The Development of a Friendship

Dave and I have been in conversation for over a year now, and are looking forward to sharing some of our thoughts and encouraging others to join the conversation.  We have been on very different journeys. In the comments that follow I have tried to draw out just a little of the depth of that friendship, and the way the conversation developed.

We were discussing the roles of teachers and prophets.  Teachers (like Dave) need to use material that is appropriate for the age group, with language that the students understand.  Dave had used a ‘traditional’ definition of a prophet as one who stands on the watchtower and cries out, but I see my role as one who is out in front – but more like a hermit – someone isolated to some extent from the rough and tumble of the world around us – made possible in my case by the support of my wife who gives me the freedom I seem to need – without really understanding some of what I am trying to say.

Dave had described the role of the teacher as the one to explain and assimilate (to take in and incorporate as one’s own).  I found this interesting but only subsequently.  It is surely the role of the student to assimilate.  I wonder if there is any significance in that. How often do young leaders explain what they have been taught before they have assimilated the real lessons that still need to be learned from the realities of life? How often are these leaders giving the sort of explanations that their hearers want to hear – the security of being told what to believe?

Some of us have been led to question what we have been taught – that’s tough on teachers – it undermines their ‘authority’. The hermit is aware that in many cases there is no one right answer. That fact alone makes it almost impossible for the hermit to teach others. But when the teacher becomes aware of the need for a few retrofits, the hermit can be there to offer suggestions. The teacher can go on teaching – but will be more open minded about those things that are being reconsidered.

Many in ministry do seem to understand the dilemma of whether or not to continue to minister to the majority of older people who will remain in the conformist stage, while fewer and fewer younger people accept much of the old ways.

It was while I was considering my own position again that the work I did on safe havens some 15 years ago really came back into focus – the idea that we should be concentrating not on what we believe, but how what we believe affects our understanding of the purpose of life.  This seems to be a perfect example of cognitive dissonance – that uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. Something that is almost impossible for those in leadership positions who need to have all the answers – who want to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s! These are people (often because of their theological knowledge) who are unable to cope with the possibilities of myth and symbolism. Everything for them needs a logical and rational explanation – but is there anything rational or logical in the death and resurrection of Jesus?

Dave knows how I have been influenced for over 60 years by the teachings of the trinity. That’s where my questioning started and I suppose that’s why I’ve always taken everything with at least a pinch of salt. It was around 1967 that in a men’s discussion group that I asked the question, “What is the purpose of life?” and was told immediately by the Vicar, “Peter, you can’t ask that, it is the 64,000 dollar question” (a lot of money in those days). Maybe an equally significant question that ‘religion’ seems to have no answer to is, “why suffering?”

One result of all my questioning is that I had been led to question the traditional teachings based on the Genesis story in particular. For me I had accepted that God existed and that a plan and purpose were being worked out here on earth (to quote Winston Churchill). But I had recognised that something wasn’t right. Then I was introduced to the concept of retrofits – replacing some of the foundations without destroying the structure. This was in the context of saving the edifice that was the Worldwide Church of God. All of this seemed to come together when I discovered the writings of Richard Holloway and broken myths.

More recently I have come to understand that there are many former leaders who have come to understand certain aspects of the Christian FAITH such as the significance of grace, who have created followings. These are people who are supporting some of those who are being drawn away from traditional teachings – and there are many including N T Wright and Wayne Jacobsen (two people who have had a big influence on my journey).

Then at the end of December I got ‘carried away’ again in what I entitled, ‘Another Meander’:
How often have you read something that really attracts your attention – something that has a profound effect on your thinking? How often when you look at it again later do you see that something now doesn’t quite ring true? How often have you been able to move beyond the understanding of the writer of the original material? I find myself thinking of some of the material I have read – including a few books. The authors had something to say – they get a bit of a following and are urged to write more. How often might this impede their own growth because they are building on all that has gone before, instead of being still and listening to what others might have learned from their original material? All of this is prompted by a picture I have now of my own position – looking at the world from outside the goldfish bowl! The explanation will become more obvious as I continue – it’s a more profound picture than the one I had about six years ago that I never really made sense of at the time.

What follows is prompted by Wolfgang Simson’s attempted definitions (in ‘Houses that Change the World’) of pastors, prophets and teachers, bearing in mind that I wasn’t really happy with the suggestion that I was a bit of a prophet

The pastor is by nature a shepherd – he stands in the middle of the flock. Everything swirls around him – a very loving person who can create a family atmosphere. To him relationships are the most important, simply because he is interested in the flock’s long-term spiritual well-being. But a pastor tends to lose sight of the big picture because he is lost in relationships.

The prophet is often away from the flock – few really understand him. He is interested not so much in people and what they think of him, but in God’s voice for the situation. Added to that, he often has a complicated and disorganised personality. Can you imagine spending a relaxed half hour drinking coffee with Jeremiah?

A prophet’s perspective is radically different from that of the pastor. He hears from God and quite mercilessly questions everything, including the pastor, from God’s perspective (his healthy and God-given duty). For that reason, there is also a historical tension between the pastor and the prophet: one is a defender of the status quo, who wants to maintain the community; the other questions everything and is seen (rightly) by many others as a threat, because he disrupts things and wants ‘movement now’.

The shepherd, in many pictures, not only has a stick in his hand to tend the sheep and keep away the wolves; he may be quick in using that stick to keep away prophets. And yet both views are valid, because both are serving God and the same flock – one with loving attention, the other with a prophetic view. Both are necessary!

