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"Quote/Unquote" ~ Are We In An Unprecedented Epoch of Change? And, What If We Don't?

The "Quote/Unquote" Interview

A Conversation with Doug Small

Author of "The New Apostolic Epoch: God's Determination to Have a Praying and Missional People

[from where these quotes originate]

 

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“…“

"The times, they are a changing..."

Phil  Miglioratti, Pray.Network ~  David Butts (National Prayer Committee Chairman) begins his Forward to your book with this quote from a familiar Bob Dylan song of 1964 ...  How are the radical changes and rapid shifts in our western culture signs, warnings, opportunities to the Church?

 

Doug Small, Project Pray ~  One of the distressing signs is the almost complete disconnect of the millennials. This is a significantly under-churched generation – and many who have tried church, have checked out. They seem to see the difference between Christianity as ‘church-centric’ and as ‘Christ-centered.’ The older generation doesn’t. We act as if a Sunday engagement in which we hear people sing about God, and listen to a pastor talk about God, satisfies our weekly faith commitment. All without a life of prayer ourselves. Without a vital, daily connection with Christ. Millennials are faulted for being unspiritual, leaving the church – but in truth, they may be telling us something about tepid Christianity, demanding that we shift our focus, away from the organization to a more organic and relational faith. There are other indicators as well.

We are clearly at the end of Christendom, a nationally favored status, here and in other parts of the world – and that will not return. There is an adversarial posture of elites in the culture against Christianity,  that until now, the church has been able to ignore. That dragon is now at our door, and it is not interested in a truce – it wants to destroy the Christian faith or at least silence its public voice. All of these factors and more demand a return to deep, prayerful dependence on God. And yet, prayer cannot be a mere coping strategy. God is moving –racing ahead of us. The best is yet to come. God is inviting us to embrace a new wineskin in anticipation of a new season of renewal for the church and cultural engagement. 

 

“…“
"This is the not the mere amplification of prayer as it is often perceived.

It is not the addition of a missing prayer component, or prayer even as a bountiful additive, a power pack, to what we are currently doing. It is not the mere deepening or heightening of the value of prayer; it is a seismic apostolic shift.

Through this assertive sovereign governance of God,

He will intervene into history for missional purposes."

Phil Miglioratti ~ Doug, what are you saying about prayer and praying in this book that is congruent with but distinct from your other books?

Doug Small In the other books, I have offered a great many ideas about framing prayer ministry in the church, structuring and measuring the commitment to prayer and offering models of integration. In one book, “Prayer – As Entertaining God,” I attempted to redefine prayer – as ‘hosting God’ in the earth he created and redeemed, but from which he is now systematically barred. I suggested that in making prayer an invitation to God to simply come, to abide – brings a flood of his intervention. It was a call away from transactional prayer to transformation, to communion, to prayer as presence …

This book was not one I intended to write. It was one that, I feel, was thrust upon me. By ‘apostolic epoch’ I mean the sovereign governance or intervention of God. There are times, in history, when God inserts Himself in a dramatic manner. That happens in seismic dime ms ions about every 500 years. We are in one of these mountain moving seasons. This is a book that I feel is not merely ‘helpful,’ but urgent. Not only inspirational, but prophetic. Not good ideas about prayer, but God’s  ' rehema '  for now, for our time.

 

“…“

"We seem to be more interested in tinkering with church machinery than a fresh apostolic movement." 

Phil  ~  How is our emphasis on best-practices, new ideas, more resources, contributing to tinkering rather than pursuing a radical, fresh-from-God movement?

Doug  ~  When you talk about prayer, it is as if no one really hears. There is tacit, “Yes, that’s right, that’s important …” But there is no compelling and gripping sense of importance that will bring behavioral change. For prayer leaders, it is maddening.

And the greater problem is, when someone does respond, we discover that they are simply adding prayer to modify the current model. And that model is flawed, deeply flawed. We have the cart before the horse, the church before Christ (and, in some ways, in the place of Christ), the therefore, the church before mission, and that is because we have the church before prayer. Prayer and mission are options the church offers members. Prayer gives birth to mission; and mission then needs a nurturing, discipling and praying church. That prayerful, dependent, missional DNA is critically absent today. We need a radical transformation – in which our people live, not from Sunday to Sunday but out of a daily relationship with Christ.  

 

“…“

"We need a revival that reforms."

Phil ~  Am I understanding you correctly: our revival-focused prayer groups-websites-conferences-devotional guides, are hoping for a type of revival that will never produce another great awakening that truly transforms our culture?

DougYes and no. As additives, as appendages to the current church-centric culture, I think that is true. So much of our prayer materials are devotional, heart-warming, nurturing, comforting – they don’t turn the tables over, either in the temple or our hearts. They speak within the status quo, they don’t challenge it. Our revivals too often reinforce traditional views – or call us back to the ‘50’s. We can never go back. The Apostolic Epoch is a call away from the past, away from comfort, away from the safe ‘normal,’ to a radically different and unknown future.

