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Something big coming?


Amidst the gloom, doom, and downright panic of our contemporary world, there are many who believe that something big is shaping before us.

Buried in the grim outlook,  there is a growing consensus among some church leaders that positive phenomena will break through the despair.

While leaders must avoid triumphalism, it is important to know and be strengthened by biblical revelation. Therein is the promise that the deeper the darkness the brighter the light. This is not empty hyperbole, but solid truth based on the promise of Scripture: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (Isaiah 9:2).

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These promises were given initially to the Old Testament Covenant people of God in their era. However, the word was not restricted to the situations they faced. Rather, the promises are transcendent, reaching across history for those who lead from positions of faith. In fact, the promises are foundational.

Leaders in modern times may dare to embrace the promises of God and lead with that confidence. Wise leaders meld their professional skills with transcendent promise and therefore anchor their enterprises and the people they lead in the confidence that the worse the desolation, the greater the restoration. “I will make up to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,” the Lord promises to His people.

Further, the more painful the wound, the far greater the comfort. Job, initially weakened by the onslaught of misery, experiences that truth, and, when he gains a higher look at his whole journey through pain and terror, cries out to God, “I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42).

Roger Cohen, writing in the New York Times, imagined a sobering conversation in the future describing our age as, “a time of unraveling.”

Seasoned leaders among evangelicals, Charismatics and Pentecostals, Liturgical, Reformed, and Fundamentalist churches and organizations are coming to see that the more intense the pain and confusion the greater God’s blessing that is shaping for the ages ahead. They lead, not with empty bravado, but by standing on the pattern and promise of God. They recognize the pattern and encourage those who want to shrink from contemporary cultural phenomena.

What is happening now within the Catholic Church may be a pattern in which confusion, chaos, and leadership weaknesses are shaping something new. The current upheaval will be remembered in history as a foundational period of realignment and the birth of fresh hope and anticipation.

Seasoned leaders throughout history learned that the greater the build-up of crisis and the more intense the stresses, the greater the outcomes produced through such disturbing phenomena. Charles Finley, the great revivalist, said that “revival predisposes declension.” This certainly was the case in Wales in 1903-1905 when spiritual renewal struck a deeply darkening society.

The Bible itself encourages hope from the very beginning. The ordered and fruitful world was born out of the heaving chaos of tohu and bohu' (formlessness and emptiness as Genesis puts it).

As I wrote in a previous column, “don't panic, don't be afraid ... everything is happening right on time.’ Brave and mature leadership refuses to be sidetracked by the pulls of sensationalism and realistically acknowledges and prepares for the needs and opportunities shaping the future. This is not fantasy; I saw it work through one of the most effective Christian leaders and the organization he founded in modern times: Charles Colson and Prison Fellowship.

I knew Colson from a distance while serving in the Nixon White House. Colson was in Nixon's inner circle and I was a junior aide. Colson was noted for his toughness and political savvy — at least that was the way it seemed before he was jailed under accusations associated with the Watergate scandals that would bring down the Nixon presidency.

One day a year or so after Colson's conviction, I received a call from a staff member of a Washington ministry who told me that Colson had received Christ as his Savior. Chuck, he said, was in prison only a three-hour drive from my home. The caller asked if I would visit and seek to minister to Colson. Having known about Chuck’s  Marine-tough reputation both inside and outside the White House, I thought he would refuse to see me — a lowly staffer.

To my surprise, he actually welcomed me to the prison where he was incarcerated. I made three trips to visit Chuck. However, it was the first conversation that lingered in my mind. Despite the immense personal challenges pressing on Chuck’s soul, he talked about his concern for his fellow inmates. Chuck listened to many of them through the heart of Christ Himself. As his time in prison dragged along, Chuck began to think about what he could do. It seemed that his own life was unraveling.  Nevertheless, Chuck embraced the promises of God, and the largest prison ministry in the nation -and perhaps the world, as Colson's dream expanded to the international scale took form, despite ridicule, and even opposition from a few federal government agencies.

The deep darkness that, early on, could have engulfed Chuck Colson became the very medium for the realization of his vision.

This is the spirit in which leaders should go forward in the present age of chaos and instability as something big shakes the very foundations of our enterprises.

Material for this column, including citations and references, are taken from Wallace Henley, Call Down Lightening, Thomas Nelson, 2019.

Wallace B. Henley is a former pastor, daily newspaper editor, White House and Congressional aide. He served 18 years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Henley is author or co-author of more than 25 books, including God and Churchill, co-authored with Sir Winston Churchill's great grandson, Jonathan Sandys. Henley's latest  book is Who will rule the coming 'gods'? The looming  spiritual crisis of artificial intelligence.

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