Our young people wrote recently for Living Bulwark . . .
So I've copied a couple of their articles, and here's a link to the source.
"God is alive and wants to work through His people today."
Greg Potter (This article is about last year's Kairos Weekend in Belgium)
A highly anticipated event this academic year was the Kairos Weekend. Students from across Europe and the Middle East gathered in Belgium in February for a time of prayer and fellowship. "Power for Mission" was the theme of the weekend; being warriors for Christ and being prepared to stand up and answer his call in a time which is so opposed to any kind of faith.
Jean Barbara, President of the Sword of the Spirit, led the sessions and told some amazing stories - including miracles such as people being raised from the dead and limbs growing.
The talks stressed that God is alive and wants to work through his people today. We saw for ourselves as God worked in power when we prayed for the gifts of prophecy and healing. During the day on Saturday we split into separate sessions for men and for women so we could pray with one another for an outpouring of the gifts of the Spirit.
The crescendo for the weekend was the prayer meeting on the Saturday evening. Healings took place and prophecies were given in several hours of prayer and worship. Being on the worship team it was so inspiring to look out at a room full of people engrossed in worship, and despite growing up in a Christian environment, I have rarely felt the Holy Spirit so tangibly and powerfully.
On the Sunday we had a session in which we split into our university outreach groups. We discussed areas in which we could improve and other groups prayed that God would really use Koinonia. I personally took a great deal of encouragement from the weekend and look forward to putting it into practice back in our Koinonia student outreach at the University of London.
Greg Potter is currently serving Antioch during a gap year.
A New Generation with Power for Mission
This was the first year I’d attended the Kairos Weekend as a university "student missionary", which also happens to be a season of my life in which the Lord has been blessing me generously through his spiritual gifts. It was for both these reasons that I found the theme ‘Power for Mission’ particularly relevant, and as a result I now feel equipped to “make disciples of all nations” as Jesus tells us in Matthew 28.
Throughout the weekend, our speaker Jean Barbara spoke to us about his own experience of being empowered for mission, and gave countless examples of times the Lord had rewarded his faithfulness with miracles and conversion. Taking time separately as men and women on Saturday afternoon provided us with an opportunity to pray over individual members from each of the represented outreaches, as well as allowing for a time of fellowship.
As we gathered in the evening for our prayer meeting, some older Christian community leaders who had been meeting in Leuven also joined us. Taking the opportunity to pray and worship alongside these brothers and sisters served as a reminder to the responsibility that is now being shared with us as a new generation. A number of people following our prayer meeting spoke about tongues of fire they had seen being placed over our heads as we prayed, which to me was a powerful affirmation that the Lord is now starting to fully equip his “younger warriors.”
A Report and Reflection
This past August (2015), around 60 student volunteers from across Europe arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland for the Kairos Student Volunteers Leadership Training (SVLT) conference, a week to be equipped for our mission in university outreach.
The week was all about vision and leadership, and arriving at the conference we heard about how one of the fundamental qualities of a leader was “teachability,” a willingness to be taught and changed. We kicked off the week with the desire to be exactly that – a teachable people, set on fire for service!
One of the first things that struck me was how international the group was: We came from Krakow, Bielsko-Biala, Leuven, London, Dublin, Belfast & Glasgow, creating a rich atmosphere of different languages and cultures. We got the chance to hear about each other’s home culture in presentations every day, and bonded both in our “networking” times over crisps and drinks in the evenings, and on the volleyball courts.
A valuable aspect for me was the chance to learn from each other. Conversations with fellow student leaders gave me so many useful ideas and approaches which I am excited to bring to my own outreach, Koinonia, in the coming year. And we got to do all this in the beautiful Northern Irish countryside, right between scenic hills and the seaside!
Another highlight for me was receiving daily reflections from Don Schwager in the mornings, which gave insights on different character traits and how they are modelled in biblical characters (and in scenes from Lord of the Rings!) I was inspired to have courage in leadership and in speaking the truth about Christ to my peers. We then received practical wisdom in building teams and being effective in talks later in the day, like handling conflict and planning events.
