Ok Geography Scouts…Quick! Where’s Trier, Germany!?
Yeah…I didn’t know either.
In fact, before May (2007), I’d never even heard of it. That’s when our friends Rusty and Janet Richards from PRAY BIG in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (read more about some of their ministry focus here: http://anabaptistreconciliation.org/index.html) were in Guebwiller, France to participate in a weekend with Martin Scott at our church. During this weekend, they told us about a worship initiative that they had a heart to undertake in Trier, Germany the 5-13 September.
It seems that Trier, a city of 100,000 near the border of Luxembourg in western Germany (now you know!) is having a celebration this year to mark a very significant anniversary.
Ok History Wonks…Quick! What happened in 307AD!?
Yeah…I didn’t know that either.
307AD, a year after Constantine was declared by his troops Emperor of the Roman Empire in York, England, he began his reign…in Rome, right? No…apparently, he was declared “Augustus” in Trier, Germany, where his father had ruled and he set up his residence there for 10 years. Who was actually in charge of the Roman Empire at that time was apparently somewhat in question!
Ok, so much for moldy history and small cities in Germany…so why are we worshiping there anyway?
Well, this same Constantine, while living and ruling in Trier, was engaged in an internal power struggle in the Roman Empire with Caesar Maxentius. In 312AD, before the battle of Milvian Bridge, Constantine saw a vision of a cross in the sky (in the sun, depending upon the account of the story) and heard a voice that said “in this sign you will conquer.” The rest is, as we know and say, history…Constantine painted crosses on his soldier’s shields and won the battle; attributed the victory to God’s blessing on his enterprise, and perhaps most significantly, subsequently turned the tables of the relationship between the State and this young movement called Christianity. Up until this time, Christians had been horribly persecuted, but Constantine’s change of fortunes put an end to that. Christianity became the favored religious practice of the State and Christians went from being persecuted outcasts to favored citizens with influence. Most of history has credited Constantine with the spread of Christianity in Europe and, of course after that, the world.
The famous story of Constantine’s conversion is very significant because it exposes the heart of the difference between the kingdom of God and empire. Constantine saw a cross in the sky and heard a voice telling him “In this sign you shall conquer”. But he did not understand it in Christian terms. Jesus said “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). The way of life in the kingdom of God is to give yourself in love for others like Jesus did. What a difference it might have made to the history of the world if Constantine had received his vision in those terms! But instead he took it to mean that faith in the Christian God and the support of the Christian church would make him a successful emperor in military and economic terms. His subsequent success and his protection of the church were interpreted as the blessing of God. As a result imperial sovereignty was increasingly seen to be God’s way of rulership, and the appropriate shape for authority both within church and society.
So when I read that Trier was planning this big celebration, I realized that it was in reality a season dedicated to worshiping the empire spirit. I asked the Lord to let me go there during this time to establish an altar of worship to the True God. It is not my intention to engage enemy spirits. I simply want to come to this place in the spirit of worship to Jesus. This in itself is probably very confrontational. There is an enormous shift happening in the world right now. It is a critical time in history. There are clashes of kingdoms and empires in the natural and in the spiritual. I want to take my place in advancing the Kingdom of God.
So the team’s desire in this trip was simply to establish an altar of worship in Trier. Using the principle that worship establishes the authority and rulership of that which is worshiped, we simply want to re-establish God as the authority in Trier by worshiping Him (See Psalm 22:3 for a Godly example and many ungodly examples among the nations elsewhere in the Old Testament). Many more things are to come, but this was s trip for re-laying foundations…in a place where many of the foundations of Western culture as we know it today were layed nearly 2000 years ago. (For more history of Trier, including some references dating to over 2000 years ago, see this link: http://www.tricon.homepage.t-online.de/5080.htm)
While it is possible to drop down in a parachute and worship God anywhere, God has usually already established people in different geographical locations. Working with the local Body of Christ is really crucial so that what is deposited by a visiting team is nurtured and so that the visiting team better understands the realities of the locality. In truth, “the team” is always those who are visiting and those who are already established there working hand-in-hand to hear what God is saying and to do it. I’d venture to say that any other model of ministry probably lacks a fullness that God intends.
We were exceedingly blessed by the connection with a church in Trier called “Gemeinde des Lebendigen Gottes“, which means Church of the Living God. They are an example of a God who is alive and active in Trier. Their church is very multi-cultural, led by a multi-cultural pastoral couple, Mike and Claudia Williams, an anglophone African from Ghana and a German, respectively. They have a heart to serve the outcasts of the city and consequently the outcasts have come in, drawn by concrete demonstrations of Jesus’ love. In accepting them just as they are, for example those who are weighed down with sickness, mental illness, demon possession, or those who are recent immigrants from other countries that may not even speak German yet (17 nations are represented in this church), this church of a couple hundred really has their hands full and must lean daily on the Lord for provision and wisdom. The Lord made this connection and the church, rather than simply letting us use a room and leaving us to “do our thing” has wanted to be deeply involved and serve the visiting team all the time we were there. The majority of the team was housed in host families from the church and they provided us 3 meals a day, prepared by a wonderful team of Chinese that are part of the fellowship. The worship times were often conducted by groups composed of church members and the visiting team…playing together for the first time, of course, and having a wonderful time in the Lord singing in German, French and English.
In the last couple of years, intercession and worship ministry trips have largely been something that I’ve done alone or done with my daughter Rachel. Recently, Angela and I have purposed to make ministry trips occasions, where as much as possible, we engage together as a couple. Not having done that in a while, we are definitely a bit rusty at it and there are challenges in how we approach and see such events differently, but these are great catalysts for discussion and prayer. There are also financial and logistical challenges involved.
It was a step of faith to go…for Angela because of concerns with how she might be feeling physically…for me because of the logistics of caring for our children while we were gone were not as “neat and tidy” as I would have liked. But God rewarded that step with a time that was rich in worship and relationship…between us and with others…and lots of little special blessings from our loving Heavenly Father (sweet fellowship as a couple, a wonderful bed to sleep in, increased facility in speaking German, deep worship times, easy travel, kids were fine at home, etc.) to let us know that we were firmly in His hands and walking in His ways.
While we went by ourselves as a couple, there were 7 others from our church in Guebwiller, 12 in all from France, 3 from Belgium and 9 from the US during our time there and some more to come after we left. It was a joy to work together in worshiping the living God in the Church of the Living God, to get to know new people, to see more connections for the future that cross the Atlantic and the French-German borders (my two big desires!).
Much more I could say about the significance of Trier and our time there, but I’ve droned on enough here. If you’re in the neighborhood, sometime, Trier is worth a visit, but while there think about what God wants to do there and run to your Heavenly Father to pull it from the heavenly realm into the earthly reality so that “His glory covers the earth as the waters cover the seas!“