Intro: The Sword of the Spirit is part of a larger movement of covenant communities throughout the world, some of them joined together in networks, some standing on their own. The movement of communities is a sign of the times, when Christians long divided from one another are coming together to seek unity and stand together for the Gospel. In the face of a world grown more and more hostile to Christianity, the support of brothers and sisters in Christ is very welcome and urgently needed.
The following article by Steve Clark is a short excerpt from The Mission of the Sword of the Spirit, a booklet co-authored by Steve Clark and Carlos Mantica. This article gives a brief summary that describes our mission and what we are called to do to fulfil this mission. The full article is available online here. – ed.
Now let’s return for a moment to that sentence that describes our call in the Sword of the Spirit:
“We are called to live, work and strive, by the power of the Holy Spirit,
so that others might have true life in Christ, now and forever.”
Note that there is a purpose to our calling – for others to have true life in Christ, now and for all eternity. We have a treasure: we have discovered what true life is really about – life with God, life God’s way. We are called to be co-workers with God, to use the Apostle Paul’s phrase, to bring others to that life. This is foundational to all that we do in mission. We are not always expressly evangelistic, of course. We do not start every day by preaching the gospel or spend it calling people up on the telephone to talk about Christ. We may do that sometimes, but all that we do, the very way we live our lives, is so that others might have true life in Christ, now and forever.
To be sure, community is for us as well. Most people [who had left France for North America in the early 1700s and settled] in Ft. Detroit probably came there to gain a better life for themselves. Someone probably pointed out to them, “You know, you are not living as well in France or in Quebec as you could in the new settlement. You can get a big farm pretty much free or you can make more money trading.” And why are we in the community? Well, to most of us, people had probably said, “You can have a better life. You can know the Lord, you can have some people to support you, you can get some help with your family.” But that does not mean that community life is for our benefit alone.
When people start living this life, they soon discover that it is an expression of God’s own life of generosity. God could have lived in heaven in total bliss all by himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for all eternity, in perfect relationship. He could have said, “Why should we bother with all those sinful, ungrateful people? They are only trouble!”
But that is not what God is like. He is by nature oriented to sharing his own life with others, even with insignificant creatures like us.
When we enter into God’s life, even if we enter into it just seeking something for ourselves, what we receive is a life that wants to share itself. As the life of God begins to work in us, through the action of the Holy Spirit, the same desire that God has, begins to come into our lives, the desire to say, “I have got something good and I want to share it.” We discover that there is something about this seed of new life inside us that wants to give itself away, and each of us gradually realizes, “I am becoming the kind of person who wants to share it with other people.” This is the life of the kingdom of God. As we generously live the “ordinary” life the Lord has given us in the Sword of the Spirit, we become, like Ft. Detroit, centers to radiate new life and bases for reaching out to those around us. We are foundationally, fundamentally a group of people who, as a part of our mission, live a certain life together in the Lord.
Called to proclaim, leaven, gather, and defend
But of course we are called not just to be something, but also to do things in order to fulfill our mission. These are summarized in four words in the second half of “Our Mission”: we are called to proclaim, leaven, gather, and defend.
To Proclaim. We do need to speak the Gospel. At some point people need to hear the good news. That is one of the ways in which they can come to the life of the Lord. The brother who gave the testimony did that, although he did not spend most of his time at it. He did it when he judged it would be helpful to move someone along. Proclaiming the good news should have the highest priority in what we do. We do it in various ways – sometimes by sponsoring evangelistic events, sometimes by witnessing through our life, often by taking opportunities in the course of daily life as they present themselves.
To Gather. A part of our mission is to gather people into communities and movements. Why are we concerned about “gathering”? Is it not enough for people to go to church on Sunday? Well, it may have been at one time, but we know from experience what happens to most people whose only Christian contact is their local church. If they are not involved in a community, a movement or something similar, they will usually end up being more and more influenced by the environment around them rather than influencing their environment for the Lord. And rarely do their children turn out to be as Christian as they are.
So we seek to bring people into community, with a preference for introducing them to the one we are in, since we know it best and are in the best position to welcome them into it. If that does not seem right, we work to connect them to another environment where they can get help and support to live a more dynamic Christian life. Most frequently we “gather” simply by inviting people we know into closer contact with our “ordinary” community life and activities.
To Leaven. This is not a common term in modern speech: Leaven is an older word for yeast. It appears in a parable of the Lord Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel (13:33): “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” The parable expresses part of the Lord’s strategy for establishing his kingdom. Just as you put a little yeast into dough and gradually it permeates the dough and makes it rise, the Lord puts us into various situations in this world in order to permeate and change them so that more and more of the world can be opened to and changed by the life of the kingdom of God.
We do not have a social-actionist ideology. We do not believe that just trying to improving people and the world will bring about what God wants. We believe very firmly that Christian conversion is essential for people to come into new life and for human society to become what God created it to be. On the other hand, we are supposed to be a Christian influence, and the more we act as Christian leaven in our daily environments, seeking to promote good values, the more our presence disposes people to the kingdom of God and to Christian conversion, and the better their life will be.
To Defend. Sometimes we have a chance to defend the gospel and Christian morality. In the testimony that I spoke about, the brother found that difficult business decisions became an opportunity to quietly speak on behalf of Christian morality. I heard several of our brothers and sisters say that the recent U.S. presidential morality scandal, unfortunate as it was, had the good side effect of giving them an opportunity to speak to colleagues and friends on behalf of Christian morality. It is worth noting that we sometimes need to speak up, not just in society in general but in our churches, as well. During the recent wave of aggressive homosexual propaganda in American society, many of our members were the only ones in their churches willing to speak up in defense of traditional scriptural moral values. Once they did, however, they found they had a great deal of support from others around them, including from many non-Christians.
How do we do these four things: proclaim, gather, leaven and defend? The last paragraph of “Our Mission” gives a brief description: “We do these things individually both in our daily lives and by serving in the community or its outreaches. We do these things corporately by opening our life to others, by maintaining outreaches, and by helping to build new communities.”
To begin with, we do our mission by opening our lives to others, which of course requires internal community service – taking care of the music, providing meals, setting up chairs. If we did not do such things, we would not have a community of disciples on mission. These support services allow the community to exist and to manifest God’s kingdom so others can see it. Our doing these services is missionary work, because it allows us to function as a missionary community.
This article is excerpted from a two-part series by Steve Clark in Living Bulwark:
Top photo credit: collage of Sword of the Spirit and Kairos outreach events, © Sword of the Spirit.
Steve Clark has been a founding leader, author, and teacher for the Catholic charismatic renewal since its inception in 1967. Steve is past president of the Sword of the Spirit, an international ecumenical association of charismatic covenant communities worldwide. He is the founder of the Servants of the Word, an ecumenical international missionary brotherhood of men living single for the Lord.
Steve Clark has authored a number of books, including Baptized in the Spirit and Spiritual Gifts, Finding New Life in the Spirit, Growing in Faith, and Knowing God’s Will, Building Christian Communities, Man and Woman in Christ, The Old Testament in Light of the New.