The Transit Camp
Trained and ready to go. But what's happening; where are we heading and when?
First published in 2004
On this website 20/11/2008
“So how’s the church where you are?” That was the big question posed to me last week by a visitor from other parts. And I had to think for a moment to come up with a concise response.
“It feels a bit like a transit camp” I replied. “Of course we mainly know where the church has been - over recent years and even centuries. But I am not entirely sure of where God is taking it to now.”
And three thousand years ago I might have given the same reply.
At that time the Israelites had pestered God to give them a king. Whilst God warned them of the consequences of rejecting Him, he nevertheless acceded to their insistent demands. And they got King Saul as their first (earthly) monarch.
In the position, but impotent
But while Saul started well, he finished badly. And there was a period towards the end of his reign when he was still on the throne, but had lost God’s favour. He was therefore impotent. He was yesterday’s man but remained, for a while, on the stage.
This position is not unique in history, and ten years ago an embittered cabinet minister thrust a caustic barb into his Prime Minister. But what Norman Lamont said in his resignation speech could equally have been applied to King Saul. With powerful rhetoric, the departing Chancellor accused John Major’s government of being “in office, but not in power.” It was indeed the case.
Sadly, it is also true of much of the Christian church in the West today. The religious structures are still in place, but the spiritual authority - as in King Saul’s final years - has departed.
In the place of preparation
But even as Saul’s reign was moving to a close, God anointed an heir. However David was then just a shepherd boy. And for a time he had to remain out of sight; hidden in a cave until the time of his accession arrived. So for a period the nation of Israel was in a rather unsettled position. The “old”, while still there, was fading; but the “new” had not yet come. So too today. And yet there will be many, just like David, who are being groomed by God; but, for the moment, are still waiting in the wings.
Only time will reveal who they are, but there could be a few surprises. In the anointing of David as Saul’s successor, the prophet Samuel confounded David’s father and his other sons. God chose the youngest of the family with the reminder; “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." He chooses the “foolish” to shame the “wise”; and the “weak” to shame the “strong.”
Those that God will use are those whose hearts are set on the things of God. Kingdom builders rather than empire builders. Those who will reject the worldliness that has crept into the church of God. Those who will turn away from the idolatry of “success” as judged by “numbers” and “buildings”.
But if the future is yet unclear, what is certain is that the status quo is being dismantled. For some, impending change may appear threatening. In others, the sense of expectancy and opportunity is palpable and dynamic. So “How’s things in the church?” It will be even more interesting tomorrow than today.
Postscript: Awaiting the order
Imagine the scene prior to the Normandy landings and the invasion of Europe. Thousands of troops were gathered in the south coast of England: they had been trained to be soldiers with the prospect of battle in mind, yet their commanding officer(s), for reasons of keeping the enemy guessing, withheld the precise battle plans from the men on a 'need to know' basis.
These soldiers would nevertheless have guessed that 'something was up'; but they had to be patient and wait to be told what part they each would play.
The warriors knew that they had been prepared for a task: they knew that something major was in the immediate offing, and they knew that where they were being assembled was merely a 'staging post'. But they had to wait; wait until the order came.
The church knows where it has been for the past 2000 years, and believers know that this is not their final destiny. But we meanwhile pray: "Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Those whose hearts are set on God's glory and His Kingdom are effectively in a transit camp awaiting orders from on high.
The main article above was published in 2004 by the Press and Journal newspaper as part of a regular column (written by the CT editor) entitled 'A View from Here'.