Meeting Gene Edwards (#620)

Gene Edwards is an enigmatic personality and a polarizing figure. No one has done more to encourage people think outside the box of institutionalized Christianity and see the Bride of Christ as Jesus is giving her shape in the world than Gene Edwards. And yet his model for replicating that church has been controversial and for some, painful. Wayne had the opportunity last month to sit down with Gene to share their mutual passion and the differences in how they see God working in the world.  Brad and Wayne process that conversation and why trying to replicate his church by teaching people to follow a model, no matter how well constructed, is problematic at best. As a side note Brad and Wayne reflect on the imperfect vessels we all are, and how to celebrate God's work in a life, even when we recognize their flaws.

Podcast Notes:
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  1. How can there even be a model for this? The church I am experiencing today was not even possible 25 years ago. The community God has given me is situated all over the world, and I connect with them through email, phone calls and podcast comments like this one. I am blessed that God even facilitated one face-to-face! All we do is share the Life of Jesus in us with each other. These people know me better than anyone I congregate with, and better than members of my own household. We just put everything on the table, because this is truly a journey of uncertainty.

    There is no machine, no infrastructure, no ‘offering.’ It works, and imparts LIFE to us, for the simple reason that “God is not who we think He is.” He unfolds himself to us and we share that with each other. That’s all. Each of us know, for sure, that we are being transformed into the image of his Son.

    We are not encumbered by leadership, or authority, or roles. After all, the kingdom of God is flat: Shepherd and sheep; Father and children. We are “coming to know the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent,” but together. There is a fellowship there that I have not known before. As we come to know Truth, the Person, things we depended on before fade into obscurity: belief systems, theologies about God, principles we mastered, moral codes we followed. Instead, we follow the Spirit because he is enticing, not because he is authoritative.

    This truly is Jesus’ church. He is the center. He is all, and in all. He is The Resurrection, he is The Life, he is The Way, he is The Truth. We are only beginning to discover what those mean. Jesus must increase; we must decrease. How could we possibly reduce His Reality to a model?

  2. At this point in time, I am fully convinced that the church Jesus is building and coming back for, is one that is totally outside anything man can manipulate or control. Jesus said he was building HIS church and I for one am very happy to leave things in his hands, my part being, a yielding to His will in response to His love. It seems that little credit is given to the working of the Holy Spirit in us and His role in how this will all eventually come to pass.

    John Beaumont wrote a book entitled “A God Filled Nobody” a concept that is becoming increasingly important in my own experience as time goes by. Jesus made Himself of no reputation and his life in us will, with our cooperation, chip away at our egos until (hopefully) this becomes our experience also.

    I find it helpful to remind myself often, that we are all “works in progress” and that I really have no right to put expectations on others. I’ve read several +of Gene Edwards books and while The Divine Romance and The Three Kings had a profound effect on me, this was not always the case with the others I read. However, as the old saying goes “eat the chicken and spit out the bones” .

  3. Oops sorry, Gene Edwards book was ” The Tale Of Three Kings” not “The Three Kings” as stated in my comment

  4. Oh dear, another senior moment, that should have been “A Tale Of Three Kings”

  5. Thanks Wayne for sharing about your meeting with Gene! Ever since you teased the meeting awhile back, I have been eagerly waiting to hear how the conversation went between two men who have so influenced (or maybe a better word is confirmed) my journey through its various stages. I wish I could have been there.

    Gene is a man who God used to “ruin” me for “ministry” from the very time I began serving in an official role on staff over 20 years ago. His writings resonated with me both in terms of things not being as they “should” (whatever that means) in the “church” and this growing passion for Jesus and his Bride that was developing in me. In addition to the books you guys mentioned, I especially enjoyed “The Highest Life” and its revelation (to me at the time) that we don’t live the Christian life by our own intellect, feelings or striving, but rather the divine life is lived in us by the Spirit and transforms all that we are so that our mind, emotions and will take on the fragrance of Father (to borrow some of your language).

    At the same time I began to see that some of his teachings were not helpful when some of that “I have the correct way all figured out” spirit blew up in my own life. Upon finally meeting Gene I realized what you discussed in the podcast- that , like in all of us (I suspect), there is in him this mix of the Spirit and the fallen self, and that I am not called to follow this man or his vision, but the Christ who had spoken some important things through him. At about that time, my wife and I sensed Father inviting us to this scary and yet strangely relaxing space outside of the box, and in total peace walked away from a paying gig with nothing else lined up and our first baby on the way. This also was around the time I discovered your writings and I felt an instant draw in how they confirmed and gave language to what God was working in my heart. I have come to especially appreciate your heart for allowing Father to sort out His Church and for appreciating the different places He has each of his children plugged in along the journey.