Prophets often have a unique ability to see and hear what others do not see nor hear. These supernatural revelations need to go through a process of healthy interpretation.

The teacher using the picture of his relationship to the flock of sheep, lives at a critical distance from the flock, so that he can send out his dogs in time to deal with a sheep that is misbehaving or one that is unconsciously separating itself from the flock as it grazes. His motto is: “The truth, and nothing but the truth!” The teacher is interested in quality, in the details, which he finds even more fascinating than the big picture. He is often a ‘footnote’ person in the truest and best sense of the word, who likes details and needs to know everything exactly.

Wolfgang then goes on to suggest that the teacher has a passion for teaching itself, and his gift is to empower others to teach others how to teach. He is, like Jesus, his master Rabbi, leaving behind not primarily teaching notes but literally his spirit.

Wolfgang has an evangelical background which seems to be reflected in his definition of teacher – needing to know everything exactly. That in my mind contradicts his suggestion that teachers have a gift of empowering others to teach others how to teach. Sadly we have very few good teachers who really do know how to empower others to the point where the teachers learn from their pupils, as a result of which we all move forward.

I have this sense of looking at the goldfish bowl from the outside. The traditional view of a prophet is as you suggested, of one who stands on the watchtower and cries out. That’s not me! For as long as I can remember (probably 30+ years) I have frequently been reminded of the picture of Jesus (Isa 53) as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and found myself wondering where is that grief and sorrow in the church today?

I know I was drawn to the Worldwide Church of God for a purpose. There were many lessons. The church did not accept the teachings of the trinity and much of the emphasis of our prayer life was directed to ‘Father’. “The Shack” was a real eye opener for me – it brought so much together. It subsequently helped me to understand why so much Christian RELIGION is based on fear and guilt and what I see as a misguided place of Jesus in the minds of many people (part of which Dave has highlighted in “The Church and the Genie in the Bottle”).

A few years ago I had this picture of standing on a hill watching the priests go in and out of the Temple. Some were serving the Lord out of sight within the Temple, while others were serving the people openly (and in many cases telling the people what they wanted to hear).

Now I see myself looking at the world from a distance – seeing in some small part, what God our Father is seeing of what is going on. Seeing from the outside I am like a fish out of water. Fish can only live for a limited time in such an environment. I’m guessing that I’ve been outside again for a season for a purpose. There are a few people, drawn by the Holy Spirit, who will understand something of what I am writing. Maybe they will draw me back into the bowl. If we are talking about meaningful relationships then realistically there will never be more than about 20 people with whom I could have deep and meaningful relationships. But if we all start ‘networking’ and sharing our thoughts who knows what might happen!

Dave responded:
You highlighted a very important point in your last email. When you read the writing of intelligent people it can often be the case that what they say sounds good because they are accomplished communicators, yet at the same time something in the back of your mind is trying to warn you about something not quite right about the message. This is the depth of the value of what you and I are trying to work out together. It is easy to write, to allow others to make their comments and judgments good or bad, and to leave it at that. I think one of the greatest failures of the church through the ages is they have found a great truth but left it at that without giving it the opportunity to have a life of its own. (Pete has a significantly different perspective – maybe there is the basis here for an interesting discussion).  I see a much greater value in conversation – the opportunity to express views that may change in the course of the conversation – or at least be refined in the process to better communicate truth. (This brings to mind some of the fundamental differences between introverts and extroverts).  I think we can produce a conversation that is influenced not only by the sharing of our own ideas with each other, but with the insights and comments of others we can produce a living dialogue on some very important issues. You have some very intelligent friends – I’ve read through their various comments on your blog as well as some of their outside material – and the value of initiating a living dialogue cannot be understated.

. . . I have personally considered myself closer to Barnabas than any of the Eph 4 “five-fold ministry” descriptions. In fact, I think in some ways I’m a Barnabas to your Paul – hopefully without the split – an advocate and a defender to your detractors in “Jerusalem”. There is great value in the things you write about, and I get frustrated when people dismiss you without careful consideration of what you’ve said. Perhaps I can describe it better by describing my view on the various institutions of the church.

From a Western point of view, authority lies in Scripture alone – thus the 1st question to be considered in any theological conversation must be who or what has authority to determine truth. To the Eastern viewpoint the question of authority is inappropriate because it understands Scripture and the entire history of the church as an expression of truth. Thus Protestantism locates authority within Scripture alone. Catholicism locates authority within the church hierarchy, ultimately the Pope. Eastern Orthodoxy locates authority not solely within Scripture, but within the Scriptures and the history of the church as a living entity which verifies truth not by council (Trent, etc), not by Scripture alone, but in the living expression of truth in the everyday life of each believer and the church as a whole. The Western viewpoint shuts down any conversation which does not begin in their seat of authority while the Eastern viewpoint provides much more opportunity for dialogue. I personally feel one of the most fascinating aspects of our friendship and our conversation is the fact that we both come from a Western view yet we express and live more of an Eastern view – how can that not be perhaps the best position of all to be in? It highlights what I think is the best part of our conversations.

Later Dave wrote:
Let me say that I sincerely consider our correspondence a conversation and a living dialogue carried out in the course of letters written back and forth. You cannot discount our ages, the fact that historically writing letters back and forth would have been how we communicated. The only thing that has changed about our communication is the speed with which it gets delivered and the cost of postage. I think we have a distinct advantage over the younger generation in adapting our formal education styles to the modern system. The younger set seems to have abbreviated its ability to communicate, and in doing so it has lost something very valuable. We have maintained the form of paragraphs and complete sentences, as well as the modems of courtesy and respect, which the younger generation seems to be losing grip of daily. I think it is primarily caused by the lack of understanding that despite the fact that this electronic age has dramatically changed the “method” of communication, it has not and cannot change the fact it is still “conversation” and a “living dialogue” between people, which must be afforded all the respect and attention we were taught as children to give it.

