Unification News for February 1999
At the River Jordan
UViews February 1999
It is not easy for a Unificationist to interpret what is happening today with Christianity. The Divine Principle predicts the demise of Christianity. We long ago announced that it is a hollow shell, a dead body of clergy trailing empty slogans, invaded by secularism, confused about sexual morality, unable to guide, inspire or save. One might note that this analysis is of Christianity in Europe, as the entire DP interpretation of Christian history centers around Europe, giving little regard to America. Perhaps it is arguable that our expectation of Christian demise is correct with reference to Europe. It might arguably be correct in reference to the mainstream Protestant denominations in America as well. But it does not predict the resiliency of evangelical Christianity in America.
Part and parcel of the DP prediction of Christian demise was the expectation that masses of people would be searching for spiritual answers in a secular wasteland, and in that context the answers provided by the DP would shine as a lighthouse in the darkness. When I was on MFT in 1975 I received an official letter from the church leadership telling me that in three years time we would begin the physical establishment of the Kingdom of God, so great would be our pulling power amid the social decay. It was not to be.
Then how are we to understand the booming prosperity of the new paradigm Christian churches? Where in DP's predictions would we place the Promise Keepers, Campus Crusade, Focus on the Family, Marriage Savers, the cell churches, the mega-churches, the enormous popularity of Pope John Paul II, the growth of the Latter Day Saints, the fatherhood movement, or the fact that the Bible is America's best-selling book year in and year out? How do we explain the proliferation of independent churches associated together as the Vineyard Fellowship, Hope Chapels, Calvary Chapels, Antioch Association, and many others? These four movements, each started from a Bible-study group in a home or parks thirty years ago and by now have multiplied into some 3,000 churches throughout the world, out of nowhere, out of the "Jesus Freaks."
I see that in these churches and movements lives are being transformed for the good. People are being saved from addiction to alcohol, drugs and sex. Marriages are coming alive, families are healing, "The hearts of the fathers are turning to their children and the heart of children to their fathers." It cannot be but the work of God, for, as Jesus said, Satan's house divided against itself cannot stand.
I found some clues to help me put this together at a recent "pastors' rally" in Philadelphia. It was put together by several organizations, chief of them Promise Keepers and MissionAmerica. The opening speaker, David Mains, gave me the primary clue: "We," he said, "are the John the Baptist generation." Let us consider the meaning of this.
God blessed John the Baptist greatly. Some thought he might be the Messiah, but he knew that he was not, but that someone greater than he was to come, for whom he was simply preparing the way. Dr. Mains said this directly at the meeting, quoting the Baptist's words from the New Testament. As Malachi predicted the returning Elijah would do, turning the hearts of fathers and children, so too are these contemporary prophets working on families and making for the Lord a people prepared. In the process, church hierarchies are breaking down. The new movements are anti-hierarchical, are locally controlled and managed by the members themselves. At the meeting, I met a United Methodist pastor there who is preparing to bring an alternative service into his church soon. The new paradigm Christians abjure dogma and doctrine and struggle to speak directly from the scriptures without a super-imposed theological framework.
Let me convey a few points from the meeting I attended. It was entitled a Rally for Revival, and the main theme was how to bring revival to America.
The first speaker, Dr. Mains, is calling all churches in America to install a satellite dish, so that the exciting developments can be shared directly to the local churches throughout the nation. (Sound familiar?) He described the origin of MissionAmerica in Billy Graham's ministry many years ago, and how it now includes 67 denominations and 200 para-church ministries. All the speakers, including Mains, stressed that Christianity has to unite and work together for a common cause, putting aside denominational barriers. (Sound familiar?)
Mains described a "Lighthouse" movement, which is similar to what we call home church. I will reserve detailed description of it for later, but Mains pointed out that denominational barriers can be overcome best on the local level. When he, a Baptist, develops a prayer fellowship with a neighbor who is Roman Catholic, or Jewish, or Muslim, there, not in official conference rooms, is where religious barriers are crossed. (Sound familiar?) He spoke from his personal experience making his house a lighthouse for his neighborhood, and said that we can lead with integrity only by doing it and then encouraging others to do it. (sound familiar?)
