He is a Senior Associate Leader of Bethel Church in Redding, California and co-founder of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM).
He begins by unpacking our call to be apostolic. He explains how Jesus didn't call his followers priests, prophets or fathers but apostles and this word has its origins in the Greek which is why we do not hear of apostles in the OT.
An apostle is one who is 'sent' and the word has its locus in the Romans wanting to take over the world by conquering cities to culturise them; sending their military generals to do this. Accompanying the military were philosophers and teachers and artists and various others so that the Roman system was replicated where ever the Romans went. Jesus takes this title for the generals and he transfers it to his disciples. We are sent to replicate Kingdom culture where ever we are sent.
DON'T LAMENT THE DARKNESS OF THE WORLD, ENLIGHTEN IT
Later Kris will expand on this point by challenging us to see that we are hiding our light under a bushel when the church grows but the light is kept within the church; the light is little use if kept within the church because it was supposed to enlighten and transform the world. True light transforms the culture around us. I am reminded of my own prayers over the years for the transformation of the cultures of the churches I serve; for God to mould us so that as we are sent we are ‘apostolic’ and witness well and bring Good News. As I reflect I realise too that our Friday group in the church I currently serve is beginning to attract a good number and that there are the beginnings of some testimonies there as regards the values we are transmitting. People are encouraged and gaining confidence in who they are. Kris helps us to see that if from within our churches we simply lament the darkness of the world but are not agents of its restoration, we are not fulfilling our purpose. Kris is quite adamant that building a church does not necessarily build up the community around that church unless that church is apostolic. Pastors gather. Apostles, on the other hand, train, equip and deploy. Pastors measure success by how many come to church but apostles by how many people become the church.
CHANGED TO BRING CHANGE
Kris uses the idea of the pool of Bethesda in John 5 to flesh out his idea of a pastorate: where people need healing and deliverance and salvation they come to church but Ezekiel’s river, in contrast, is an image for the apostolic church where the water gets deeper the further out you are from the sanctuary and where everything which meets the water is healed. You come to the pool to be healed in Bethesda but the further you get from the church and turn outward, the more change you see when you are sent by the church confidently into the world, discipled and having an impact. We need churches made up of saints who are equipped to heal their communities. These kinds of churches create a culture where everyone has a ministry and are not communities made up of those who minister and those to whom ministry happens because this is a misnomer. All Christians are in ministry. We are sacred and our ministry goes with us where ever we go because we can do nothing without Jesus and Jesus goes with us and so where we go, we take the Kingdom. In business, in the service sector, where ever we work, people encountering us there, encounter the Kingdom if it lives in us and we apply its values. I feel encouraged that people where I do church are committing to their own discipling; attending gatherings in increasing number to learn together about what it means to be a Kingdom people; a people who take Christ with us.
CO-WORKING WITH GOD
Kris has already reminded us about what it means to bring heaven to earth based on the Lord’s prayer petition ‘Your Kingdom Come on Earth as it is in Heaven'. He unpacks this further in his book “Heavy Rain” which is a reworking of “How Heaven Invades Earth: Transform the World Around You.” See Ian Paul's analysis of Vallotton's message from that text in his reflections on Kris's presentation at New Wine. Kris Vallotton reminds us that we are seated in the heavenly places with Christ and so we are not apostolic unless we are all about bringing heaven to earth and transforming culture. Kris explains that we are not to concentrate on getting people to heaven but instead we are to spend time getting heaven into people.
Much of the secularised, inherited Christianity; the Christianity which warps and wefts with the culture, presents us with a version of Christianity which is all about individualised salvation plans for transference to heaven and away from earth at the point of death and this is the kind of thinking, which, as an Anglican minister I have frequently encountered. There is always the opportunity in funeral ministry, particularly, to carefully and gently hint to the far more transformative reality of living in the earth God is transforming now. People where I am might have even heard me use that terrible aphorism, but not without its truths: 'It is not pie in the sky when you die, but steak on the plate while you wait.' This 'waiting' is now ringing with a clunky sound.
