Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Thankful for the Stephens (and the johns)

SO, MY BIG question about the Asbury Revival is not so much theological as biological: who’s getting the portapotties?

The Jesus-follower in me wants to experience the move of God that began in the chapel at Asbury College in Kentucky and has since rippled to other campuses across the country, with hands up and open.

Meanwhile, the journalist in me wants to go behind the scenes with notebook in hand to find out what happens downstream, as it were, when God shows up in this kind of way.

Because outpourings have to be contained, at least in one way—hence the toilet question. What happens when thousands of people descend on a town so small the police have to close the roads at one stage because too many visitors are trying to get in? Someone needs to recognize that while all these folks want to commune with God, at some stage they are also going to need to commune with nature.

Manifestations of God’s presence have to be managed. When heaven touches earth there are practicalities to be considered. The spiritual has physical implications. Bless all those who want to be touched, but someone’s got to get a bit Martha-ish about things.

We have encountered some of this at our church. We’ve not experienced what’s happening at Asbury and elsewhere (yet), though we do have strong ties to the college through some of our leaders. However, we have seen God at work over the past few years. Our membership has just about tripled. We now have three services on a Sunday morning, but parking is becoming a problem. We don’t want people to turn away and leave because they can’t find somewhere to leave their vehicle.

So, while we’re grateful for our preachers, worship team and prayer ministers, we also need logistical types who know about things like traffic flow, building capacities, and other mundane details like that. One option is to build more parking spaces. Another is to launch a second campus to relieve some of the pressure on the existing facilities.

All of which gives me a greater appreciation for the Stephens of this world—the stewards who shepherd space for the Holy Spirit to move in.

You may recall Stephen was one of the seven chosen to take over the food distribution for the booming early church so the apostles could focus on “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

We remember Stephen best and revere him most for his brave martyrdom, which is unfortunate, in a way. Because it’s easy for us to read what he did and said in his final moments and maybe think that this was really what it’s all about—that backroom service like waiting tables is only preparation for the real work of the ministry: proclaiming the gospel.

However, Scripture describes Stephen as “a man full of God’s grace and power” who “performed great wonders and signs among the people” in the context of his diaconate role.

I suspect that, when we get to heaven, not all the saints will be wearing white robes. Some might have reflective jackets on, for parking duty. We know there’s at least one chariot up there, right? (“Over here, Elijah.”)

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