As a clarification of my own, the history of Barnabas and Paul is much akin to the history of Jonathon and David. The history is one of friendship, of respect and love and admiration between two people. In each relationship there was one who rose to the defense of the other. So, yes, you correctly perceived the meaning as summed up in the expression of my frustration over your treatment at the hands – or fingers, internet-wise – of others. But it would be insufficient to think that the idea of defending you is the only sense in which the comparison applies. Preachers are very good at drawing out the key points of a particular passage which best illustrate a point they desire to make. Sometimes that results in a less than full picture of what a particular passage intends to convey. In our case, I highlight the aspect of Barnabas defending Paul, which I find myself occasionally doing for you, but that only illustrates one small aspect of the whole relationship, and it would be a tragedy to confine the relationship to one small action. The Bible reveals enough about the two relationships to understand that whatever particular actions are related are a small part of the whole relationship, which clearly is one of mutual love, respect, and dear friendship – the same is true of my words. I certainly do consider you a dear friend for whom I have a great deal of love and respect for. I hope this clarifies my meaning.

Now, let’s begin moving on with the ideas I expressed concerning the diverse views of the East and West. Your Anglican background, and your entire faith journey, combined with my own journey into faith provides a perfect breeding ground for discovery. I have been told that my own beliefs more closely resemble a marriage of East and West than anything Protestant denominationalism can define, at least here in the US. Given the historical framework of East and West in the formation of the church and the impact each side had on theology and practice, I can see how that conclusion is made about my own views. Philosophically I can explore the subject with great interest; experientially I can only say it makes me an outcast in any conversation with a staunch fundamentalist from either side. But, give me an open mind and I can demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of each side in a way that illustrates the need of the church today to return to its historical beginnings, when both sides were in complete agreement and fellowship, relying on the unique aspects of each to constitute the whole.

Later Dave wrote:
I read the sentence again – “I think one of the greatest failures of the church through the ages…” – and I realize I didn’t accurately convey my meaning. I would change it to more accurately express my view to this: “I think one of the greatest failures of the church through the ages is that when they have discovered a great truth they built a religion around it rather than allowing that truth to become a part of the greater whole of revealed truth in the church.” The entire history of the Protestant church is the greatest example of this, for every denomination has evolved this way. Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal – the pattern is the same: a truth is uncovered, and rather than becoming a part of the whole of revealed truth it is isolated to become a religion in itself. That being said, I am very interested in your perspective – this is an excellent topic for one of the conversations that would undoubtedly benefit from as many viewpoints as possible.

The most important point that is revealed in what you have written is the differences between us that have drawn us together and encouraged our conversation, which is opposite the normal reaction between people of differing views – this is a valuable insight that I think will encourage readers to be comfortable joining in the conversation. The introduction reveals a commonality of motive and intent that unites rather divides us in light of our differences, and it reveals the respect and the friendship which exists between us, the value of which can not be understated. This is absolutely essential to encouraging the reader to contribute to the conversation. I feel no need to add to your words.

At the end of January I wrote:
There have been times when I have described life as a series of climbs that end on a new and higher plateau where there has then been time to rest and share the experience with others. I guess I’ve just finished the steepest climb so far – with just one obvious companion – my friend Dave!

That may sound strange but a few days ago I found myself thinking that I have been even more isolated from people over the last few months while creating a community web site and redeveloping my own blogs. I have wondered many times over recent years why it was that I was given this understanding that the Christian faith is all about relationships with Father – and not being able to share that with others. There are two thoughts that often come to mind – a hermit – and a man of sorrows acquainted with grief (seeing something of the world from Father’s perspective) – and wondering how much longer? As a result of my own journey I have been able to watch much of what is going on as a bit of an outsider – this is true of the world in general as well as watching the apparently disastrous impact that religion has had within our own extended family – and that has often been a very uncomfortable position to be in!

 ***

After this I was caught up for a few days exploring the world of the pastors turned atheists who still preach because they are dependent on their incomes, while they plan their ‘exit strategies’.  Some really don’t want to upset their congregations!  A few of the leavers are becoming militant atheists – as a result of intense reasoning and the use of logic.  I’ve been involved with the emerging / emergent / house church scene for almost ten years, and my understanding leads me to believe that the great majority of these people gradually become more and more agnostic – sometimes over a period of many years.  I’ve seen it suggested that at least 18,000 are leaving the ministry every year.  But for all those leaving, how many are ‘hanging on’, trying to change things from the inside, and waiting until they can draw their pension?  I have considerable empathy with some of these people, especially having shared so much with a few leaders as they came to terms within the Worldwide Church of God with the changes that occurred in 1995.  We have to bear in mind that these decisions have not been dealt with lightly.  And we must not forget that one of the responsibilities of leaders is to have ‘answers’ that many in the congregations are always looking for.  What do these leaders do when they begin to doubt the answers that they are still giving?  Not only have I been outside the goldfish bowl of ‘traditional’ Christianity for some 40 years, I have never had a leadership position.  I have never accepted all that I was taught – there was always the chance to just put a few thoughts ‘on the shelf’.