Great Awakenings are unsettling. I think the needed reformation of the church will be as messy as the one 500 years ago. It will redraw our safe lines. It will create new paradigms. As William Bridges observes, one can be disillusioned, and stay trapped in the same paradigm, looking for change. Only when one is disenchanted, when they ‘break the spell’ do they step outside the box and find, at times, radical solutions.  

 

“…“

"Western Christianity loves from a triumphal overcoming posture, the strong to the weak."

Phil ~  Unpack the implications this assertion and how this attitude is impeding the work of the Holy Spirit in and out from the Church.

Doug ~  Since Christendom, the church has been empowered, privileged, partnered with the state in some way – and the result has been a demise of mission, and a decline in the quality of the Christ life of the church and its believers. When the church operates from a posture of power, it tends to arrogance and pride – it binds itself to the culture that has granted it privilege, and fails to distinguish adequately between culture and gospel. It loses it prophetic edge.

Luther emphasized the theology of the cross. Weakness. Desperate dependence and nothingness without Christ. Around the world, the persecuted church seems to be emerging, as did the apostolic church, with a tenderness, a gentleness, a tenacity, and a deep sacrificial ethos. They are not entitled, either by the culture or by their disposition toward the faith. They expect hardship and have made the decision to suffer, before the suffering is demanded of them. They are tender, but not soft. They suffer, but forgive their torturers. Their witness is marked by a depth of character that is breathtaking. They taste the cross, but do so in the spirit of the resurrection. This is a different kind of church unlike today’s church that is so life encumbered. This triumph rises out of the cross. It is an overcoming life, out of persecution and deprivation. It is the strength of grace found in moments that overwhelm normal humans. This is faith, not as confidence, but as weakness – strong only in profound dependence.   

 

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"As we consider our task, we must take great care not to narrow the mission, to make it about peripheral matter - social justice, redemption and lift, the empowerment of the poor, church growth and expansion, soul health and betterment, even mass numbers of conversions with community impact and transformation evidences...

The centrality of mission is Christ, Himself.

It is the "glory of God's plan" in Christ and through Christ, "for the nations."

Phil ~  How does making Christ the centrality of our mission change the way we pursue justice, serve the poor, evangelize? ... And, what is the challenge we face in actually making the "glory of God" the end game of all ministry?  

Doug ~  God is a God of mission – and, in truth, every mission is joining Him. It is not the church that gives birth to mission(s). These are not merely good ideas, nor can they be responses to pain and human suffering. Prayer perceives what God is doing. It hears His voice. He calls us to join Him – in His mission. This may be true of an individual or a congregation, indeed, a denomination. The Holy Spirit is in charge of the church, and of the mission. He operates out of the office of Christ, in the name of Christ, to complete the work of Christ – and as we pray, and are swept into His work – whatever that work might be – and the mission in which we are then engaged needs a church. It needs a church to nurture the converts of mission, to declare that God is alive and worthy of worship, and it exist as a missional community. The end of missions, is not justice, however, or massive conversions, or care for the poor and oppressed, it is the glory of God. Of course, God is glorified, manifest, when his children behave like him, relate and care like him, prophetically confront, and pastorally protect like him.   

 

“…“

"It was not more prayer of the kind that regularly happened in the temple for which Jesus was calling -

it was a complete change in emphasis.

It was a call to mission -to missional prayer, to inclusion."

Phil ~ How do we become "transformed by the renewing of our minds" (Romans 12:2) so that the Holy Spirit can teach us to pray this way?

Doug ~  In a sense, it is simple. We have to give ourselves to pray. The first two encounters between God and man in Scripture, God does all the talking. He is much more interested in talking to us than we are to Him. It is interesting what he says, as well. In the first encounter, He blesses man – and sets before Him a global mission. And in the second encounter, he sets boundaries to protect the blessing.

As long as we continue to see prayer as acquisition, as a list we give to God, rather than as a transformational encounter over an open Bible, we will be stuck with a self-interested faith. God puts man in the garden, but gives him dominion over the globe. The garden was really a place of prayer, of intimacy with God – keep the garden (prayer) and complete the mission to the globe. Lose the garden, and… well, the consequences are global.

We are still failing to see that as we are transformed in prayer, as we honor our time with God as a priority – God changes us, and effects change through us; and without such commitment, we feel overwhelmed by life and all its challenges.

 

“…“

"Is it possible that we are so trapped into a view of the church as a facility, a place, a once-a-week worship event...and sermon, that we are missing the purpose of God for the church?"

