, mostly farmers and tradesmen; trained as evangelists, not theologians; receiving scant training in language acquisition and cross-cultural ministry; with no financial support and no organization to look after them. They were simply people of passion on mission for Christ.

Movements don't follow formulas; they follow passion!

In the book Movements that Changed the World, Steve Addison identifies a "white hot faith" as one of the characteristics of a dynamic missionary movement. How does God develop a white hot faith in us?

Addison suggests two things:

(1) A crisis which results in a surrendered life. Thoughout Scripture God takes the initiate to call a person to His service through a powerful encounter (Moses before the burning bush, Isaiah's vision in the Temple, Jesus in the wilderness, Saul on the road to Damascus). Before there is any outpouring of vision, there is a deep experience of surrender to God followed by an outpouring of God's spirit (remember Pentecost?). An experience of crisis, surrender and empowerment is central to Count Zinzendorf's story as well as throughout every missionary movement.

(2) A process that results in a disciplined life. Just what that process is varies from movement to movement, but deep personal devotion to Christ and highly disciplined life are always evident. The early disciples met regularly to read Scripture, hear teaching, pray, confess and share with one another. The Moravians and Methodists met in classes to do much the same thing. These classes also became accountability groups with confession of sin and repentance key components.

While we cannot orchestrate a spiritual crises, we be open to God at all times, look for Him in all our life experiences, ask God what He is trying to say to us at all times. We can consistently spend time in his Word and prayer, listen to good biblical teaching and stay in community with fellow believers. In other words, we can make sure we are in the right condition for a God to ignite a white hot faith within us.

Due to extreme heat and dry conditions wildfires are igniting all over Texas right now. The wildfires can result when a tiny spark meets just the right conditions. While we can't control the spark (that comes from God), we can make sure our hearts are in the right condition. And we can pray for a movement of God to break out in our city, a movement that will ignite the church to share the gospel with the nearly five million people in our city who need to know Christ.


*Matthew 16:18

For more on Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, check out: http://www.zinzendorf.com/countz.htm