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11 Responses to The Development of a Friendship

  1. Dave Price says:

    Pete this is wonderful! This is the best picture of you I have seen you write yet, and it reveals so much of what I love about you. I honestly believe when people read this they will see the wonderful things I see in you. This is the piece that puts all your writing, all your questions in a light that makes it easy to understand where you are coming from. It is always difficult to read an author without knowing anything about him – it is the personal insights that give perspective to his words and allow a reader to become engaged in the conversation. I know this was a tough hill for you to climb, but you have made it to the top, and the reward is fantastic! Well done, Pete, well done.

  2. Peter says:

    Yes it has been a tough climb – and yes I’ve reached another plateau – but this time I find myself more isolated than before. I’ve highlighted what I see as the main topics that need to be considered by those who are being drawn to reconsider the foundations of the Christian FAITH as opposed to the foundations of the Christian RELIGION or CHRISTENDOM (my post on ‘A Room of Grace‘).

    I found it very significant that a few days ago Dave sent me a quote from G K Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man” – “The point of this book, in other words, is that the next best thing to being really inside Christendom is to be really outside it. And a particular point is that the popular critics of Christianity are not really outside it . . . the best relation to our spiritual home is to be near enough to love it. But the next best is to be far enough away not to hate it. It is the contention of these pages that while the best judge of Christianity is a Christian, the next best judge would be something more like a Confucian. The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgments; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what . . .
    How life has changed! I guess it would be interesting to compare what I have written with the thoughts of GKC on the meaning of ‘Christendom’!

    I’m no scholar – even if I was once described as a ‘frustrated intellectual’ – but I have isolated four main topics that still need to be included. If this is to be a safe haven we need to encourage others to share their thoughts on the foundations, and be aware that we don’t have all the answers and we do not need to have the same views on all topics – that we have unique individual perspectives as a result of our own unique journeys.

    Rich recently commented on his blog, “What if the massive extent of available Christian teaching is the cause of most of our confusion?” – see. Now there is an interesting thought!

    It’s time for me to step back, relax, and explore some of the earlier steps that have brought me to where I am now. I guess it’s the comments of others that will at least to some extent, drive that exploration.

  3. rantz72 says:

    Pete,

    In reading this again I want to jot down thoughts that come to mind, and I emphasize the word thoughts, my thoughts, not saying they are correct, but their mine.

    The whole issue of the teacher and prophet things still grates on me, why, its still a carry over from so much crap I use to be involved with and tried to pursue.
    My first question is, why can’t it simply be siblings sharing and exchanging in the unfolding revelation of the mutual One life we share; partakers of His divine nature? Why do we have to limit and constrict this supernatural flow of life by badges and buttons of demarcation to make sure no one is confused as to who and what we are, you know, like how humans are so great at labelling their religious denominations, Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal etc etc, why, so that you will never confuse one from the other, God forbid that should ever happen!

    I think we might re-examine just what teaching really is and in so doing come to see that who we are in Christ and as that is being made known to us is very much a growing part of us individually being learned of Him, and out of that we don’t minister, but simply love and care for people.
    I’ve always wonder what the hell happened to those Jesus grew up with in those 30 years before his so called public “ministry” without him ever being able to “teach” anyone?

    You said here; “More recently I have come to understand that there are many former leaders who have come to understand certain aspects of the Christian FAITH such as the significance of grace, who have created followings. These are people who are supporting some of those who are being drawn away from traditional teachings – and there are many including N T Wright and Wayne Jacobsen (two people who have had a big influence on my journey).”

    Question, it says that the Law came by Moses but grace and truth came in and with Jesus, was Jesus trying to establish a following with his use of a “grace message”? Is grace simply just one more thing to follow? Or, is it much more about what Jesus said he came for, that we might have Life and knowing it without any limitations?

    I liked what Dave said here; “Later Dave wrote:
    I read the sentence again – “I think one of the greatest failures of the church through the ages…” – and I realize I didn’t accurately convey my meaning. I would change it to more accurately express my view to this: “I think one of the greatest failures of the church through the ages is that when they have discovered a great truth they built a religion around it rather than allowing that truth to become a part of the greater whole of revealed truth in the church.” The entire history of the Protestant church is the greatest example of this, for every denomination has evolved this way. Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal – the pattern is the same: a truth is uncovered, and rather than becoming a part of the whole of revealed truth it is isolated to become a religion in itself. That being said, I am very interested in your perspective – this is an excellent topic for one of the conversations that would undoubtedly benefit from as many viewpoints as possible.”

    If a “truth” is uncovered, in my opinion, it should lead us to seeing with greater clarity the TRUTH, rather than exalting the experience, perhaps the uncovering of a new truth aka, experience is much like having a dirty widow cleaned giving one a truer and clearer ability to see much more than before.

    When we separate truth from the Person of Truth we’re only looking for a ditch to lead others into imo.

    Pete, you said; “That may sound strange but a few days ago I found myself thinking that I have been even more isolated from people over the last few months while creating a community web site and redeveloping my own blogs. I have wondered many times over recent years why it was that I was given this understanding that the Christian faith is all about relationships with Father – and not being able to share that with others. There are two thoughts that often come to mind – a hermit – and a man of sorrows acquainted with grief (seeing something of the world from Father’s perspective) – and wondering how much longer? As a result of my own journey I have been able to watch much of what is going on as a bit of an outsider – this is true of the world in general as well as within our own extended family – and that has often been a very uncomfortable position to be in!”

    Why is this so strange in light of our elder brother Jesus being kept as it were in seclusion for 30 long years out of which he lived only another 3, just food for thought my friend?

