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A Letter Upon Release


or Helping People Only as Far as They Want to be Helped

Good morning to all of you out there in the "real world" (as it's called "inside"). Dave here, 7:15am Thursday, 15 March, 2001.

I finally got out of jail yesterday afternoon, after the trial spread over three days. All I am going to share in this letter are a couple of observations that I have made as a result of my forty days of incarceration.

One is that I feel we do not take enough risks as an organisation, and that it is one of the things that holds us back from growing. I "mother" each of you too much. And it may be that Rob and Chris have also been carrying on that tradition. "Mothering" is great. We all need it at times, and it usually has the effect of making us more confident when we finally do head out into the world. But at some stage we have to jump into new and frightening experiences and to do so more or less on our own. We have been making a bit of progress in that direction, but it is taking us a lifetime to do so. That's not bad in itself, i.e. if God is very slowly preparing us for something really big. But eventually we have to make that jump.

Perhaps that is what Ross has been doing off his own bat over the past few months and maybe even over a period of many years (because of his many ventures out on his own). We have seen him as backsliding, and there probably is a lot of truth in it. But it may also be that what he is backsliding from is something that he never had, i.e. that he (and maybe many others) never saw the issues as we see them, because he never had to see them through bitter experience. Either way, the point is that out there in the real world is where you discover what you are made of.

We have advanced to the stage where we are able to trust teams of just two people on their own more or less permanently; but there could even be times when individuals (like Ross) will want to head out on their own or at least make some decisions on their own. Although it contradicts the principle of "two or three witnesses", it may be that the principle is not set in concrete, and that it can be stretched from time to time under certain circumstances. The worst that will happen is that the person heading off on their own will backslide, and we'll never see them again; but I think experience has shown that we really can't stop someone from backsliding who wants to run away from discipline anyway. It may also be that some people who have left and turned against us have only fallen away from God's best for their lives, but not that they have fallen away from God altogether. Ultimately that is between them and God.

This approach that I am speaking of will probably not make a shred of difference to our relationship with those who have turned against us, but it could make a difference to those who have not totally cut themselves off from us, as well as to the rest of us who remain. See, there is an almost constant "fear" on my part about practically all of you, that you are going to blow up in some way and lose your way spiritually. We are all living at a spiritual level where we are usually only a step away from falling off the cliff (or at least it feels that way). But in God's grace, we may be eminently more "safe" than we think.

It's not really like we have walked perfectly along a razor thin line of perfection anyway. We may be aiming for that, and we should continue to do that. But we need to recognise how much latitude God has given us in that walk. All of our imperfections, our vices (impatience, laziness, self-righteousness, etc.) have not stopped us from making some genuine progress along the trail. And so why shouldn't God continue to work with others who are moving in the right direction as well.

I found while in prison that I could not generate amongst my fellow inmates a vision of them joining a community of people who are living by faith and laying their lives down daily for one another, even though I was convinced that it would solve so many of their problems. (So what else is new, eh? We all have a problem with inspiring others about living by faith and about living in community, don't we?) And yet I was able to help them in areas where they did want to grow spiritually.

On the whole, what most of them wanted (if they wanted to change their lives at all) was to do things like learn how to control their anger. We were already living in a community of sorts (forced though it may have been), so I simply used the situation in which I found myself to minister to them where they were at, and to take tiny little baby steps toward inspiring and encouraging them to be more patient with one another, to be more disciplined in such things as doing their exercises, to be more positive about the situation they were in, to be more loving toward their enemies (the guards), etc. And I had the distinct feeling that I really was building the kingdom of heaven.

Of course, to do that, I had to just accept their limitations on how far they were going to grow. However, I think that by the time I left there, at least three or four of those guys had actually given some serious thought to how it might be to continue to live as we live, since they gradually got a fuller picture of what we are about.

Anyway, for us as a community, it means simply accepting how far each other member actually wants to grow, and then just encouraging them to achieve the goals that they have for themselves. There will be diversity, but we will still be building the invisible kingdom of heaven.

I know what holds me back is that I feel we so badly need the core group of people who are totally committed to one another, if we are going to be able to continue. And yet, I was more or less isolated from that community for the past forty days and nights in jail, and it did not stop me from being able to continue to build the kingdom of heaven, and in that sense, I felt that I was actually on a higher plane spiritually. I was really getting ready for something that can only happen supernaturally, and that is the endtime in-gathering of God's people into the twelve tribes.

Each of you have been faithfully contributing toward that final, supernatural in-gathering as you get all of those books out on the streets. We are planting the seeds that will each grow at their own rate in their own circumstances until the time when God decides to unite us with one another. We may very well be re-united with some of the people who have backslidden and turned against us, as well as a great many more people whom we have never met yet. But only God can do it, and we must learn to take our satisfaction not in whether or not they accept us, but just in knowing that we have given them a little something to help them along their chosen spiritual path.

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