The “Cloud” Is Moving But Is The Church Ready To Move With It?
In 22 years of marriage my wife Tammy and I have lived in 8 different locations. We have moved from Hong Kong, to Colorado, to China, and then back to Hong Kong. In the process we have learned not to accumulate too much unnecessary “stuff” in our lives and can be surprisingly brutal when it comes to parting with “treasures” at those times that we find ourselves on the move again.
And we will move again…
Israel on the Move
In the book of Numbers the Israelites were in a similar lifestyle arrangement.
They were constantly on the move…
Having been delivered from captivity in Egypt they found themselves following the presence of God in the form of a cloud out in the desert.
When the Cloud lifted above the Tent, the People of Israel marched out; and when the Cloud descended the people camped…As long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, they camped. Even when the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for many days, they honored God’s command and wouldn’t march. They stayed in camp, obedient to God’s command, as long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, but the moment God issued orders they marched.
If the Cloud stayed only from sunset to daybreak and then lifted at daybreak, they marched. Night or day, it made no difference—when the Cloud lifted, they marched. It made no difference whether the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for two days or a month or a year, as long as the Cloud was there, they were there. And when the Cloud went up, they got up and marched. They camped at God’s command and they marched at God’s command.
Numbers 9:17-23 (The Message Bible)
Now I can imagine if you only camped a night and the cloud moved you’d be ready to go right away. You wouldn’t have even really unpacked at all.
But what if the cloud hadn’t moved for a month?
By then you’d have figured out where the good watering holes are. You’d figured where to set your chair at a certain time of day not to get too hot or cold. You would have begun to get comfortable…
What if the cloud hadn’t moved in a year?
By then you would have made that temporary dwelling tent a little more permanent. Maybe an extra room added on? You would have perhaps built a hammock to catch the cool breeze you know always picks up at a certain time in the afternoon or taught your child how to fish in the pond near your tent.
You would have built a home…
And then the cloud suddenly lifts …
…God is moving!
And you have a decision to make. Do you stay…or do you go?
Do you break down the semi-permanent structures you erected while you were camped in order to follow God? Do you give away that big comfy chair that you loved so much while bivouacked but would be totally dead weight while on the move?
Do you give up:
in order to be led by God?
Do you stay…or do you go?
The Cloud is still Moving
We may not have a physical cloud to follow but God’s presence is moving today every bit as much as it did for the Israelites all those years ago. I’d like to think that when God’s cloud moved back then there had been a lot of excitement.
I imagine there was…
…I can also imagine there were a lot of groans!
“Are you kidding me! I finally got everything settled just the way I like it and now God decides to move? What’s wrong with this place? God led us here…here seems good enough? Look at all the good things we have and all that we have accomplished here.
I don’t want to move!
I could see a lot of agitation by those who were settled in the present arrangement towards those that we excited about moving on. People who are enthusiastically packing their bags and willing to follow where God is leading can be very irritating to those sitting in a big religious comfy chair!
Pastor Brian Zahnd echos this “fork in the road” decision that is looming for the church in a recent article :
Western Christianity is at a critical juncture. Those who care deeply about the church are aware of this. Things are not as they once were. Things are changing. Dramatically so. Even if we don’t understand what is happening, we can certainly feel it…
…There is a sense in which we have come to the end of the line—not the end of the line for Christianity, but the end of the line for the track we have been on. We are like people on a subway who have taken a particular train as far as it will go. We now find ourselves sitting in the terminus. We have two choices. We can sit on a train that is going nowhere, or we can disembark and find our way through the confusing labyrinth of the terminus and locate the proper platform to catch the train which will take us farther down the line.
Brian Zahnd- “End of the Line”
I love the place I am currently living. We have lived in our little 1000 sq. foot Hong Kong apartment now for 4 years, 3 months and 6 days. We have good friends and a tight knit community. I have a small balcony on the 21st floor where I can sit in the evenings and watch the large ocean container ships stream by across the channel below. Its relaxing and I love it!
But I know I will not always have it.
At some point the cloud will move and it will be time for us to pack again. Knowing this makes me all the more appreciative of what I have now. And it makes me realize what is really important.
See, when we move, stuff will get thrown out! So I try not to get to attached to “stuff” because that “stuff” may have to go. The only guaranteed thing that remains during a move is my family.
Yes, there is stress during a move and tempers can flare. There has never been for us a “stress-free” move! What we have come to realize though is the more “stuff” that has to be jettisoned, the more stress.
Likewise a “move” is coming for the church; and it’s causing a bit of stress! A lot of people are clinging to semi-permanant structures and stuff that won’t be able to come with
…and its causing some strife and stress.
What we have to remember though is its the family that is important!
The world will know we are Christ’s disciples by the love we have for each other.
As we make this “move” let’s remember to have grace for all our family members;
both those who are excited about the next leg of the journey…and those who aren’t!
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