In the section titled “The Anointing for Building Community” I described the discovery by John Alley and our fellowship of the Spirit of Understanding, and how we saw it bring changes among our people. In this section I will describe in more detail exactly what we experienced, and what we expect would be the same or similar to you or any other group who also receives the same anointing.
There were 2 major and obvious changes. These were changes in our hearts which produced outward changes. They were not outward changes of themselves, because the things that visibly changed only did so because of how we now felt and thought about things. The two primary and obvious changes were that our people seemed to see each other with a different set of eyes, and the other was that inter-personal striving was removed from our church life.
One sister testified, sometime after these events had occurred, that there was another woman in the church that she couldn't stand, didn't want to sit anywhere near, and always felt “rubbed up the wrong way” by her. But she found her heart had completely changed. She no longer felt uncomfortable, but instead appreciated her very much. Since the time the grace was released, she felt great love, admiration, and acceptance of that person. It was a total change of feeling and outlook with no human explanation. This is what I mean by saying that the people now saw each other through different eyes.
With inter-personal striving now removed we also found a new freedom in being able to work together without needing to compete with each other. The “spirit of competition” was no longer there. It meant that the Senior Minister (John Alley) could appoint someone to a job, and the other qualified (or people who thought they were qualified) people didn't get offended and in fact were happy for that person. Personal self promotion seemed to have gone. It made it easier to work as a team and do many things together.
There were practical outcomes too. For one, people stopped leaving the church. Previously we would work hard to keep everybody together, yet even so from time to time people would leave for no good reason. We had had a series of unfortunate “losses” even in the years after the nasty time of division was over and calm had returned. But from the time the community grace was received, virtually all abnormal movement out ceased.
Tony Ponicke (our pastor in charge of pastoral care) has said that the amount of counselling or serious pastoral care required by our own people dropped to a fraction of what it was before. It has remained this way for many years since.
As a people, we have come to the place where we simply belonged to each other. The atmosphere within the church changed, and this has made a huge difference. John Alley describes it from the Senior Minister's point of view. “Up until that time I had needed to work hard as the pastor, but when that grace came in, I relaxed completely. Previously, I would set the alarm to get up extra early on Sunday morning to pray at length, before preparing carefully, dressing well, and arriving at the church early. I would make sure I said hello to everybody before the service started. I would work hard, and feel under pressure, to make sure we had a great program, great worship, great announcements, great preaching and great ministry times, and then when finished I would go around and try to greet everybody again.”
John Alley continues, “Why was it so important to operate like that? Because we had to keep our 'customers' happy. If we didn't keep them happy, they might go down the road and shop in another pastor's shopping centre. Much of the church is like this; striving, competitive, and performance-oriented.”
The coming of the grace for community changed all that. It made us feel that we belonged to each other. Something shifted in the hearts of the people, and things felt different because they were different. John describes more, “Now when I turn up on Sunday, I have come home. I walk into that building and I am with family who love me. I walk in and relax like the rest of the people. I belong, not just organisationally, but in their hearts. By the way people greet me it is obvious they feel they belong to me, and I belong to them. We have all come home. There is no more sense of threat or dread in the house. When I get up to speak, God beings to speak and there is no more need to 'perform', and no more spirit of competition. There is rest in the hearts of the people. And I don't even set the alarm anymore.”
The church was good before, and the people were good people. But this was a remarkable miracle we received and it took place in the heart of all the people as a whole at the same time. We are an ordinary people, with our share of faults and weaknesses, but we are really happy in appreciating and giving grace to each other.
There are a few conclusions we can draw here. Being of one heart and one mind as we experienced at “Peace” is the intended normal state of the Church. This is supposed to be normal and should be everywhere. We should believe for it and pray for it and seek to understand, and seek the spirit of understanding. The power and grace available is the same as that which was released on the Day of Pentecost, and I know a lot of believers and churches want that.