Phil  ~  Please explain the critical need for each of these components to be understood and alive in our lives and ministries:

Doug ~   

  • New  - God is always doing new things – providing new fresh ways to meet a changing world. The core of the gospel doesn’t change, but the its interface with the world is constantly shifting – that it, it is always relevant. 
  • Apostolic  - it means, in this context, the sovereign governance of God, the right of God to intervene in history, and the fact that He does …
  • Epoch  - a season, a period of time. There are Kairos moments … we are living in such a season of epochal change.
  • God's Determination  - There are things, in scripture, to which God as committed himself. They depend on us; they do not depend on us. God will do these things – at times, he appears to be waiting on us to respond, to cooperate; and then it is clear, that this God of mission has gone on without us, and we must race to catch up. The best prayer discovers His purposes, discerns His hand in action; and ask for grace to move with Him, to be graced to be a partner in the sovereign process …
  • People  - [laity; marketplace] … the next revival, will likely be a marketplace revival. With only 17% of the population in church, a ‘come-to’ attractional model is no longer adequate. We must press the gospel, incarnationally, into the seams of daily life. This was the secret of the illegal early church movement – they won the culture by relational evangelism, by daily contact with a pagan culture, by the transformational quality of believers. Every believer must, as the Reformation suggested, be a priest, standing prayerfully in the middle, between God and lost people, and praying, caring, and when asked about hope and joy, sharing the love of God …
  • Praying People  - This is the call of the church – to be a house of prayer for the nations. He is no Christian, Luther says, who does not pray! We are church centered, living without a vital, daily relationship with Christ. Our prayer theology is shallow and self-interested, worldly (that is, it is concerned the cares of living in this world, not with eternity in view). 
  • Missional People  - Prayer, prolonged prayer, evidently a different kind of prayer than we know and do, took 120 ordinary people, and transformed them into a missional community, that in two and a half centuries conquered the Empire. Prayer and mission are conjoined. Prayer is at its heart worship (the recalibration of values) and at its edge mission; and in between, God meets our needs. Prayer births a mission people, and those people form a ecclesia, a fellowship of the word and Spirit. Prayer-Mission-Church.

 

Phil ~  Anything additional you'd like to say?

Doug ~  When I received your request for information, I was in Kuwait – for a national pastor’s conference on prayer and awakening. KUWAIT? Where, in the world, is God ‘not’ moving? We have never seen such an era!

And these great shifts, mega movements of prayer and mission, seem to be happening everywhere but Europe and North America. We desperately need a revival in the church; and a spiritual awakening in the culture. And, gratefully, God seems to want that more than we do!

 

“…“

"The greatest tragedy of all, to be on the wrong side of history in the midst of an apostolic epochal shift of the church into a house of prayer, into the creation of a praying-missional people not bound to either a building or a weekly celebration of the type we have, but to Christ." 

Phil  ~  Doug, please write a prayer we can pray with you toward this grand goal . . .

Doug ~  Lord, we know, that the nation, the United States, with all its sin, with its bloodshed, with its pumping immorality into other nations, indeed, bullying Presidents of nations to compromise moral standards for offers of money – we are deserving of judgment.

We humbly ask that you give us one more chance. Awaken us, our pastors and churches, to join you on mission – revive us, for the purpose for which we were created. Have mercy, on this side of judgment. Let an apostolic renewal of your church trigger a tsunami of global impact, nation by nation.  

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Replies to This Discussion

Reply by Richard H. Skiba, Jr. on March 24, 2019 at 3:03pm

This interview is an affirmation for me.

I have agreed, for quite some time now, with a lot that Doug said in this interview: church-centric tradition/activities being meaningless to millennials; church (sometimes even the building) being put before (or even in place of) the Lord; tepid, hour-on-Sunday Christianity; acqusitional prayer that should be used only for requesting Assignments; serving beyond Sunday, a personal relationship with God through eyes open, look around, attentive prayer, etc.

As America has been declining, I have had a sense of God Standing-by, Ready to Help. But, our culture, especially sophisticated urban culture, thinks it can handle things by itself:

Urban society,

Which touts its urbanity,

Trusts more in humanity

Than it does in Divinity;

It bids the Almighty

To leave the vicinity.

I pray that the Universal Church, in thinking outside of the "bricks and mortar" box, will consider if one of God's new Ways to Reach us is through our human logic. Once I got this through my thick head, His Path to my heart opened.

Heaven is Perfect. We are not. Like a sports team that has lost even one game, we cannot make our own "record" perfect. Christ is the only one, who on appeal, provides us with an unblemished life. Show me another religion, faith or belief system that does that. Christ is the Logical Choice. That is in His Army's Arsenal as well.

I agree that God's new Mode could free His Glory from the box of bricks and mortar. But, that would Loose His Glory into society and culture--once again.

 

YES!

May God “Loose His Glory into society and culture--once again”❗️

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