The main message was about our calling as student leaders. On entering the barn we used for prayer meetings, the walls were covered in posters with God’s call to the Sword of the Spirit and Kairos over generations, from the 70's to last summer. But these weren’t just nice reminders – this is our call also, as leaders in Kairos. It was incredible to see so many people take up that vision of what the Lord has called us to be in the past and also to hear his voice calling us as a people now.
The Holy Spirit was really present and many members got to exercise new spiritual gifts and prophesy over our outreaches, which was incredibly powerful.
Every time I’ve been to an outreach training week, it’s been with a different mix of people. This year, God called new student leaders who had just recently joined a local University Christian Outreach (UCO) as well as those who have been around for a while, and it was exciting to see people take up their place in leadership of our university outreaches and really engage with the vision and call that the Lord has for our generation. I’m eager to see how the Lord will use that in the coming year.
Short Articles by Antioch Members
Our editor had a miraculous escape when he fell down a cliff in the 60's, and has had reason to be grateful ever since. . . .
Lest you strike your foot against a stone . . .
I don't remember the date of Ascension Thursday when I was 17, but I do know that we had the day off school, and that I went to visit my friend Peter, so that we could play golf. To get to the course, he had pulled out his sister's old bike, and while I walked, he rode the bike carrying our golf clubs.
We weren't very good at golf, but the game was fun, and before we set off back, with me on the bike this time, I asked to have a go, without the clubs, as I'd never ridden this "girl's" bike.
I rolled forward and was getting the hang of it, when I tried to put on the brakes. Nothing happened, and ahead was a "T-junction" where you had to turn left or right or fall down a cliff! I was going too fast to turn, and I didn't want to hit the tree straight in front of me, "in case I hurt myself", so I went straight off the edge of the cliff.
The next thing I remember, I was lying on my back, without the bike, and I just automatically said a couple of prayers, "Our Father", "Glory be", as we Catholics did back then. I also remember humming the tune of the Hollies hit song, "I'm alive" (it's probably somewhere on YouTube now).
Peter came running to the edge, convinced that I'd been killed by the drop. He was relieved to hear my voice calling out "Get an ambulance!" The lady from the golf club came to offer me some brandy, but what might have been fun (and illegal!) half an hour earlier had no attraction for me. The ambulance came, and the police, who pronounced that I had fallen 70 feet, (22 metres) straight down.
According to the ambulance crew, I'd probably broken both my legs and was lucky it had been so little. They stretchered me into a rather scruffy little ambulance, not at all the tall gleaming one I'd expected, and we drove to the hospital.
The doctors and nurses rushed to check me out, and to my embarrassment proceeded to cut off my trousers, so they could have a good look at my legs. I had x-rays and an injection for shock, but nothing was broken. It was almost disappointing, and Peter's parents were very relieved when they drove us back to his home to watch Top of the Pops. I began to feel a bit queasy, and when they took me home, I slept badly and didn't bother going in to school on Friday.
I've thought about that day several times since, and realised that I could very well have died instantly, or else broken my back and lived in hospital from then on. I don't know why I was spared.
There is no clear reason why I escaped with only cuts and bruises, after such a fall, except that He commands His angels and "on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone." In a certain sense all my life, since the age of 17 has been a special gift, so it's my job to make use of it the way He wants me to. But He has to help me.
Calling Out the Best in Us in Christ
A while ago I was giving a talk about covenant commitment to people interested in joining Antioch, the Sword of the Spirit community here in London. We were nearing the end of the course and I was supposed to review for the participants what the ceremony would be like when they made their underway commitments. As I spoke to them, the scene came easily to mind of that prayer meeting in Ann Arbor 40 years ago when the first ones of us, in what now has become the communities movement, got up and said, one by one, "I want to give my life fully to God and live as a member of the Word of God."
