Grab yourself a favourite beverage (perhaps something cold this time of year) and take the time to read the following fresh perspective on recent events affecting the church and spiritual life in general from our good friend Arthur Burk at Sapphire Leadership Group. While it is intended primarily for the American church, the observations can be applied globally and are especially relevant to the Western world. If you identify with the personal profile Arthur describes toward the end of the post, we know you will be encouraged on your journey. You can find Arthur at www.theslg.com. Enjoy!
Perspective on US History
Iraq and WMD
In the 1970s and ‘80s, the West was actively helping Saddam Hussein develop weapons of mass destruction.
Iraq’s government formed an agency called The State Establishment for Pesticide Production (SEPP). Under that cover, they received from German companies like Karl Kobe the technology to build laboratories, bunkers and production buildings to develop chemical and biological weapons.
Other German companies provided over 1,000 tons of precursors to mustard gas, sarin, tabun and tear gas. Several other German firms provided the technology to manufacture botulin and mycotoxin for biological warfare. Over half of Iraq’s chemical weapons came from Germany.
The US sent about a half a billion dollars’ worth of war resources including advanced computers to service Iraq’s emerging nuclear program as well as biological samples of anthrax, West Nile virus and botulism from the Center for Disease Control.
The British government secretly authorized the arms company Matrix Churchill to supply Hussein’s arms program. The cover was blown when a case of nuclear triggers destined for Iraq were found and exposed at Heathrow. The British also financed the construction of a chlorine factory that could manufacture mustard gas.
In addition to the aggressive chemical and biological warfare development, the West knew that Russia was resourcing Iraq with nuclear technology and equipment.
In August 1995, Iraqi General Kamel al-Majid defected to Jordan and shared with the West many details about Iraq’s WMD. He claimed they were actively manufacturing biological weapons in six sites and were testing a wide variety of delivery mechanism.
In December of 1990 the Iraqis had 100 bombs filled with botulinum toxin, 50 with anthrax and 16 with aflatoxin. In addition, 25 SCUD missiles were loaded with the same agents. They were deployed to four locations in anticipation of the Desert Storm assault by Coalition troops.
As it turned out, Saddam was not menaced enough for him to give the order to use those WMD. But it was against that backdrop of hard knowledge that the debate raged during 2001 and 2002 about whether there were WMD in his hands at that time, sufficient to justify the US invasion.
The Decision to Invade
Even though there was some potential substance to the debate, in the end, it was just smoke and mirrors, because the decision to invade had already been made.
Camp Arifjan in Kuwait was to be the staging area for the invasion. It had to be significantly upfitted to become the anchor point for a 7,500 mile supply line for the invasion. And that upfit took time and money and was highly visible for those who looked in that direction.
So during the fall of 2002 and the spring of 2003, the press mesmerized the world with hot rhetoric about whether or not there were WMD in Iraq. The implicit message was that if there were, the West was justified in invading, and if there were not, the West would stand down.
Meanwhile, in broad daylight, the dramatic expansion of Camp Arifjan informed those who cared to look that direction that the trigger had been pulled long before March 19th, 2003 when the first Tomahawk cruise missile rocked Baghdad.
The Right Focus Today
The same is playing out today. The secular press is full of impassioned rhetoric about laws and courts, racism and equal rights, elections and constitutions. The religious press is equally fascinated by signs and wonders, revival and prophecies, apostles and visions of heaven.
And if you focus on either press, you will miss the real story. Because just as Camp Arifjan told a different story, so the transition in the American church tells the real story.
According to those who track these things, approximately a million people a year have been leaving the institutional church since around 2000. A significant portion of those walked away from their faith. Another portion privatized their walk with God. But at least half of that million a year go through a pretty predictable transition and transformation.