Kris unpacks how in Rev, Chapter 2 the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven and this new creation, where God takes away every tear and there is no pain, is the new earth and we have to be a part of making that happen. God co-works with us to achieve this. The Lord’s Prayer is not about getting people into the Kingdom but about getting the Kingdom into people. I am reminded of one of the highlights of my own ministry, when using a film clip from the Bible Project about ‘God space’ and ‘Our space’ and after a 6 week summer break, my young people in church were able to remember my central point of teaching in the sessions we had had pre-vacation – that their task was to bring heaven to earth in their families and in their classrooms. It was so encouraging to hear them explain to me ways that they were doing this very consciously and with self-awareness.
Kris really wants us to understand the mandate we have been given and expands, explaining that God planted two trees in the garden and one was of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the other was the tree of Life. It was the tree of Life people were intended to eat from so that they could live forever on earth, not in heaven. He challenges us to grapple with the idea that God is not in Heaven, in actual fact, heaven is in God. The heights of heaven cannot contain God, Psalmist David reminds us. All of this he shares to reframe how we think of heaven and earth and our purpose.
There is also more to understand about heaven – that there are three heavens. There are no principalities and powers in God’s Heaven but there principalities and powers are in the heavenly realms where battles happen but this is not where we sit as Christians. We sit where Paul explains he dwelt, in the third heaven and this is the territory into which we are born, with Christ, above the heavenly places and this is not where we are going but where we currently are.
He then encourages us on a specific trajectory and that if we can only configure a move from earth to heaven we will live a reactionary life but if, on the other hand, we can live from heaven and towards earth, then, we gain a heavenly perspective from this eternal seat where our prayers become prophecies and our prophecies become worlds and so we, with the mind of Christ, foretell and forth-tell the future.
BRING LIFE. BUILD UP.
Kris seems to want us to understand the gravitas of the spoken word and to use words for life and not death and not to complain about our communities but transform them. Repeating a hopeless commentary on your community is not prophetic but pathetic, he tells us. This appeals to the Barnabas spirit living in me, which people have always identified, that I live to call people into their potential. We must see ourselves. to use a much used phrase, as 'becomers.' I think David Runcorn first introduced me to this idea of becoming.
We must call things that ‘are not’ into what ‘they are’. There is some encouragement from Kris to name the becomers and the becoming as already manifest in the present. This is very winsome – it is that propensity in us to see tomorrow with God’s eyes and to see ourselves perfected by Christ; to see the potential which lies in everything. Kris shares a story of a heroin addict over whom he prophesied ‘You are a Holy man’ and in that moment his addiction to heroin was broken and he began to live towards that new reality. I have had a dream the night before Kris speaks in which my uncle, who is in a difficult place, has broken free from everything holding him back: his face is clean, his spirit is gentle, his voice is warm and he stands in my dream holding out his hands and speaking over and over again the same sentence of warmth and welcome until he is happy with how he is configuring and expressing it – he ‘becomes’ right in front of my eyes. I dream this dream twice over those few days. I return home and dream dreams to which I have become accustomed – houses with expanses of water, houses near the sea, houses with expanses of sand and sea in the near distance and the water is good, very good. At church on Sunday we seem to be more obviously pushing into the new. I listen to someone else preach and a testimony is shared. I sit at the back to think about how our church feels, we are interrupted by a heckler and minister to him, offering him welcome but are rejected, for now - ministry has more of a holy disorder about it like God is shaking us up and indeed the next day work begins to modify the interior of our church so that we can become more fit for the purposes I have heard about last week. Now, is a good and expanding kind of season. People are exploring their futures and discipling courses are filling up.
Kris proposes that we do not grow churches but have to plan to grow our communities and that the difference between people who do things and people who do not do things is that people who do things, DO THINGS. There is laughter. He reminds me finally, preacher, teacher and pray-er that I am, that there needs to be far more than the message and the prayers and we are to form a strategic plan. If we only send missionaries to foreign nations, our own communities are not going to change. We are then asked to stand for a commissioning. I have much cause for reflection.
Next up and coming soon: Kris Vallotton part II....