At our church, Cornerstone Dun Laoghaire, we are exploring what it means to be an Antioch church – something we’ve felt called to be since the beginning of our journey, which started 30 years ago, this year. Paul Perry spoke on Sunday about what the Antioch church carried – a radical word of radical grace which led to radical discipleship, and a missionary church ready to take the gospel to unreached harvest fields. My heart was stirred. Again.
Over 30 years ago I first encountered that radical grace – the Lord of all the earth became real to me in all His glory, authority and majesty and I just wanted to run and run and take His beautiful gospel to the youth of Ireland and Europe that the Lamb might have the reward of His sufferings. A charismatic Catholic, my first real step of radical discipleship was to follow Christ into the waters of baptism as an adult believer in Munich, Germany in 1982. My second step was to decide to stay on for year, because He spoke to me through Luke 24:49 “but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” What a promise that was!
I simply believed and planned to stay, much to my family’s consternation. At that time, they had no point of reference for people leaving the Catholic church to follow God. They were sure I was in a cult and even called for the Archbishop’s cult specialist to come and try talk me around. I remember bawling my eyes out when my Firm Foundations bible study for that day brought me to Matthew 10:37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me…” And so, despite my Daddy’s tears – the only time I ever saw him cry – I returned to Munich to pastors Mark and Janet Furlong, because I so wanted to be worthy of Him and become a true disciple. It was years before my family really spoke to me again. The promises of God are often costly.
I lost virtually all my friends, except my charismatic ones, and even they did not always understand what God was doing with me. You see this radical bunch of disciples also believed in God’s Perfect Choice, which essentially meant no dating under any circumstances, trusting God for your life partner, if that was His plan, and only marrying the person whom God had confirmed to you and your pastor as God’s perfect choice. Even then, you were expected to have your fist kiss on the altar on your wedding day – that was our understanding of sexual holiness! And yes, I got plenty of jibes about it from Christians in other churches! But to this day, I’m glad that I was encouraged to focus on the Lord above all else, and set my affections on Him, the only true Beloved. It certainly saved me a lot of unnecessary distraction! And even though I would not now recommend that approach, I am thankful for how the Lord used it to teach me such dependence on his sustaining grace and learn forgiveness in the midst of misunderstanding.
And if you look at the church in Antioch, you see it was birthed by a bunch of persecuted saints. Acts 11: 19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. This was the very first church to reach the Gentiles. They found out that the gospel could even reach those who knew nothing of the covenant of Abraham; God could clean up even the unclean by power of the gospel.
And so it was here back in 1984, with rookie pastor Mark Habgood at the helm, this church was birthed with a bunch of young people and students – many were saved and baptised, and experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, at a time when you could count the number of charismatic churches in Dublin on one hand. The Bible Workshop on UCD campus saw miracles weekly as they prayed for the sick. In TCD, a creation/evolution debate was won, with Ernest Walton, Nobel prizewinner as chair.* And in 1987 we sent out our first mission team to help plant a church in Paris, and again in 1990, members of the Dublin church went to start a church in Delft, the Netherlands. We had very little money or support, no big mission group behind us, just faith in the Almighty GOD who was doing the sending. We left jobs, put all our savings into ministry training, got jeered at by family members and colleagues alike for our troubles, but the hand of the Lord was with us, and despite our manifold errors and weaknesses, churches were birthed that continue to this day. What amazing, transforming grace….
I want to rediscover that grace, that faith, that boldness in my God. The call still remains. The need only grows greater. How I long for a full-blown awakening throughout Ireland, throughout Europe, throughout the world. I long for the fullness of the promise, the completion of the work of God through our lives, through my life. I want to follow the Lord wholeheartedly like Caleb, who at 85 remembered a promise received at 40:
Joshua 14:12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” …… 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.
I want to rediscover that radical grace, that radical faith, that radical boldness in my God.
Whatever the cost.
*Read Richard Redmond’s account of that epic event here: http://evolutionincrisis.blogspot.ie/2014/01/a-personal-account.html