Unleashing the Church to Transform the World

Friday 14 July

Owen Crane is Senior Pastor of CFC in Belfast.  He shared his passion to see transformation not just in individual lives but also in whole spheres of society as Christians live for the Kingdom 24/7.  here's a summary of what he had to say at #Sligo17.

I have been a frustrated leader in the church for a long time.  I read Acts and I hear stories from around the world and I’m frustrated that I don’t see those things in my own city and my own context.  I’m crying out to God to see a total transformation. But as I do that, He is transforming me as a person.  I want to talk about the journey I’ve been on in understanding how we go about transforming cities, communities, nations and institutions.

God made us in His own image, which is mesmerising.  And then the first call God gave to Adam and Eve was the fill the earth - to fill the earth with the image of God, with everything that God is, with the kingdom, the rule, the dominion of God.

And then the mess happened and Jesus came.  And then again in the great commission He said the same thing.  Go and make disciples of all nations (everywhere).  This is a continuation of the Genesis command - Go and fill the earth with God’s glory.  In the church, what I have done too often is to relegate that command to making disciples of the people in my own congregation or the Christians I know.

Yet the command is to make disciples everywhere of all people.  If we limit making disciples of Christians, we are in trouble.  Jesus did not start making disciples of Christians.  He called Matthew the tax collector (tax collectors were the scumbags of Palestine at that time) and then He calls a religious zealot… and He put them together!

And He called James and John who had this idea of calling down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village!  He started making disciples with messed up people.

I don’t think it was God’s intention for us simply to make disciples of Christians.  He wants to fill the entire earth with His glory.  The whole of scripture is pointing to the total supremacy of Christ, over every aspect of creation, completely. Too often we limit his rule and reign to our church

The goal is to bring His rule and reign into every aspect of society. It sounds cool in theory but we the way we seek to make disciples in the Church is to put on more meetings.  Jesus wants the total transformation of the city - out there where people are.

God desires that none perish.  Not one person in any of our communities, cities and nations anywhere.  The goal of God is the total salvation of the whole of Ireland.  He is pouring all of His energy into that.  I had to repent as a church leader because I realised that my vision was so much smaller than God’s vision.  Believe for your neighbour but believe also for the whole nation. 

To do that we have to totally re-think the way we do church.  Christian ministry is primarily done by 20% of the church.  97% of believers do not work for a Christian organisation. This is awesome because that means they are daily engaging with people who don’t know Jesus.

In the church, we have recognised this but we’ve not known what it means.  I want us to bring the fullness of the kingdom of God into every aspect of society.  In the church, we’ve recognised individual salvations and of course, that is great and amazing. Jesus is interested in the one. But He is also interested in the 100.  If Jesus can redeem one person, then He can redeem 100.  If He can redeem 100, He can redeem a business, a school, an entire company, a dentist surgery, an artist studio or a football club.

We need to shift and elevate our thinking from seeing one co-worker coming to faith to seeing an entire organisation or community redeemed for the purposes of God.  The difficulty is we have not seen this in the west in living memory.  And yet, at the times of the great revivals of the past, whole communities were transformed to the extent they shut down the law courts because there was no crime.

In Nineveh, there was a total redemption of a city.  When Jonah preached, the whole city put on sackcloth and ashes (Jonah was grumpy because he wanted to smite them).  God can deliver Belfast [or Dublin or Cork or Galway].  He can redeem an institution.  I believe the heart of God is for the total redemption of the NHS [or the HSE].

If you read some of the narrative of the Old Testament, God raised up people for a purpose.  If you look at the heritage of our great institutions, so many of them have kingdom roots.  Can you imagine what a redeemed Health Service might look like?  There would be no wasted resources.  It would be breath-taking - the most efficient, most excellent, most caring and most dynamic.

What about a school system?  Some of us believe that we can be a teacher in a school and impact a classroom but what about if we ran a school under the principles of the kingdom of God.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if no kid ever slipped through the cracks? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we didn’t squeeze kids into moulds?  Wouldn’t it be brilliant if there was no bullying in our schools? 

They did a study on teenage boys in East Belfast.  It showed that they have no hope, no self esteem, no dreams.  That is anti-Christ because God speaks life, hope, promise, love and blessing over these kids.  Part of the reason is because the Church has not stepped into that. 

