What is Navigating Transition?
What is Navigating Transition? is written By Dr Noel Woodruff: The story of Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27 is instructional for the current transition of the church. God is calling his church to migrate, to move from one spiritual position to another. The following are guidelines or steps that will aid those who are seeking to navigate a pathway from the old to the new.
The Need to Discern Accurate Times and Seasons (Acts 27:9)
The ship meant to carry Paul to Rome for his audience with Caesar undertook its journey at “an inopportune time.” “Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast”, vs 9.
We want to be in the place that God is in the present, not in the place where God was. So the question is “where is God now”; this is a question of time. God is in a place called the apostolic reformation, a term which defines a package of values, of doctrinal definitions. Someone entering the church today must recognize that God is no longer in the protestant reformation, the Anabaptist revival, at Azusa Street or in the prophetic movement. God has times and seasons that are inalterable, and we are required to cooperate with His divine timetable. To sail against the present move of God is inadvisable, the time for older moves is past.
It is God’s job to let us know what the times and seasons are, and the Lord warned this ship in two different ways that it was not advisable to continue on their journey, first by a declaration of the accurate season (vs. 9), secondly by a gentle wind blowing (vs. 13). Both warnings were ignored.
God has restored apostles and prophets to declare His accurate times and seasons in the church. Such men are like the “sons of Issachar that had understanding of the times” (I Ch 12:32). These 200 men of the tribe of Issachar were listed in the middle of 350,000 men from the other 11 tribes who were extolled for their ability to make war. This seeming afterthought of Issachar’s role in Israel’s wars indicates that to make David King, both the military and learned classes were required. The men of Issachar are noted as being with Deborah and Barak, indicating their obvious gift of counsel and insight to leaders regarding issues of war (Judg 5:15). What good is an army without political strategy, and what good is the church without a clear discernment of the time and season we are currently in?
God is the catalyst behind the times and seasons, both in the church and in the nations of the world, and He desires to reveal this technology to us by giving us wisdom and power. Dan 2:20-23 Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”
The “times” are the phases and periods of duration of empires; the “seasons,” the fitting times for their culmination, decline, and fall. The vicissitudes of states, with their times and seasons, are not regulated by chance or fate, as the pagan thought, but by God, and God wants to give us wisdom concerning the times. Discernment is one mark of a mature church, while Jesus made clear that one manifestation of Phariseeism is to know natural times and seasons, but be ignorant of and in fact miss the day of divine visitation (Lk 12:56).
Reassess What is Valuable, Acts 27:18-19
The ship continued its course in spite of the above mentioned warnings, and immediately found itself in the middle of a hurricane. Facing sure destruction, the sailors decided to throw over their profitable cargo and even essential fixtures and furnishings from the ship.
Acts 27:18-19 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.
Transitioning into apostolic reformation requires a quality decision for accurate values. For some, this means leaving their denomination or present affiliations in order to acquire the new. For most in the church, it requires a throwing overboard of wrong mentalities and inaccurate methodologies for constructing the church, and forsaking the good cargo of programs and “successful church” which hinder us from receiving God’s best.
In practical terms, this means accepting God’s measurement of His church and building accurately, vs. buying into Babylonian standards for “success”. Churches today measure themselves based on three primary Babylonian standards: how many people attend, facilities, and programs offered. Notice not one of these criteria speak to the accuracy of a church, or indicates if they are moving with God or not. What is valuable to you? If it’s numbers or success in man’s eyes, your “good cargo of a successful church” may in fact aid in your ship’s demise. We must radically reassess what God counts as valuable for the journey, and reprioritize our life and ministry based on new definitions.
Apostolic Ministry Releases New Direction, Acts 27:20
The Scripture notes that the storm was so intense that the sun and stars were hidden night and day. Acts 27:20 “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” Planets speak of government, noted by the first mention of the sun and moon being given by God to rule the day and night (Ge 1:16). Joseph’s dream signified his brothers (represented by stars) and his mother and father (sun and moon) and bowing down to Joseph’s star. Joseph lead his family out of an international crisis by accurate rulership.
These sailors were confused and lacked clarity and direction due to the occlusion of governing bodies. Much of the church finds itself in this state of confusion, as many who formerly held charismatic positions are wandering as they adopt the newest “model” of church but still find emptiness in pursuing accurate spiritual positions.