I was 21 at the time and a bit nervous, but not at all about whether I was doing the right thing. What the Lord had been speaking to us about covenant relationship and what we had been experiencing living as brothers and sisters made me sure that this was just the thing I wanted to be doing with my life. I was nervous because I sensed that this was a solemn occasion: that the Lord was doing something of massive proportions in the world and that he had invited us, imperfect as we were, to cooperate with him in it.
Since then I've had the privilege of living in other communities, even helping to build some, and each time I've had the same experience: that this business of living together in committed relationships is normal Christianity, that it's the way he meant all of his people to live, and that when people enter into it, even through all the challenges and relationship difficulties and sometimes tears and sorrow, it's not a bizarre way of life but eminently reasonable. It fits the human person and calls out the best in us, in Christ.
In the early 1990s I had to be away from the States and saw from a distance some of the hard times of division. By the time circumstances allowed me again to choose where I should plant myself, I looked at the various options and realized that what I had initially signed up for on the day of my public commitment had stood the test of time, to be in a long-term, covenant relationship with men and women who wanted the Lord to use them, not as individuals but as members of a whole people. I wanted to be doing what I had set out to do as a young man, and the natural consequence was to fully invest myself again in the life of the Sword of the Spirit.
For over 16 years now, I've been part of Antioch, a member community of the Sword of the Spirit in London, and I experience the same rich life that was such a delight to me (and opportunity for personal growth) in the early days in Ann Arbor, a common way of life, a common understanding of how to live for Christ with my brothers and sisters, a common mission to be something for him in the world today. I don't experience this as particularly easy and I don't think most of the brothers and sisters in London do either. It's a stretch almost every day, a walk of faith in the Living God. But I'm pleased to be travelling this road and thankful to the Lord for his faithfulness to his word. He who invited us to this life together is faithful, and he is bringing about what he promised. Even now we see it growing and maturing from those first commitments we made in our youth. One thinks of mustard seeds. May all the glory go to him.
God called me, but I had to choose to accept!
Hi, my name's Dominic, I'm 28 and a member of the Antioch community. I am a Roman Catholic, and have been in community since, when I was six, my parents joined a related community in Dublin, Ireland (where I'm from).
My testimony really begins from the start of my life, as I had the privilege of being raised in a loving and committed Christian family. The best way to describe my parents joining a lay community like Antioch is: they wanted to go a step further in their faith. We went to Church on Sunday, but we were also in this community of Christians who lived near each other, supported each other, prayed and lived out a call to a form of discipleship- a lay community. It's a call to be 'in the world, not of it' (gospel of John), living normal lives but aiming to do more in God through our fellowship together.
The Christian walk starts at baptism which, for me, was childhood. But there were key points of decision-making in adult life where I have chosen for God over something else. For these choices, I'm very grateful. It is why I'm a part of Antioch, and the church as a whole. When I was a college student, having slipped into the lifestyle of just hanging out, partying and having various girlfriends, things had gotten pretty bad for me. I had utterly no direction that I cared about and had nothing but myself to think about. It felt pretty empty. I wanted to be challenged at the end of college. I was desperate for more of God, and was very blessed to find water in my desert: I had the chance to go on a gap year where I served young people in different countries (as a youth-worker), assisting a very good man whose job was to develop youth programs.
All of us have a desire for answers - a desire for God. I struggled to think I would merely follow my parents. Mostly, reaching adulthood, this gap year was a chance to find out if God was 'real' for me. Despite having good Christian teaching in my youth and good friendships with other Christians, I needed to go abroad and search for God away from what I knew - this gap year was that opportunity. I worked from London for the year, and settled here afterwards. I wanted to give community a shot and start my career (publishing), so I decided to stay on in London to push those envelopes.
That decision, to go for community life, and tie myself down to it, was a huge step. It was part of the process of getting to know God, I realise. I was now going to be committed and answerable to my brothers and sisters in Antioch (previously, I was on the fringes). I would be praying with them, meeting my small group to share about my life and support them and be personal and open with God through these relationships.