Church leaders have not created an environment where the “lay” people understand the Hebrew concept ofavodah - this word means work and worship; in the Hebrew language the two are interchangeable.  In our western world we have separated work and worship.  We have abdicated responsibility for whole areas of life.  Every time the church does this, we give that area over to the enemy.  I want to get the followers of Jesus to understand that you are anointed, called, equipped by God in EVERY area of your life.

We have this thing in the church. You can be doing great things during the week but we are not really interested in that as long as you can be on the kid’s rota or the coffee rota. People feel like what they do 9 - 5 is not as valid as what they do on a Sunday morning.  We need to get it into our heads that we are called and anointed by God to bring His kingdom transformation into every area of life.  If we don‘t do that we are giving massive areas of our lives and communities over to the enemy.

I have a friend who is a brain surgeon and there have been times in his life that he has been made to feel that this work of saving lives is less important than what he does on a Sunday morning, or  than whether he tithes.  The command of God is to fill the earth with His glory… fill it completely.  Jesus calls us to bring His kingdom into our organisations, into our jobs, into our surgeries… our mandate is to bring His kingdom everywhere.  We are in a war; the bishop was talking about that this morning.  Sometimes we forget that and we surrender ground.

We almost think if we keep our mouth shut and just go about our business, the devil will leave us alone.  The moment you were born, you were born into a world where the enemy wants to kill and destroy you!  If I know I’m in a fight I might as well come out swinging.  I might as well give it my best shot

I break the workplace down into six broad areas:

1.     Business

2.     Government

3.     Education

4.     Health Care

5.     Sport

6.     Arts / Culture

In Jewish culture, there is no word for retirement because work is worship and we don’t retire from worshipping our creator.  Even if you are 90, you are still young enough to be active in the kingdom of God as long as you have breath in your lungs.  God doesn’t give you a get out clause… oh He does… death!

The trouble with the Kingdom of God is that it can be quite ethereal, particularly when the language is militaristic.  The follow four areas are my suggestions for how four areas of the kingdom can be applied to our daily lives.

Excellence

The first step is to be good at your job.  If you are rubbish at your job that is a bad witness.  Turn up on time!  Do what is required of you. I’ve heard of church people who have called in sick and then turned up to a church conference - that is a bad witness!  Playing worship music and stopping work to have prayer meetings - that is inappropriate when you are being paid to work.  Being bad at your job is a bad witness.  Others have to work harder to cover up your mess and your mistakes.

When you are good at your job it gives you influence. The people I want around the table are the smartest people, the most competent and diligent people, the most able people.  Like Daniel, he was wiser than every other wise man in Babylon. He was good at what he did.  If Christians would knuckle down to study, to work hard and to be good at their jobs, then they will gain influence.

Northern Ireland is a mess. 70% of our working population are employed in the public sector, which is utterly unsustainable.  We are nine billion pounds in the red every year. The church has to be good to get around the table to contribute to the conversation.  The church prays for favour and open doors but when we get the influence we need something to contribute.

A friend runs a production studio. He has worked hard and built a company. He is phenomenal at what he does.  The Chinese government state TV company asked him to make a children’s TV show around the idea of LOVE. This is a Jesus follower who gets to teach Chinese children what love is but he gets to do that because he is excellent at what he does.

Power

We absolutely have to redeem, re-invent the power dynamic from our Sunday services into the rest of our lives.  We love prophecy, healing, words of knowledge, etc. but this was never meant exclusively for Sundays.  Of Jesus miracles only three were in synagogues, all the rest was out in the streets.  We can prophesy over people (without making weird and saying, “thus says the Lord”).  We can call out brilliance in people.  We can speak life, blessing and encouragement into people’s lives. 

What really transformed things for Daniel was the God-given, supernatural ability to interpret a dream.

In the medical profession, it would be great to have words of knowledge.  Sometimes doctors are guessing.  I don’t think medicine is second-class healing.  But I’d also love people to be praying for discernment and bringing that into our hospitals and surgeries.