    I loved reading all of this again,
    Rich

  4. Dave Price says:

    The conversation is growing and I am enjoying everything so much. I’d like to respond to Rich’s comments.

    Your first comments centered on the idea of teachers and prophets. To fill out the explanation, Pete and I had a couple emails back and forth talking a little bit about how we see each other. I had mentioned that I see a lot of the old time prophet in Pete, in the sense that he has spent a lot of time in the “desert” alone and when he came/comes out he often has a message that needs to be heard but its a message that will challenge the listener. Pete replied he felt more like a hermit, which I associated in my mind with the ascetics of ancient times who isolated themselves to be separated from the world in order to focus solely on study and prayer – a person would associate that with a monk today. Pete made the comment that he thought I was more of a teacher, but unlike most teachers I wasn’t just interested in teaching my view but in listening to others responses to my view in order to grow my own understanding – it was a comment that humbled me and made me feel honored in Pete’s eyes, and isn’t that one of the greatest gifts of friendship? We laughed that Pete is more of a questions guy – he’s never afraid to ask the hard question – but I’m more of a conclusions guy, though I’m never adamant about the finality or the truth of my own conclusions. It was the conversation of friendship, not the classification of religious standing.

    However, I might like to respond to Rich’s comment on teachers and prophets because it has far reaching influence. I immediately saw in Rich’s words what I see so much of in the religious world today, that is, the pain and suffering that has been inflicted by those who have called themselves teachers and prophets. I have had my own painful experiences, as has Pete, as have far too many others, and it is exactly those people that Pete, Rich and I reach out to most. My comment would be that I wouldn’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Meaning, there is a place for teachers and prophets, though I’m absolutely sure that if you have to call yourself a teacher or a prophet then you definitely are not one – those aren’t job descriptions, they are definitions that sum up the action and character of a person. So my “conclusion” (don’t you love how I came back to that 🙂 is that if one lives a life as Rich describes it and considers oneself nothing but a brother and a fellow traveler, and should find at the end of his life that others have considered him a friend and a teacher, he should find himself in a blessed place.

    There are times when I am astounded at what I find. This is one of those times. As to Rich’s question, Why did Jesus come? my first response is His response to that question – “I have come to do the will of the Father…” 2000 years of study in the church history has yet to discover the depth of that statement. The church turns the question on a universal pivot – it must define exactly the answer according to its doctrine. Myself, I turn the question inward personally – each person must decide for himself why he believes Jesus came, because the implications are entirely personal. Will such questioning yield some universal answers – yes; but far more importantly, it will yield highly unique individual answers that may and must only apply uniquely to each individual. It is the highly unique and individual answer that the church – and by implication, mankind as a whole, has never been comfortable with – the idea that the same Jesus could be and mean something entirely different to me than He does to you without contradiction or conflict in the person and work of Jesus. How could anyone expect it to be otherwise has always escaped me, but we all know the church is built on uniform definition and not individual revelation. But that is not what astounds me. What astounds me is there is not a question to be asked that someone, or many someones, has not already asked and put up a page about it on the internet. Thus my amazement, when I read Rich’s question, at the sheer number of pages available when I Googled “Why did Jesus come?” Go see for yourself.

    My last comment I reserve for Pete’s words – that he sees himself as a hermit and as a man of sorrows. There is a verse in Proverbs that says the Father sends a brother alongside in a time of need; it is the guiding principle of my life. This is what I am supposed to do, what I am supposed to focus on, to come alongside others in their time of need, to walk with them and to help them carry their burdens until they are strong enough to carry on. When I am faithful to who I am supposed to be, everything that I require is provided for me. For example, did Pete and I meet at the perfect time for both of us? Absolutely! I have had the great honor to walk alongside Pete these past few months precisely when he felt isolated, to embrace him, to encourage him, to enjoy the wonders of his friendship. In return, I have been richly blessed, I have been challenged by Pete to express my thoughts to the best of my ability, I have been encouraged by Pete to grow in my knowledge – to know better the things I think I know. Perhaps the Father brought us together to meet both our needs – imagine that! The lesson for me is a familiar one, and yet one I hope to be reminded of often: When I am true to myself, to who I am, to who I am called to be, to Whom I am called to follow, everything that I need and everything that I desire is provided to me – and if you ask me, THAT is why Jesus came.

  5. rantz72 says:

    I couldn’t wait to get home to reply to what Dave said here. I read it all earlier on my iPhone and loved every bit of it.

    I don’t wish to interfere in any way at all with how your conversation has been going with Pete or in how you see things. I believe I mentioned in my opening comments that I was sharing my thoughts and opinions, simply trying to add additional flavor to an already delicious meal laid out in your exchanged thoughts.
    I guess my contention especially with the imagery associated with the prophet (prophetic) is that rather than the Old Testament images depicting or defining us, I see it being His life uniquely defining each of us.
    There never was another person who ardently pursued the prophetic more than I did, and that story covers a lot of years in my journey.
    I don’t see what I have done since coming to see who and Whose I am, of throwing the baby out with the bath water at all. As with pretty much everything that has been handed down to us, I see that these things are in many cases much more and much less than what it might all really mean and look like.
    If I was to look at the vast amount of time I’ve spent similar to Pete, as a hermit, and so many other things that so many have said absolutely resonates with them as me being prophetic, it would be very easy to launch out into that arena, and believe I did for the longest of time.
    Sadly none of that ever truly defined the longing of my heart.