The following speakers, Rev. Andre Allen, Rev. J. Daniel Lupton and Greg Asimakoupoulos, introduced the "50-Day Adventure." It is an eight week course that an entire congregation takes together. Each Sunday the pastor introduces, from the pulpit in the sermon message, the week's theme. The theme is one of the seven promises of a promise keeper. During the week all members maintain a journal, do Hoon Dok Hae, do exercises (such as serving someone each day, and recording it), pray and fast centering on that week's "promise worth keeping." The purpose, beyond individual spiritual growth and family unity, is unity of the church, with everyone following the same track to gain "accelerated, measurable and lasting spiritual growth."
Glenn Barth repeated the Lighthouse strategy, but added noteworthy points. He said, "The day of the professional minister is over. The day of the missionary pastor has come. We no longer have local churches; we have missionary outposts." He sees Christianity as an embattled cause, fighting an aggressive adversarial culture. In such a setting, we cannot afford intramural struggles. He called the church "a gathering of 2 or more people in Jesus' name, uniting together for the purpose of praying for, caring for and lovingly and appropriately reaching out to neighbors and relatives." (Sound familiar?) He said it is now time that we define the church of the future, and it is in this neighborhood outreach.
Right Brain Food
Threading through all the speakers was music and worship led by Terry and Barbi Franklin. They are a couple who write and perform contemporary Christian music, and throughout the program they called everyone to prayer and song in praise of Jesus, in repentance and reflection, and in celebration. They made it clear that the most important aspect of their lives is their family. When they travel to perform, they always travel with their two sons-both of whom participated in the program. Mrs. Franklin spoke about the restoration of the family when husband and wife are unified. (Sound familiar?) They home school their boys. So the event had an emotional, right brain component intermixed with the cerebral left brain content. All the speakers except Bill McCartney utilized computer-generated images and several short videoswe viewed some eight videos, ranging in length from 3 to 10 minutes, in the four and a half hour program. All together the music, the mixed media, the prayer and the interesting content made for an enriching experience.
Unificationists, I believe, may have pioneered this type of seminar production, especially with the CAUSA seminars in the early 80s. Our 1996 True Family Values seminars had an impressive mix of music, prayer, media and content as well. But these people, I daresay, are surpassing us, especially in one area. That area is the integration of music, worship (a word virtually unknown to Unificationists) and prayer with the intellectual content. Another area in which they surpass us is packaging and marketing their materials.
The final speaker was "Coach" Bill McCartney, founder and guiding light of the Promise Keepers. His greatness, for me, lies in the confessional stance that he takes when he speaks. He constantly uses the phrase, "I believe." And he takes what could be controversial stands, stating, "I believe this." He brought up the idea of our civilization reaching "total moral anarchy," defined as the absence of moral authority, that God will not be known as God, that God's word will have no authority and that Christianity will have no influence. He has feared that America is dangerously close to the line of moral anarchy. Then he told us that he had set aside time to hear Bill Clinton's State of the Union address this year. He wanted to hear what the man had to say to the nation. At the beginning, he heard Clinton proclaim, emphatically, "The state of the union is strong." And then he heard the Congress explode in applause-not just polite applause, but enthusiastic applause.
He said that at the moment that Clinton spoke those words and received that applause, he believes, our nation entered a state of total moral anarchy. And he stood up and turned off the speech. That a major religious figure of this nation would make that statement and take that action is very significant. (I, not yet a major religious figure, could not even bear to set my eyes upon the State of the Union dog and pony show.)