We cannot find our way into transition by ourselves. Paul stepped in by the grace of God and became the government of God for these 276 desperate men, all of whom were saved. Note that these men didn’t simply quote an allegiance to a theoretical truth, i.e. that God has people in the earth that hear Him and speak His word. They actually trusted and followed the advice of a particular man with grace on His life.
Accepting that there are apostles, or agreeing that God is reforming His church is a good first step in transition, but must be followed by an accurate joining to a particular apostle in order for accurate direction. In the end the apostolic is all about relationships, and our need to embrace the grace of God upon a particular apostle for our own individual development. Paul says to the Ephesian church (3:2) “Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you.” If you cannot name the apostle God has joined you to, and are not accurately accessing the grace of God upon his life, confusion will be the result. Accurate joining and proper response to an apostolic grace results in the saving of the ship.
Natural Appetite Must Diminish in Light of Spiritual Need, Acts 27:21
Acts 27:21 After the men had gone a long time without food… and vs. 33 “for the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food-you haven’t eaten anything.”
To build accurately and weather the storm, natural appetites must take a far lower rung of priority in our lives. The appetite’s for personal fulfillment, the approval of man, or any fleshly need must absolutely be subjugated to the purposes of God.
The Feast of Tabernacles is a picture of this technology of pursuit. Celebrated every year in Israel’s history, the faithful were required to build temporary shelters in their yards or near their homes to remind them of God’s provision in their wilderness journey of 40 years. The Feast of Tabernacles is always associated with water, Jn 7:37-39 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. The issue Christ is addressing is “are you thirsty and hungry?” To move forward in God, we must possess spiritual hunger which cannot be requited by natural things.
Zechariah foresees a day when all the nations will come before God and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Those nations which do not come will experience the judgment of no rain. We have to stay thirsty to receive rain, and stay hungry to receive nourishment. Our spiritual appetite’s must become dominant, with every other appetite becoming subdued to the purpose of God in our lives.
Zech 14:16-19 Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain.
Nehemiah records a remarkable example of the power that spiritual hunger played in reforming the nation of Israel. Neh 8:1 “All the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate.” There are 6 principles to glean from these verses.
1. Their spiritual thirst was so acute it demanded nourishment, Neh 8:1 The people told/asked Ezra to bring out the Word of God. They weren’t coerced into going to church to be preached to, nor did they have to be browbeaten into listening or applying God’s Word. Their hunger demanded accurate ministry. They were so parched, and so spiritually hungry that they had come to a place of spiritual hunger which demanded nourishment.
2. Spiritual thirst, or a quest for God, must be THE unifying factor of God’s people, Neh 8:1. All of Israel had settled in their own towns (chapter 7:73), but they assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. Men, women, and even children who could understand gathered out of a sincere hunger for the Word of God. To be truly unified, we must have in common a spiritual thirst that can only be slaked by God. True spiritual hunger always includes the ability to migrate, or move forward, based on God’s direction.
3. Their spiritual thirst superceded cultural norms and the desire for convenience,
Neh 8: 2 Ezra read from daybreak till mid-day, a time of about 6 hours. And all the people listened attentively to the book of the law! When we’re hungry and thirsty, we will be less concerned with our physical comforts and schedules than with being fed. Some churches make a foundation for growth the ability to minister to people conveniently, in as short amount of time as possible. The user friendly church perverts this principle of spiritual hunger.
Acts 20:9 notes that when Paul preached from 6 pm till midnight, Eutychus fell asleep and out the window to his death. Paul raised him from the dead, they ate again, and Paul spoke until daylight. This might be the longest sermon on record! Eutychus’ sleep is in some ways understandable: it was late, they had just eaten, the room was warm with all the lamps, etc. Yet his natural appetite’s hindered him from receiving the Word of God. Eutychus’ name means “well fated or fortunate”. Sometimes it’s the fortunate who are spiritually fat and passive. Blessed are the hungry!