    I very much liked how you Dave, extrapolated on Pete’s comment of you being more of a teacher; “but unlike most teachers I wasn’t just interested in teaching my view but in listening to others responses to my view in order to grow my own understanding.”
    Personally, I feel that is one great way to mature and to be further internally expanded, by listening to others responses to my thoughts, great stuff.

    I wonder if those disciples on the road to Emmaus tried to type cast Jesus when their hearts suddenly were ablaze because of His opening their minds to begin to see so much more to the scriptures than previously seen.
    Type casting as in; was he a prophet, a priest, a king, an evangelist, a teacher or what, or was it really much more about realising perhaps that God had actually and practically had deliberate intercourse with the deep places within them.

    I especially loved this Dave; “that if one lives a life as Rich describes it and considers oneself nothing but a brother and a fellow traveler, and should find at the end of his life that others have considered him a friend and a teacher, he should find himself in a blessed place.” I so agree with all of my heart!

    I loved the thoughts you shared on why Jesus came, and how it is to be seen and understood very much on a personal level.
    I see Father, Son and Spirit coming to each of us asking us; what is this or that to you, meaning, rather than coming and saying, this is what it is and don’t waste anymore time trying to see it any other way. Religion is great at never coloring outside the lines of Law.

    For me, why did Jesus come, is very simple, to BE the person I was always meant to BE. And how he so chooses to express His life uniquely through me is fine by me. The 5 fold expressions that are depicted in Ephesians 4, I see being His life in the believer, and at any time He can make Himself known through us as us without us even wearing the proper badge, according to man’s views.

    I love being part of this ongoing conversation; to say that I am learning is putting it mildly!

  6. Peter says:

    Rich: you are obviously meant to be part of this conversation. I really appreciated the way in which you immediately brought up your concern about being prophetic. I had read ‘Houses that Change the World’ more than ten years ago, and spent a lot of time corresponding on a ‘Revivalist’ forum about eight years ago. I understand what the word ‘prophet’ means to many people, which is why, until prompted by Dave, I have been reluctant to use the word – and even then I have been careful to define what I mean by it – i.e. nothing to do with foretelling the future.

    I know from our earlier correspondence that we have a significantly different perspective on some aspects of the Christian faith. I’m looking forward to sharing those thoughts with a wider audience. You have said that you ardently pursued the prophetic for many years – can you give us a little background? Have you written about this elsewhere?

    That’s enough for now – and I haven’t even finished responding to the first paragraph of your first comment!

  7. rantz72 says:

    I’m not sure when or where I might have shared any thoughts on this issue of the prophetic, all I know is that I have been in conversations with a few people in the past about what use to be a very big part of my growing up spiritually regarding the prophetic.

    My conversion was as was my wife’s, beyond dramatic, Damascus Road stuff, not saying that unless it happens like it did to us its not real, that would be crazy talk for sure, simply pointing out for me that I knew even though nothing pointed to it, that I was meant for more than ever being a church warming the pew goer.

    The flow of prophetic utterances became more and more the norm for me; especially in light of the flavour of the camps I was involved in, ultra Charismatic, Pentecostal, Full Gospel, and lastly the Vineyard.
    It was the norm for me when and where ever I would go, if there was a prophetic speaker sharing when it came time for “ministering” I would inevitably be called out, as my wife would attest to this by saying, why does this happen all the time to Richard and not me?

    When this dimension of my life took on a super-charged flow was when I acme on board as the first assistant pastor the famous (infamous) John Arnott, the guy known for the Toronto Blessing. Becoming his right hand man was then in my opinion a dream come true, we traveled all over the place and in those travels I was exposed to a wide assortment of like minded prophetic people, sort of a birds of a feather thing.

    This all came crashing down around me not long after it started, which eventually turned into the birthing place of coming to see who and whose I really was apart from the prophetic.

    When I look back I now see it much like a metamorphosis that had taken place. I was before this a very visual and intuitive person and I continue to be probably even more so now.
    As I have written before in various places, when we do not respond to our Father allowing Him to unfold what our birth-right is, (we’ve been imo designed to crave this connection) we will inevitably begin to carve out an identity, much like what went down in the Garden.

    In saying all of this I am in no way throwing the baby or the tainted bath water out in one quick throw, all I know is that there are vast numbers of siblings like myself that are imo walking, existing in a no man’s land trying to make any sense out of what the hell happened in their lives.

    I remember back several years ago when I sensed Father speaking to my heart in preparation for where I now find myself, that in following His lead, I would cross paths with many more people outside of the religious institutions than inside, those who would never darken the door way of any religious establishment. It would be those He was setting me up to befriend.

    I will finish this up by sharing something I have shared with very few people, because of the personal impact upon my life then, and to this day.
    It was only days before being (euphemistically) let go from being the assistant pastor.
    We usually on the early part of the week met together the immediate leadership for a staff meeting, it was during this time when we opened up in prayer that the hand writing on the wall began to unravel my life and my future.
    Without going into all of what I saw and heard, suffice it to say that after following through on the encouragement of my piers to keep praying and seeking to see if Father would further elucidate what I was sensing, I heard this in my spirit, “I now give you permission to enter the fellowship of my sufferings.”
    The next day, I was called into the office and was told they were letting me go!
    There’s a ton of stuff before and after all of this, but as mortally wounded as I was, it proved to be life bursting forth from my death as time went on.

    Rich

  8. Dave Price says:

    After Rich posted his comment above two things happened: First, I had an immediate connection with Rich because I experienced Toronto as well, and that allowed me to understand Rich’s journey in a whole new light. Although it had a different impact on me, I encountered other people who had experiences like Rich’s for years after. Second, I was able to put Rich’s experience in context for Pete when Pete sent me an email asking if I understood what Rich was talking about. Here’s the content of the email I sent to Pete.

