While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. (Act 13:2-4)
October 9-17 of this year, 72 brothers and sisters in Christ, representing 18 nations of the world gathered in the ancient port town of Seleucia, just outside of Antakya (ancient Antioch of Syria). From the window of our bedroom, we could throw a rock and hit the wall you see above where Paul and Barnabas departed for Cyprus on the first of their missionary journeys.
The gathering was like no other meeting Linda and I ever attended. There was no set schedule, no assigned speakers, no morning devotionals, no singing, and no hot water! Due to the lack of space in the small ocean side club where we all stayed, the rooms were shared. Linda and I climbed a steep ladder to sleep in the bedroom "loft" while another couple from Texas slept on the bed below us, with yet another brother from California sleeping on the small couch between us!
The food was typical Turkish "delight" with daily breakfasts of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and a dry salty yogurt cheese with plenty of flat chewy Arabic bread. I found I liked drinking 20 glasses of of strong Turkish tea everyday (which was great in keeping us alert during the long prayer and prophecy sessions!) Linda especially loved all the different ways eggplant was prepared and served, and we couldn't get enough of the wonderful and abundant baklava which we bought in the nearby town of Samandag and ate way too much of while there!
While the gathering might have been considered a "who's who" of the organic/simple global house church movement, along with several from the front lines of CPMs going on in various parts of the world, I was struck by the absolute egolessness of our time together. The only celebrity present and acknowledged was the Lord Jesus Christ.
In fact one of the reasons of the gathering was to repent of our false self-importance, and our failed man-made ways of attempting to do God's Kingdom business our way instead of His way. The greatest hindrance for the Great Commission being fulfilled in our life times has nothing to do with existing political governments, economic woes, or any of the major dominating global religions. The problem is us/me/I. We are the "cork" in the bottle restraining God's power from being spiritually released upon the nations. Over and over the theme of humility and dying to self were discussed as key ingredients needed for God's spiritual power to be released upon the nations.
I guess at this point it would be helpful to explain what did take place since there were no speakers, schedule, etc. Basically, the Antioch gathering was to listen to the Holy Spirit and what He has to say about reaching the nations. Long periods were spent individually in prayer and seeking the Lord. Then we would gather to share collectively what each was sensing from the Lord.
After prolonged times of prayer and waiting upon the Lord, prophetic words in the form of Scriptures, symbols, visions, dreams, and impressions were shared. These prophetic words were evaluated and openly discussed in I Cor. 14:29-33 style.
Several themes began to emerge as the days went by. What follows are from my own notes, and not necessarily what others present discerned.
- God's will is revealed corporately rather than individually. Individuals may have a piece of the puzzle, but it is only when all the parts are put together that we understand God's big picture of what He is up to...together we have the key and are the key to lock/unlock the secrets of the Kingdom
- intentionality in resurrecting true Kingdom building through restoring the Biblical role of apostles and prophets...praying to God to reveal to us with whom to have these A/P relationships..."The impossible is possible when apostles and prophets are properly functioning."
- learning to speak behind the masks people wear and publicly display and learning to trust one another far more than we presently do
- the meek inherit the earth...someone voiced it this way, "A humble person wants someone else to prosper at their own expense."
- Jesus is calling us to a new level of intimacy; from servants, to friends, and to becoming His chosen Bride
- rather than operating individually in our spiritual giftings, we need to "marry" our different giftings in cooperative ventures
- the needed working/relational partnership between apostles and prophets (we even went through a symbolic marriage ceremony where the apostolic and prophetic were joined again spiritually as key ingredients for seeing the nations come to Jesus)
- the absolute need for us to move away from our own empires and personal kingdom building, and return to a grandfathering-fathering-sons-and grandsons vision of doing Kingdom work...fathers need to "get over" their own importance and start focusing on the successes of their sons
- church 3.0 (1.0 first-century church, 2.0 Constantine to the present, 3.0 the wineskin that will be used to gather in the final great global harvest already unleashed)
- restoring the "Antioch" model of missions as primary instead of the stagnant "Jerusalem" model that prevails in Christendom today
- understanding that Jesus is about something new in today's world that is global in nature, we are in a new phase of church history. Those who do not "get it" will not be part of what God is doing and will fade from relevance
- not, who am I in God's Kingdom; but who are WE. The idea of embracing accountability
- a return to Kingdom principles as a way of understanding the current "glocal apostolic reformation of the Ekklesia and its implications towards a reformation of life and a global housechurchbased missional platform"
In summary, there was simply too much heard and experienced that we are still only beginning to digest. For Linda and myself, it was a very holy time of reconsecrating and renewing our vows to the King. Much of what took place was too spiritually intimate and holy to voice in public. In many ways the experience was a steep learning curve to realize how far we have drifted from NT ways and Kingdom values.
In the coming days, I hope to share some of our pictures and some further reflections on this amazing Antioch gathering. Between us, Linda and I took close to 1800 digital photos! of our 3-week trip to Spain and Turkey. But don't worry, we will only subject you to the best 1600 of them! :)