Mr. McCartney has been researching about revivals in history. He cited Charles Spurgeon and David Brainerd, and it brought my dry old American church history bones to life. He identified six signs of a revival, as evidence that we are already in the midst of at least the beginnings of one. First, longing for something better, "holy unrest." Second, Concerted prayer effort (Ps 85.4-6). Third, a renewal and new appreciation of spiritual gifts-preaching, music, prayer. Fourth, the deepening of conviction and tearful sorrow over sin (Phil 2.15-16). Fifth, a special sense of the presence of the Lord spreading mightily. Sixth, reformation, both of the individual and of society. He said, several times, that we are in the last days, that we are out of time, that a massive revival is barreling down upon us, that an explosion of love is coming soon. He foresees that "God is coming to visit us in an extraordinary way."
He even said that January 1, 2000, is "judgment day." He is calling Christians to spend that day first in family devotions, then in church devotions, making a special effort to cross denominational and racial lines. Also he has commissioned 15 major Christian preachers, independently, to pray for two months and then articulate God's message for the new millennium. He asked them to video tape their conveyance of God's message, and send the tapes to him. He will edit them, and he expects-it seems-some degree of unanimity. The final product he will broadcast January 1, 2000.
Then he cited Christian pollster George Barna's publication that 80% of GenX youth who were raised in the church have left. He said that if we do not build a strategy to reach young people we will lose an entire generation (sound familiar?).
He concluded by expounding on the Lighthouse strategy, using Luke 10.5 as his resource. This is the story of Jesus sending out his disciples to witness. Jesus outlined four steps. First, walk by the house and send your peace upon it. Second, fellowship with the people. He said that in his new neighborhood, to which he just moved, he spent time walking and "sending his peace" into each house, and then anyone whom he encountered from those houses on the street were obviously sent to him by God. He would make friends. Third, after developing friendship, he asks if there is a way he can help them, especially in prayer. Fourth, he welcomes them into God's kingdom.
David Mains has a different strategy. He sets up a food drive for a local shelter, and then goes door to door in his neighborhood asking if they would like to donate anything. He does this once every two weeks. Then, after getting acquainted with the people this way, he asks if they had any prayer requests. The next step is to invite them to join his prayer group.
Two Personal Encounters
I was there with HSA Publications Director Michael Inglis. During a break, Michael spotted Coach McCartney coming into the room, introduced himself and gave him a gift of two True Family Values seminar lecture manuals. Mr. McCartney was happy to receive them, Michael said, and gave him a hug.
At the moment that was taking place, I was talking with a pastor of a new paradigm church, one that he started "as a Bible study with a bunch of long-haired people" outside of Philadelphia. When I told him I am senior pastor with the Unification Church in Manhattan, it drew a blank, and I helped him identify me with the standard follow-up, "You know Reverend Moon!" Oh yes, and he was immediately asking me if we have a relationship with Jesus, and about the current rumors, and if we are a cult. I told him that God anointed Reverend and Mrs. Moon as True Parents and so we are a little different from your standard church. We were on our way to a good talk when the break ended, but he caught me at the end, among the 300 or so pastors there, to give me his card.
Why did he give me his card? Here's what I think. The conservative Christians can't figure us out. We're in all their anti-cult books alongside the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientology and so forth. But they know that we are promoting what they believe in and that we are, for want of a better term, good Christians. We believe in the blood of Jesus. If we were really of the devil, they know we would have disappeared long ago, but here we are, with a university and powerful pro-family newspaper, adventuring with the Garden of Eden in South America, filling up stadiums with godly brides and bridegrooms, and full of interest in what they are doing. We are still around, and they know we believe all Christianity should unite, that True Parents are the Messiah in some way, shape or form, and that we believe in the family and faithful marriage.
Because of True Parents' work, God is preserving and prospering the new paradigm Christians. But because of our own lack of love and proclamation as members, they still do not understand True Parents. They still have the "hold" button pressed. Their new paradigm relates to method, not message. When they receive, from God, the message of True Parents, then their "John the Baptist generation" foundation will allow the message to blossom and America, with Jesus' help, will fulfill her divine destiny. Then, Coach McCartney, the revival will come, the likes of which you and I can never imagine.
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