Over the past several years in the Sword of the
Spirit, we have presented a conference on “Our Call and Mission.” Its title
is not accidental, for any God-given mission begins with a call from God.
The initiative is always with God, and he takes that initiative by addressing
his word to particular people at particular times and places.
The spirit of my reflections echoes what is repeated
every year at the Jewish Passover meal, as the Jews recount the history
of their life as a people who are called by God. At one point in
the ceremony the leader says, “Let no one say ‘God called them (in the
sense of those others).’ For if you belong to this people, it is
because God called you.” A prophetic word given 40 years ago, perhaps
even before some of us were born, is part of the living heritage of the
Sword of the Spirit. It is as much a call to you personally as it
was to those who first heard it.
In 1969, when I was at university in Ann Arbor,
Michigan, about 30 of us prayed regularly together. We had not become
a community at that point, just a loosely-knit group of Christians, mostly
university students, who had been baptised in the Holy Spirit and were
trying to take our faith seriously. We would meet each Monday evening in
the large living room of a rented house to pray and seek the Lord.
During a meeting early in the summer of 1969,
the Lord began to speak to us about repentance, about clearing away the
obstacles to God’s work, obstacles which we had created through our unacknowledged
and unrepented sin. In prophecy after prophecy during that meeting, we
heard of the areas that needed to change, and the Holy Spirit opened the
eyes of many of us to see what he was seeing. Mostly the sins were
not big, but things that occupied a place in our life that God wanted for
himself – our career plans, our cherished possessions, our immoderate
interest in food, and so forth. This “prophetic examination of conscience”
lasted several weeks and created in many of us a sense of anticipation:
what was God preparing us for? He seemed to be addressing us as a
group even as he was addressing us as individuals. He seemed to be
“doing something with us.”
Midway through that summer we found our attention
drawn to many passages in Scripture about covenant. That was the beginning
of a year of discovery, as we learned about the covenant love and faithfulness
between God and his people and between brothers and sisters who are part
of the same people. So the Lord’s call to covenant community had
begun – with a corporate call to repentance.
God’s Way of Living
One of the most striking things about being part
of the community in the early days in Ann Arbor was the strong conviction
that we had been caught up in a great action of God. We saw the evidence
everywhere we looked: men and women were hearing God’s word and were being
changed by it. God speaking and was bringing about what he had spoken.
And before our very eyes this work of God grew with astounding speed.
Those who had attended a tiny prayer meeting in
Ann Arbor in December 1967 (there were perhaps 15 people present) heard
a remarkable prophecy.
You will reap a harvest you did not sow.
You will sow, and in years to come will see the harvest. The work you have
seen begun here will spread....I will bring many to you...and I will baptize
them in my Holy Spirit. I will raise up spiritual sons and daughters for
my work. A shining cross of my body will be raised up among you...I will
send people to you from all across the nation to receive a message they
will take back [with them]....
Within a few short years this prophecy was fulfilled,
as hundreds of people came every year to visit the community, not only
from across the nation, but from around the world. Less than eight years
after that prophecy was given, the community had to maintain guesthouses
to care for the 1500 people who were coming each year to visit the community
and see what God was doing there.
Just as had been prophesied, many came to Ann
Arbor and caught a vision for Christian community lived in the power of
the Holy Spirit, returned to their homes to pursue that vision themselves.
In those very early years, the seeds were being planted which later produced
a harvest of Christian community life around the world.
Yocum is President of Christ the King
Association and a member of the International Executive Council of
Sword of the Spirit.]