Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Mill and the Waterfall

I love waterfalls for their their sheer, gushing weight and wonder.
My first sighting of a serious waterfall was Victoria Falls on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. The locals call it "Amanza Adumayo," which translated means, the "smoke that thunders." Aptly named. The mighty deposit of Zambezi River water causes an immense cloud of mist to sit above the falls and engulf the onlookers.

No less majestic are the Niagra Falls, which can be viewed from either Canada or the United States. There is great contention as to whose view is more spectacular, but one thing is for sure, the view is greatly enhanced if you are simultaneously eating a pile of buffalo wings from Buffalo, New York, even if they have been smuggled over the border back to Canada, like my friend Mike Holmes did for us!

Some people, however, do not simply stare at the spectacle of a waterfall. They find ways to harness its power. I received a stunning water color painting of a waterfall by my friend Sean Barrett for my 40th birthday. To be precise, it was actually of a flour mill above a waterfall. The mill is more visible than the falls. It’s a mill that my father has restored in the last five years with the help of some of his engineer friends. some scuba divers and the South African Airforce.

The mill was built as part of the Reichenau mission by a trapist monk named Abbot Frances Pfanner in 1887. The turbines of the mill are under the waterfall, and the velocity of the tumbling cascades drive the turbines, which empower the mill to grind flour from wheat grown in the area. For many years the mill was the primary processor of wheat into flour, but over the past few decades, the turbines stopped working and the mill became a beautiful but broken relic – little more than a majestic room with a view. Until my father began dreaming and planning to restore the turbines. That required the help of an S.A. airforce helicopter, some dedicated engineers, and some intrepid scuba divers who dived down under the falls, unbolted the turbines, got them lift out of the water, flown away to a workshop, restored, flown back, and bolted back in place. On our last trip out to S.A. my dad took us to see the mill, which was beautiful, but more importantly, fully functional.

For me, this is a metaphor of what it means to receive apostolic ministry gifts into the life of the church, like we have received these last few weeks. It has been a weighty deposit of Jesus power, majesty and beauty. But can it be more to us than a 'two-week-wonder?'

Some of us have viewed outside ministry coming in to a church as informers to teach us something profound, or 'performers' to show us something spectacular. But Paul says they are imparters (Romans 1:11) - sharing spiritual gifts with us to make us strong and equippers (Ephesian 4:11) – training us for works of service.

No doubt we have had some amazing times as they have ministered. Many have understood the grace of God and the Father's heart in fresh ways. Numerous people have been physically healed. There have been stories of people being set healed of emotional scars they have carried for years, and others who have encountered the presence of God like never before.

But the job of Ephesians 4 ministry is only done when a church begins to walk in the gifts it has experienced. The waterfall is not just for admiring. It is meant to turn the turbines, which power the flour mill, which puts bread on the table of hungry people.

Can we ensure that the powerful deposit of apostolic ministry that we have enjoyed are not just impressing the saints with works of wonder, but that they are equipping the saints for works of service? The waterfall is for the flour mill. I pray that these past few weeks would empower us all to serve Jesus, his church and His mission.

p.s. Rynelle and I leave today for a two week trip to minister in two churches in the Far East. One is in Singapore and the other is in Vietnam. We have returned each year to encourage these churches for a few years now, and are loving seeing them walk with greater strength and vision each year. Please pray for us as we go, and keep the flour mill turning at home!

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