4.Spiritual thirst brings an elevation of the Word of God to it’s proper place, Neh 8:4,5. They built a platform for Ezra and the other priests to stand on to read the Word of the Lord, and all the people could see him because he was standing above them. The Word of God must “stand above us”, and reformation has at its core a proper respect and elevation of God’s Word, and is a return to a Word based operating system in the church. That’s why apostolic reformation churches take the time to systematically teach and declare Scriptural truths and themes, so that all the people are grounded in truth. Some churches have a manifestation based operating system, or a “bless me” based operating system, both of which lead to error and excess.
When Ezra opened the book of the law to read, the entire assembly stood up out of reverence and respect. Some churches carry on this custom, standing whenever the Word of God is read from in the church. How much better to value the Word of God by doing what it says and living as it dictates, rather than substituting a tradition to indicate value.
5. Spiritual thirst requires a team approach to provide delivery systems so that all can understand and benefit from the Word being preached, Neh 8:8. Ezra read from the book of the law, and then many priests circulated and made sure that all the people understood. No one person, regardless of gifting and insight, can adequately feed the flock of God. Senior elders must raise up others with the ability to aid in teaching the people of God, as well as empower many to teach the principles being declared to various demographics in the church, including children, men, women, etc.
6. Spiritual thirst will produce a willingness to conform with clearly defined precepts in the Word of God, resulting in a changed lifestyle, Neh 8:14. To hear, and not to do, is worse than not hearing in the first place. The people had been born in captivity, they had no idea about the different feasts required in God’s law. In Neh 8:14, as they were reading, they realized that the prescribed time for the Feast of Tabernacles was upon them. In response to divine instruction, they immediately gathered the branches and made booths to camp out in for the prescribed time. They had never celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles before, it was a newly understood requirement. What’s written must be complied with at any cost. Our lifestyle must be changed in response to revelation from God’s Word.
A Willingness to Enter Unchartered Territory, Acts 27:39
Acts 27:39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could.
The apostolic reformation is taking the church to a place it has never been before. It is not just an updating or renewal, catching people up to present positions. We are in the middle of a pioneering move of God which is breaking new ground. Courage is required to boldly advance, because the terrain is unrecognizable. We have revelation, but only a dim view of the whole, therefore we press forward by faith. Those comfortable in the well traveled pathways need not transition, for they will not be able to enter unchartered territory.
There is a strong pioneering anointing upon apostolic ministry which empowers them to take the gospel into new areas as well as take the existing church into unchartered territory. One of the marks of an apostolic community will be their willingness to live in previously unexplored positions, opening the way for many to follow. Jesus indicated that when drinking the new wine, many will say that the old wine tastes better. Yet there must be a willingness to endure the bitter taste of the new wine at first, manifest as faltering steps towards the new and the requirement to transition from the old to the new, if we are to enter in to places we have never occupied before.
They Cut Away that which Held them to Old Positions, Acts 27:40.
They cut away the anchors which kept them bound to old positions. Anchors upon individual’s or a ministry are most often old mentalities, the fear of change, and pride and defense mechanisms of the old ways. The anchors can also be relationships that we have been loyal to for years and which would cause pain to redefine, but without redefinition we remain stuck in the old. Loyalty is a Godly attribute until it keeps you from the will of God.
Years ago God told me that He was going to help me redefine my relationships, a process which has been painful but liberating as old encumbrances have fallen off of me as I’ve migrated forward. Many of those old relationships have been lost, sacrificed appropriately on the altar of migration and truth. What good is it to have good friends if those friends and associates keep us from doing the will of God? Jesus made it clear that even close family relationships could not hinder Him from doing His Father’s will, and those who hear and do the will of the Father are his genuine family.
They Yielded Control of Their Lives to God, Acts 27:40-41. As a final act of transition, the sailors dropped the ships rudders back into the water, put up the sail, and trusted providence to save them. The rudders speak of direction and control, and the sail indicates the need of our sovereign God to fill our plans with His wind to empower us in going forward. Direction of our lives and ministries must belong to God, He alone must be the steering mechanism which directs our paths. Ps 25:4-5 Show me the path where I should go, O Lord; point out the right road for me to walk. Lead me; teach me; for you are the God who gives me salvation. I have no hope except in you.
Once the rudders were back in the water, the sailors were dependent upon the wind to propel them towards the island. The wind represents the Holy Spirit leading, guiding, and empowering us to move forward. We are dependent upon Him, even in building accurate churches, for “unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.”
by Dr Noel Woodruff