    Alright, I was up much of the night with this, just because it occupied my thoughts, not because it worried me or concerned me in any way. It brought back some old experiences, which was one of those God coincidences because I had just re-connected with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years with whom I had walked those experiences back in the mid-90’s. I am amazed at the grace of the Father, at the mental and spiritual protection He has given me throughout the years, as I have encountered up close and personal many leaders of various movements that have not ended so well. For example, in the mid to late 80’s I encountered the Worldwide Church of God, but it was only a brief and intense encounter in which I rejected their teaching and was involved in an intense conversation with their leadership at the time. What is fascinating to me is that, as you know, the church split after Armstrong’s death,with one part clinging to his teachings and one part moving into a solidly evangelical belief system – now the leader of that evangelical split has come across my writing on Hubpages and is asking me to contribute to Plain Truth magazine. They have already reprinted my article “The Genie in the Bottle” in their online version – http://www.ptm.org/uni/resources/ptmupdate/020612/1.html – and they are reprinting two more articles online and in print at the end of the year. How’s that for amazing?! I’m not sure I still know what to think of it all.

    The subject of prophecy as it has come up with Richard brought back another intense experience. I was involved with the Vineyard movement for a number of years, actually almost all of the 90’s, during the time when I was heavily involved in worship music and had my own recording studio. But I finally left within a couple years of John Wimber’s passing in 1997. I became involved with the Toronto revival a couple months after it started in ’94, but was also invested in the consensus that led John Wimber to push the Toronto Vineyard out of the Vineyard movement over the direction the revival had taken. There were many issues with what was happening in Toronto; my personal concerns centered around the development of “prophecy” and the elevation of those involved in it, as well as the focus on spiritual “experiences” over sound biblical theology. Those concerns were echoed by many, and they are echoed in the main criticisms of several happenings during that time, including Toronto, Pensacola and Kansas City. I don’t know if you want a deeper explanation of the events, but what has come up with Rich has rekindled the memories of that time with me.

    This gives me a better insight to Rich’s comments here. It’s amazing that I surely must have come across Rich during that time, but I have no recollection of meeting him. Perhaps our paths crossed only briefly, but it is almost certain our paths crossed. What poured out of Richard in the comments was the after-effects that literally thousands have encountered as a result of Toronto, Pensacola and KC among others. It is unique, and yet is is time-weary – that is, it is the same thing as anyone has encountered when they have been forced out of a belief system that they were heavily invested in which led them astray. In reading back over the comments, I am quite happy with my entries, and with yours as well. Rich’s comments welled up from the confusion and pain he experienced in Toronto, which he is obviously still affected by. I do not think this is a grave concern. I think that as others like Rich come across your writing you will see similar outpourings – these are the wounded who are finding their way, searching out the knowledge and experiences they need to leave behind and searching out the truth they need to believe. They are going to pour out the beliefs that led them astray, they are going to pour out the pain they have experienced, and they are going to pour out their journeys as they have moved on. I think this is exactly what you see in Rich’s last comment – which actually came from your direct question to explain his experiences. In the comments above that, you and I are quite clear, quite gentle, and quite accommodating, which is exactly what we would hope that we had been. As I have reread those comments I am quite happy with what was written and feel no need to add or subtract from them. Rich had a chance to share some of his experience, some of his pain, and I believe there is some healing in that which does not need to be responded to, but just allowed to happen.

    This brings me back to a comment you made in an earlier email to me. The idea was, Who are we to say that we teach truth? That was an excellent point, and it highlights much of what you and I do in our writing. You ask difficult questions which force a reader to re-examine their beliefs, in a good way I might add, because you don’t at the same time offer many answers which would just lead the way any other teacher leads, which is to say, your teaching was wrong but mine is right and here it is. Now, I know my writing leans a little more to the answer and conclusion side, but I know I try to present a balance of understanding that allows the reader to form his/her own conclusion – this is actually one area that you challenge me in and I am grateful for that challenge. This is all to say, I could write a comment or an article that explains what Rich is talking about and some of what he experienced and what might be a safe landing place on the other side of it. However, this is one of those times when I don’t feel it necessary or right to do so – Rich’s experiences stand for themselves, and we can understand those experiences without having to explain or defend anything – which, to me, seems exactly the idea of providing a “safe haven”. There is a point at which we don’t have to understand everything someone else has experienced, but we do have a Christian responsibility to provide them a safe place of acceptance and love. There is a point at which we don’t have to try to explain away everything someone has believed that is “wrong” – that is to a great extent their own journey, and while we can provide wisdom and insight and comfort, we might also be careful to not say “This is the way you should go” – that’s what every other “teacher” does and expressly not what we do. So, when we encounter what we have encountered with Rich explaining his own journey, it is my opinion that it is enough to provide the opportunity for that in a safe place and leave it at that. My only comment to Rich’s last entry would be, I understand (because I have been there) and I am here for you – isn’t that the meaning of II Corinthians 1:3-4, “… and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

    In addition, I sent Rich an email that included this excerpt:

    I read through your latest comment on Pete’s “Definition of a Friendship” – there were a couple things he didn’t understand that you mentioned about Toronto, which I was able to explain to him quite easily because – and this brings me to my second point – if you were in Toronto during the early months of the blessing kicking off, I know for a fact we had to have come across each other. Here’s where it gets crazy: I grew up in Kansas City, and I knew Mike Bickle long before he came across the “big screen” so to speak; been introduced to Paul Cain, Jack Deere, Marc Dupont, Randy Clark and met John Arnott when I came to Toronto the first time to help with the live recording of David Ruis that became Vineyard’s “Live from Toronto” CD. I had a recording studio in Aurora, Illinois at the time, had met David when he came through this area for revival, and went to Toronto for a week and a half to help in the sound booth, and to experience the happenings there.

