Richard Foster, in one of his books, tells this story…
“In the spring of 1978 Carolyn and I drove to the Oregon coast. On the first morning there I got up before the sun, though not before the suns light and I quietly slipped out for an early walk on the beach. Other than the ever present sea gulls, I was quite alone. The tide was out, and the night mist was just beginning to flee from the mornings encroachment. Nearby was a huge monolith well known in the area as Haystack Rock. Nesting atop the rock were squadrons of tufted puffins. With the tide going out, I was able to walk almost completely round the magnificent rock fortress, which rises straight out of the sand. I marvelled at its stubbornness in standing against the unrelenting attack of ocean waves. The sun had broken over the distant mountains. The sheer splendour made me catch my breath. I exclaimed out loud, ‘This is beautiful!’ There was, however, a response, a clear unadorned, frank response. What followed was like an ordinary dialogue between friends and his hard to explain.
“I had come to a cliff overlooking the beach. On top was a forest of hemlock, Sitka spruce and Western cedar. I was admiring one giant cedar especially. Then as I took several steps to the right, I saw what had been hidden from my view by the healthy tree – another extremely large but obviously rotting Western cedar. Some sprouts of green went out on two sides, but it was obviously only a matter of time before the tree died.
“But then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘This is my Church!’ Then for some reason unknown to me, I turned 180 degrees and looked back at Haystack Rock in the distance. The tide had come in by then and the rock was completely surrounded by water, the waves savagely breaking against it. The divine word continued, ‘But this is what my Church is going to be!’ Great hope rose up within me as I stared at this massive icon of strength and endurance.
“Then I was given instructions that I assume was one of the primary reasons for the encounter. It was guidance to pray for the rising of a new generation of leaders – prophets of the apostolic mould – leaders who could once again gather the people of God into communities of radical faithfulness. What do these prophets look like? They come from every class and category of people. Some are educated; others are illiterate or semi-literate. Some come from organised churches and denominations; others come from outside these structures. Some are women; some are men; some are children. To the person they love Jesus with their whole heart. They all evidence the call of God upon their lives and the hand of God upon their ministries. It is of no consequence to them who is up front, who gets the attention, or who is remembered in the annals of history. Few of them, in fact, are known to the custodians of the modern media for they lack those elements necessary to be newsworthy. It is not that they lack impact; it is that the kind of impact is seen as irrelevant. To normal human reckoning they are the little people, but in the kingdom of God they are truly the great ones. They are the spiritual heirs of Deborah and Elijah, of Amos and Jeremiah, of Paul and the daughters of Philip.”
(Foster, R., Prayer, 1992, p259ff. With minor editing and abridgement.)