Thursday, November 21, 2013
Risk analysis and permissions in a spiritual context
ONE OF the not-so-fun things about organising a community event that takes church ‘outside the walls’ and into the public domain, is that someone from the council will want to talk about permissions and see a statement of the risk analysis.
Before setting out on a discipleship venture or mission activity, we should count the cost — whether we have what is needed to sustain it and do it well, and what the opposition and spiritual risks are likely to be.
Jesus said this in Luke 14:28-30:
For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.”
The risk analysis comment followed when Jesus said (Luke 14:31):
What king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with 10,000 men to encounter the one coming against him with 20,000?
Following a spiritual call to action still requires us to be wise about that action. God will supply our needs but we should define what those needs are and talk to Him about them.
Nehemiah goes through these stages, telling the king how long he wants leave of absence and what he needs in the way of building resources for the job in hand. He also addresses a very important issue – his legal right to travel to the Transjordan. For many countries that we might travel to, we need permission to enter – we call it a visa. To ‘spiritualise’ this just slightly, when we enter the enemy’s domain, a prayer walk or going to pray with someone or holding a Jesus-centred event or meeting, it is wise to establish our legal right to enter. It is not so much a question of whether we are abiding by the law of the land, although the spiritual legal rights will follow along closely. It is about having legitimate spiritual authority.
Someone I knew set off to do some prayer walking and decided she was ‘led’ to do some prayer warfare around the local spiritualist meeting place. On paper, a righteous cause, but whether this was God’s way, God’s direction or God’s timing was not clear. She didn’t check this out with a pastor, and so didn’t set off with that blessing or covering, and didn’t even go with another person. A week or so later, the spiritualist meeting place seemed to be standing firm (I think it still is), but our independent prayer warrior found that all her unresolved insecurities kicked off and she became very unwell. To prayerfully have counted the cost, secured covering and submitted her sense of leading to someone appointed to leadership would have averted a lot of pain.
The enemy is out to exploit whatever little chinks of independence or misdemeanour he can discover. That is why churches have elected leaders and an appointment structure, and why we like to publicly affirm and bless those who take on a venture. This removes a raft of enemy opportunities.
To make a sweeping generalisation, many Africans and people in the Far East like Korea, and in South America, are comfortable with hierarchy and authority – they know it works for them. English people often prefer to be independent in thought and action. That is a real danger. If you brainstorm some definitions for the word “sin”, independence is going to come up near the top of the list.
We are not supposed to be independent, but covered, connected in a body and affirmed. Nehemiah knew that, and it gave him both practical and spiritual security when the opposition showed up – which, of course, it very soon did.