    I came through that experience quite differently than most folks – I guess I wasn’t carried away by if like others, plus I’d known some of those “prophets” when they were still wearing pants like the rest of us. Now, I was blessed to be there, and I certainly had a wonderful time with God during those days, but I didn’t put much stock in most of what was happening. I had already moved away from the main thrust of things by the time John Wimber made the decision to cut the Toronto Vineyard loose.

    All this to say, obviously, that I was able to give Pete some good insight into what you talked about. Also to say, I hope obviously, there is a connection between us that neither of us was aware of. I hope this helps you feel comfortable with me when talk of those days comes up, and certainly I can see the pain that you went through with the experiences you had there. I’d love to have some conversations with you about those days, how they affected you, and where you have journeyed since that time – of course I want to share some of my own journey as well.

    I hope that the intent expressed in these two emails reveals how much I care for Pete and Rich. I also hope that it reveals more clearly what Pete has purposed with this blog – a true safe haven, a place to share ideas and experiences, a place to share life journeys without judgement or “correction” but with love and understanding. We’re all human, sometimes stumbling around in the dark, sometimes not able to express our true thoughts and feelings as well as we would like, but given an atmosphere where we can all feel accepted even in our weakness we can at least share that stumbling around in the dark together and somehow break out into the light of Day.

  9. rantz72 says:

    Dave,

    Wonderful hearing about the leader of that evangelical split publishing some of your articles in their magazine, indeed it is, amazing.

    You said; “Rich’s comments welled up from the confusion and pain he experienced in Toronto,
    which he is obviously still affected by. I do not think this is a grave concern.” The confusion and pain was something very real back then, but honestly, all of what went down back then was the best thing that could have ever happened to me, perhaps not at that time, but the fruit that emerged from it is still opening up possibilities never imagined relationally.

    “I think that as others like Rich come across your writing you will see similar outpourings – these are the wounded who are finding their way, searching out the knowledge and experiences they need to leave behind and searching out the truth they need to believe. They are going to pour out the beliefs that led them astray, they are going to pour out the pain they have experienced, and they are going to pour out their journeys as they have moved on. I think this is exactly what you see in Rich’s last comment.”

    “Searching out the truth they need to believe”-What I see myself coming to see and am experiencing is the truth of who and whose I am, this may sound blasé, or passé to someone who has had in tact from the get go a true understanding on their identity in the Father’s love, but from my understanding, we have all been subjected to the lies of the enemy, the father of religion and lies. It never was nor will it ever be us fighting or contending with flesh and blood.
    Point of reference here for clarity sake, this isn’t up for debate or trying to fit in with how anyone is so certain of how God works or doesn’t work.
    It was a short time after having been let go from something I had pursued for many years of being in the ministry, that it was made clear to me that the wounding and hurt had nothing to do with what John Arnott or the leadership did to me, it was made known to me that my Father was working through all of what went down. It was Him that wounded me. It hearing that, I suddenly was graced to let go of so much hurt, from that point on, it was a daily volitional act of my heart to release, bless and pray the Father’s continued richest and best for them.
    I am convinced to this day, that this act of responding to the Father of my spirit exponentially released so much more of what my Father had ear marked for me to come into.

    I especially loved this, thank you so much; “Rich’s experiences stand for themselves, and we can understand those experiences without having to explain or defend anything – which, to me, seems exactly the idea of providing a “safe haven”. There is a point at which we don’t have to understand everything someone else has experienced, but we do have a Christian responsibility to provide them a safe place of acceptance and love.”

    “I hope that the intent expressed in these two emails reveals how much I care for Pete and Rich.” Yes indeed the loving care is most evident and welcomed my friend!

    “I also hope that it reveals more clearly what Pete has purposed with this blog – a true safe haven, a place to share ideas and experiences, a place to share life journeys without judgement or “correction” but with love and understanding. We’re all human, sometimes stumbling around in the dark, sometimes not able to express our true thoughts and feelings as well as we would like, but given an atmosphere where we can all feel accepted even in our weakness we can at least share that stumbling around in the dark together and somehow break out into the light of Day.”

    Continuing to grow in the true knowledge of our Father’s great unceasing love for us will in fact not only provide a ‘safe place’ for others, but, will make us safe people to be with as they try to sift and sort out their own unique ongoing inner transformation.

    Rich

  10. Dave Price says:

    Rich, I think you understood exactly what I meant when I said to Pete I didn’t think it was a grave concern, it was in response only to the thoughts being expressed openly on the blog; I didn’t exactly make that clear because it was implied from the email. But the rest of what I said hopefully conveyed how important I thought your words were and how grateful I was to have you share them. Sometimes I seem to state the obvious, for example that you are affected by the pain you experienced – we all are affected by the pain we experience, it’s a matter of trying to help each other shape that pain in a positive way. I especially like the way you ended, that growing in the Father’s love not only provides a safe place for others to but makes us safe people to be with – that was good!

  11. rantz72 says:

    Dave,

    Thanks for these additional thoughts, yes, we are growing and learning to better communicate each and everyday.
    I treasure the gracious kindness that exudes from both you and Pete, you are both true Friends!

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