-First there is a deep, heartfelt struggle to work out the tensions in the local church so they don’t have to leave. The people who leave are usually the most committed laymen who have done massive heavy lifting in the institutional church. They are ideologically committed to the local church and emotionally deeply interwoven with the social fabric of the church. Becoming unchurched was never in their thoughts. However, slowly, relentlessly, the situation at their local church becomes untenable. After anguish, tears, discussions and heartbreak the decision is made to withdraw “for a season” while they heal.
-For the next year or two, there is a deep struggle with shame and guilt over being out of the church, without covering and accountability. Usually they can’t defend their position theologically. They simply know that they are called apart “for this time” little dreaming that it would be a long season. Often their previous friends are forced to choose between them and the local church. This leaves the newly transitioned ones with keen loneliness on top of the other emotions.
-Often after a season of healing, there is the deep desire to experience corporate worship again, so they usually slip into the back row of a church where they are not known, with no intention of becoming involved, just so they can celebrate corporately once again. They are shocked to find that even this peripheral connection is not possible where they are in their journey.
-Once that bump in the road is behind them, there arises a deep drive to do something that is life giving and outward focused. After all, these were highly engaged people in the past. Being merely recipients of life is counter intuitive. They are builders not consumers. They have a life style of being transformational, not simply comfortable.
-In the past, they served the need of the organization, whether it was in their design or not. Now, with no organization to direct them, they are led into life giving by their heart, not their authorities, with the result that they generally end up working in their design instead of in the place of institutional need. There is an incredibly wide variety of things done by these people, flowing from their own passion to see the life of God manifest in their world. They erase the line between the secular and the sacred in a significant way.
-As a result of their investment flowing from design, not duty, they begin to see good fruit in people’s lives.
-And where there are results, buzz follows. With no attempt to advertise, they become know through networks as someone who has something that works. They end up with followers who trust them as leaders, beyond their original area of ministry.
Sergeants in the Body
This is a profile of what I call a Sergeant.
They are de facto leaders, although there is no title claimed or given. They simply have followers. There is no particular organizational structure, just a trust relationship. They are self-funded and self-directed. There is no constitution or bylaws, no doctrinal statement, no initiation rites, no membership role, no mandatory commitment of time or money.
These sergeants receive orders directly from God. They and their organizations are nimble, passionate and available for the King’s service. There is a loyalty to the King that transcends any loyalty they once had to human leaders.
I have been a student of church history for a long time and have never seen anything like this. The closest I have found is the movement of Irish monks who evangelized Europe after the fall of Rome and the explosive growth of the Church behind the bamboo curtain.
However, both of these were tightly focused movements, passionate about salvation and the establishment of structured Christian communities.
By contrast, the breadth of the current army of sergeants is astounding. I know people who fit this profile in sports, medicine, agriculture, education, government, banking, food service, counseling, retirement homes, R & D, entertainment, landscape design, computer science, greenfield and brownfield developments, engineering, tourism, and sundry other sectors of society.
The King is getting ready for a massive operation.
Yes, I am fully aware that the headlines are full of news that Christians deem distressing. Yes, I am fully aware that institutional Christianity is focused on a revival-based intervention by God.
But just like Camp Arifjan was more indicative of the future in the Middle East than the WMD discussion, so I feel that the presence of a huge army of Sergeants is more significant than what we read in the secular and Christian press.
I do believe that America is approaching a season of judgment that can no longer be turned away. Deuteronomy 28 is playing out before our eyes in living detail. I believe we will see vastly more tragedy on a local and national basis. The next 20 years will be some of the worst America has ever experienced.
However, running contiguous with the judgment will be the supernatural work of God through the Sergeants that He is raising up.
Again, a look at church history reveals seasons when Christians were hunted and they simply ran and hid seeking to preserve their lives. There are other seasons where the power of God flowed massively to Christians who were enduring vast persecution and the culture was changed by the Church even while under pressure.
Look at the King’s preparations. There are seven to ten million Sergeants in the US already and the number is growing each year.
The King has a plan.
It is massive.
And it does not involve the Church cowering in a survival mode.