School teachers - have you ever had a situation with a child and something is wrong and you don’t know what it is? Wouldn’t it be amazing to have the Holy Spirit guiding you about what is wrong and what you need to do to respond?  It is going to take the people of God to say I’m not just anointed on a Sunday or in a prayer meeting.  I’m filled with the Creator God in this classroom.  Wherever you put your feet, you have dominion. The devil doesn’t have any authority.  When you step into that classroom, you are a child of God. All power and authority is given to Jesus and we bear His name.

Don’t be weird about it!  Don’t make people say sinner’s prayers or start using jargon. Simply work with the Holy Spirit to speak life and blessing over people.  Find out what is happening in the lives of care workers and speak wisdom into their situations.  We can see the total transformation in our workplaces.

Prophecy is about allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through us.  We have made prophecy something spooky.  It is about speaking words of life, encouragement, blessing and revelation into people’s lives.  Taking time to ask the Holy Spirit what He has to say into this person’s life or situation. 

Jeremiah 29 tells us to pray for the peace and prosperity of the city.  The peace and prosperity of your organisation is your peace and prosperity.  When you are in a company or organisation that has a slump that has a detrimental effect.

Business itself is not bad.  Capitalism without restraint is bad. The Grenfell tower is bad.  We need good business. We need a good private sector to pay for the pubic sector but we need it redeemed.  Imagine what business would look like if it genuinely ran according to Kingdom principles?  People would answer the phone when you rang them.  That is the difference that they could make.  Then they would pay taxes as they are supposed to pay taxes, to the right government.  It doesn’t mean that Christians have to be in charge all the time.  You don’t have to be in charge to bring transformation as a Christian.  Sometimes being a charge is not a great place for a Christian because that goes to people’s heads.

Beauty

We need to treat people beautifully and like they are beautiful. We need to have the fruit of the spirit rich in our lives.  No matter how good you are at your job, if you don’t have love you are a clanging cymbal, a resounding gong… you are a nightmare!

Treat people like they are children of God.  If you treat my kids badly, we are going to fall out.  Sometimes we forget that these are God’s kids. 

We must be patient.  Operate with loving kindness, faithfulness (will you show up when you are supposed to show up and do the job I have asked you to do, when I asked you to do it) and self-control - even when filling in your taxes.

God made things just to be pleasing to the eye.  He loves beauty.  Shane Claiborne works with inner city kids to plant vegetable gardens and flowers and things.  Some Christians don’t understand why they do it wondering what this has got to do with the Gospel - but they teach people about creator God through the things that grow. There is so much we can do around community transformation.

Everything I’m talking about is to give you a position of influence.  You want to bring light.  You want to be a city on a hill shining.  You want influence.

The Margins

The church belongs on the margins with the least, the worst, the excluded, the outcast.  That could be the kid who is a bully or the one who has been bullied. It could be with That co-worker who nobody likes and everybody gossips about. That is when it can be difficult to be a follower of Jesus.  I’m called to be with the outsider and to bring that person into a family, when they are irritating, or boring or they smell.

What would it look like if our government institutions prioritised the marginalised? 

If we don’t harness the influence of every believer when they are out in their lives, bringing their excellence, treating people beautifully, going to the margins and having the power of the Holy Spirit then we are not gaining ground. We have to do something different.  We need to release every believer in every sphere of life to bring about the total transformation of every business, every institution.

I think the church is up for it.  It is not going to be a quick fix.  We need an awakening of the church to break down the secular spiritual divide. You are anointed in your place of work.  Everything is worship.

There is a sound of heavy rain coming to Ireland.  There are deep wells that have gone dry but the heavy rain will reopen those wells.  He is shaking the church to be ready for what He is about to do.  He won’t settle for the churches being full.  We cannot build churches big enough to bring about the total transformation of our nation.

There is a reason that your town was established.  The Belfast city motto was “what shall we return for so much”… Belfast was once the wealthiest city in the UK.  Our motto was to be a blessing.

The only reason there is a gospel in Europe is because of Ireland. God has not forgotten that mandate over Ireland to send out the missionaries. There is a reason why we are stuck over at the west of Europe.  God is pouring out His spirit. 

We have to go after the story of our city.  God’s story of my city is one of blessing, beauty abundance. This is a land of saints and scholars, of creativity, art and beauty and breakthroughs in science and innovation. Let us start prophesying life over our cities.  Stop agreeing with the devil.  Ask God, what have you raised my town up for?  Speak life not death!