There are ways we need to choose for the Lord in life. Some of us need to think our way through all our objections before we can let God touch our hearts. Some of us meet the Lord directly when we meet another person who shows us something we know we are missing. I always knew the Lord, and wanted to have more of him. However, there were fears- growing pains in making those choices for real. Things that make you want to freeze, or run away. There could be fear that you will lose some part of your identity with God. He might ask you to change your life - all of us would be afraid of that! In reality, the Lord is a tender, tender loving Father, who wants the best for his children. Whatever he asks, it's in a love deeper and more for our own good than we can understand. With that in mind, I can commit my life to others here in Antioch, and know he's the boss of all of us. There's no fear in that.
People will always let us down, just like we let ourselves down. That might be an argument for staying away from deeper commitments to others. However, if you let God rule your life and give him your pain and your joy, if you believe he's there guiding you in good and bad times, that he will never leave you, then giving your life to others in community works. Giving ten percent of your finances - giving away all the things you want to hold on to - makes sense: you're not the boss, it's not yours anyway. As it says in Scripture 'it is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me.' Sounds weird, right? But not when you start to know Christ- he made you and wants to be with you.
Don't get me wrong, it's still frightening to keep going- not for yourself but for the others! When I head out to lead my youth group, when I pick up the Bible to pray or take time to be with someone for their sake, not mine, I'm still scared of giving myself fully to it for God's sake. It's easy to step back and 'not be sure' in life. I still do it. But God is someone worth taking every chance for. It's true that, if you give things away, they come back in another way- a way you won't expect. As a 28 year old man, just married in 2008 to the woman of my dreams, I'm just blessed he has led me, through his Spirit, to a place where I'm with Antioch and on this journey.
It's more of a blessing than words can describe, really. Like music, or something like a feeling of joy that flutters around when you think about it. Hope some of you reading this will join us someday!
What God has been saying to me over the last year
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30: 18-21
As you have probably gathered Antioch is part of an international group of communities called the Sword of the Spirit. I come from one such community in Mumbai, India. A year and a half ago I left Mumbai to pursue higher education in London. Coming to the UK was a completely different experience for me. Coming from a culture of warm and friendly people it was difficult to get used to a lonely life in London. Added to it was the not so pleasant weather. I remember wondering how I would cope for the next year. God obviously had plans for me and a week into my course I met some girls from Antioch's university outreach (Koinonia) and went along to their weekly meeting. One of the first things that struck me was the welcoming nature of these students which was such a refreshing change from what I had seen in London.
My first experience with Antioch was at the community anniversary weekend. I didn't really know what to expect and wondered if they were anything like the community I was part of in India. To my surprise I found they were so much like my community back home with people being warm and loving. That weekend really made me sit back and think I was so blessed to be part of the Sword of the Spirit and to have found community in London.
Since then God has brought me a long way. Initially I never thought I would have much time to invest with Koinonia or Antioch because of my intense course and the fact that I lived in north east London. However, going along to Koinonia meetings and during my prayer time, I began to realise that there was more to life than just focussing on my degree. That changed the way I managed my time and I began to see that the minute I had God as my top priority (Koinonia events, community etc), my assignments, exams, dissertations all fell into place. What was even more amazing was how well I was able to do in them. Through it all I slowly learnt how God wanted me to trust in him totally which is something I have always struggled with. This was something I learnt more of in the months following my degree.
I felt God calling me to serve him in Koinonia after my degree and thought I would be able to do it while I got a job. However as the months drew on it was more and more difficult to find a job and I had trouble with a visa as well. I ended up doing a lot more time with Koinonia than I had planned. This involved connecting with Christian students at university and I found God really blessing me in this work and my ability to reach out to students. I was happy serving God in this way but constantly questioned and doubted if this was where God wanted me to be especially since I had no visa and hadn't found a job yet.
Although it was really difficult, I felt a sense to "have faith" and I had a number of scripture verses that said the same. However being the kind of person who always liked things done my way and who hated uncertainty, I found this very difficult to handle. As I look back I've seen that even though I was going through a difficult time in another country away from family, I wasn't alone. It was so reassuring to know that I had the support, prayers of the community here in London. I am thankful for God's provision in ways like that.