    For some reason, listening about your conversation with Gene has brought some of the themes of my faith journey full circle, and I am grateful to Father for the important pieces of the picture you have each shared and how those pieces have influenced my walk. Thank you for the stroll down memory lane and an opportunity to reflect on this wonderful journey that God has orchestrated!

  6. Thanks Wayne for your candid approach and follow through after spending time with Gene. Early in the 2000’s I had probably read 20 of Gene’s books and was leaning toward joining a network of home churches; his network was top of the list. Your podcast dredged up many memories from that time and the contrasting feelings I would get as I read such grandeur in Gene’s writings, mixed with such– “NOT grandeur”. This podcast confirmed way’s the Holy Spirit had revealed course correction to me, even though I blew-by HIS inward leadings, looking for “the way” that we should go. I hate that!
    In 2005 , (I use we, but really it was I) started to have weekly gatherings around a meal in our home, with the hope that we could move away from preprogrammed meetings and find “real body life”. It stayed on our schedule for 7 years and went nowhere—good anyways. We finally realized in one sentence what the Holy Spirit could have said into our hearts in a millisecond, “If you’re going to have a regular scheduled meeting in your home, someone’s going to have to lead it.” Duh!! During that 7 year season, My wife and I had ventured from Erie, PA to Philly (a long trek) mostly, to visit a Gene Edwards home church. We wanted to belong somewhere! We found a regularly practiced program in a home–imagine that? 🙂 Sometime in that period, my wife had a dream of being pregnant, delivering a baby in our older age, but the hospital wouldn’t give us the baby they helped us deliver. We took that as a warning not to join Gene’s network, or any other, and eventually reality set in—House Church is not “the promised land”. As I listened to this podcast, I remembered I could have just taken your word for it Wayne; hearing your thoughts on house church early in the year 2000. Also, I remembered a similarly lodged point that the Holy Spirit had used from reading some writings from Jack Gray, “Jacob’s Long Journey Home”. The Holy Spirit was at work trying to help me see—Yikes! How well blinded we can be! I can say, I believe, (maybe hope is a better word) that I’m seeing more clearly and quickly today; that I don’t have to get so many more things, the hard way.
    Another “hard way lesson” I remembered during the podcast was that we discovered one of our faithful 7-year-house church attendees had found the liberty to introduce herself to a “spanking group” during that season. This came to light just as we announced that for my wife & I, the season for home church had come to an end. She probably would have been glad to introduce all of us into that group, (maybe that’s what we needed–Sheeeesh!)
    Also, a married couple that attended most of that period crashed and burned in their marriage shortly after our group closed up shop. He had been regularly attending out of town endeavors to hide his addiction to another lifestyle–Double Sheeesh! When Gene talked about “every two years” things He started would blow up, I could relate. There’s gotta-be a direct correlation to trying to “Build” or “Rebuild” (with hay wood stubble) something for God using scripture like a paper document/ blueprint when it’s a time to get download’s from “the Cloud”. (All the Builds, and Re-builds in Washington DC have become completely paperless).
    Over these last 15 years I have wrestled with allowing the Holy Spirit to dismantle practices that I had incorporated into my Christian lifestyle. One that I still struggle with is “regular Bible reading”. I’ve allowed HIM to dismantle the rather lengthy practice I had established. I heard some confirmation, (I think) to the positive side of that dismantling within your podcast confession about learning where “something not good” had it’s root within you being tied to continuously reading David’s psalms. A download message I think I’ve been given by the Holy Spirit is that,”The blueprint for life,(Bible reading or interpretation or parsing for presidents) is being displaced even more today with “heavenly writ” like what Peter spoke back to Jesus, “you are the Christ….” and Paul testified of, “no man taught me…”. Deploying practices based mostly on “Paper blueprint” for “body life” is no longer a valid building or rebuilding guide; it will not withstand even a few years. Like when fresh manna was gathered for “re- use” and couldn’t be stored; it rotted overnight.
    Maybe it’s never been “valid” to build with poor materials, but we have many well established institutions that still stand. Perhaps the shaking that is already shaking is just going to make what’s been built from utilizing hay, wood, and stubble seem more evident sooner.

    I don’t know for sure on this stuff, just putting some thoughts out there stirred by your podcast
    Love you brother Wayne

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