Phinehas is a cool Bible character. He was a pastor’s kid, and good at dealing with any ugly business in the ministry. He once drove his javelin through a fornicating couple right where they lay and stopped a major retaliation by God. He loved to be on the front lines, helping the worshipers lead the army into battle. In this story he is sent on a special mission:
The tribes who settled on the east side of the Jordan were a bit oddball, non-conformists, even suspect of rebellion – or maybe it was just that they lived on the other side of the river. One day news came from over there that they were building a huge alter – on their side of the river! Head office felt threatened because there was only one official alter and it was properly on the west side of the Jordan River. And then typical of the western multitude, rumors spread and fears formed that God might judge the entire nation for the sin of those few rebels on the far side of the river. Fears of rebellion escalated.
So Phinehas was chosen to take this message, “If you turn away from the Lord today by building this alter then tomorrow the wrath of God will come on us all. Why can’t you just fit in, come over to our side and be like everybody else?”
But the leaders of the east wouldn’t back down and answered, “If building our own alter over here is a rebellion, then let the wrath of God come on us alone and don’t you worry about trying to save us. Because like you westerners, we will build a legacy for our children in the land that God has called us to.” They weren’t being ugly, but they were not about to miss their own destiny just for the sake of being nice and getting along. And they weren’t trying to diminish head office, or the main alter, or move the place that God had ordained for sacrifices, their desire was to reproduce the divine design as a witness to their own children that they were no less a part of Israel. The river between east and west should not ostracize future generations from the commonwealth of Israel.
It turns out the whole thing was just a big misunderstanding, but here’s the point of the story; Phinehas gave them permission, and once you have permission, it’s no longer rebellion.
As for us in Asia, we are not building a new vision but reproducing the vision of our movement in our part of the world, and we have permission from our leaders to plant churches across Asia so our kids will know who they are.
A year ago Terry and I met with Pastor Glen Foresburg and his team in Ft. McMurray, Canada, to talk about succession. His church has partnered with our Thailand ministry for 32 years, but his young leaders and our young leaders have never met, and unless we do something about it, this partnership will end when us old guys are gone. How shall we fill the gap that naturally widens with each succeeding generation?
When it runs between brothers, the Jordan is no more than an inconvenient river crossing, but for the next generation it becomes a dividing border, or, it can double us – if we’ll not try to control the vision from one side of the river, and allow new ministry platforms to be built that will connect the cousin generations to their common inheritance.