His provision and his love for his people never ends and exactly when I desperately needed answers about how I was going to be able to carry on in London, I received my visa a full two weeks before it was actually due. God's provision didn't stop there and just after Christmas when I returned to London really low on funds to survive, I was offered a job with Koinonia. In addition I also have an opportunity to work in a laboratory a few hours a week and get UK based lab experience.
This was just after I had this scripture verse during my prayer time Isaiah 30: 18 - 21 on how God is waiting to be gracious to me. I've realised through this experience that what God really wanted me to do was serve him fully and leave the rest up to him. I feel so blessed and happy. It has not been an easy thing to learn but I've realised it's God's plan for my life that's important and not my own because he knows best. It's about fitting myself in HIS plan.
Why I am a member of Antioch
You have probably already gathered that Antioch is a charismatic, covenant, ecumenical Christian community, based in West London, and part of a community of communities throughout the world, known as the Sword of the Spirit.
I've been a member of Antioch for over 20 years now, having first come into contact with community through one of its outreaches based at the University of London, where I was studying.
I can think of many reasons why I decided to join Antioch, not least the blessing of being able to find 'a place to stand' with men and women who were, and are, constant in faith, hope and love, having a vision to be a bulwark and a place of refuge, and a desire to make Jesus known in this generation. But, I always come back to one thing, something that makes Antioch, though numerically a small community, a significant, unique and prophetic expression of God's love for His people, and that's our ecumenical call - a call to live out Christian unity with integrity.
I was born in 1968, in Ballymena, N. Ireland - the year the modern-day 'troubles', as they are euphemistically called, began. I was brought up in a strong Catholic family, in a small farming community. All the other villages around us were all Catholic, and also quite strongly republican. To say that I had a parochial upbringing would be true in its fullest sense. Anti-protestant feeling was very strong in our local community. The sense of distrust, suspicion and hostility was not helped by the segregation of the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland. In my case, I was 17 years old when I met my first Protestant. In many ways this was a watershed, the guy was perfectly normal (we went on to be close friends when we went to college in London) so my 'worldview', such as it was at the age of 17, was challenged for the first time.
A year later, when I left home to study in London, the Lord started to 'stretch my tent pegs' even further. I became involved in University Christian Outreach (UCO), a student Christian group at the University of London, (now called Koinonia) mainly through the persistence and faithfulness of a few men. Even back in 1986 the university environment was a hostile place for Christians. This group was unique among the student Christian societies in providing a place for Protestants and Catholics to serve and worship together, a place where I quickly felt spiritually 'at home'. Later on I discovered that UCO was an outreach of the West London Community, a group of Christians of all denominations, including many families and single people, as well as a lay brotherhood, seeking to live out the call to Christian unity in their day to day lives. The theologians call this 'grassroots evangelism' - it's a precious thing, which comes out of recognising that, as fellow members of the Body of Christ we have a relationship with and an obligation to each other. I regret that it's taken me half my life to realise this. In 1988, I made a public commitment to join the West London Community (now called Antioch). That night was significant for me and for the Community too - at the time the senior leader of the Community was a Protestant from Northern Ireland, and I was the first Northern Irish Catholic to join. On the same evening a Singhalese from Sri Lanka joined, crossing another divide, and taking his place worshipping side by side with several Sri Lankan Tamils, who at that time formed a significant contingent of the West London Community.
Paul wrote, regarding reconciliation of Jew and Gentile in Ephesians 2:14-16
"For He himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility."
In Antioch we attempt to live out our life together because of what we've got in common - we receive from the same place - the Lord Jesus. At the same time we try to understand our differences, showing charity and humility in our dealings with one another, and supporting each other in being faithful members of our own churches and traditions. This is not cheap and not always easy, but as Psalm 133 says, when we dwell in unity, God commands a blessing, and this is my experience of 20 years living in this charismatic, covenant, ecumenical Christian community called Antioch.