The Lord gave me a prophetic experience one spring that went a long way toward dealing with the guilt I’ve felt over NOT being successful in bringing change to the institutional church I attended for several years
I need to share a little background – I was born and raised in a suburb south of Seattle and lived there for 42 years before the Lord directed me to move to the rural Midwest. The good ol’ boys had themselves quite a time kidding me about being a city boy and I often joked about corn, bugs, stifling heat, and hog farms common to the area. I’ve written song parodies about farm life and sang them for the locals, along with the inspirational and worship music I write.
That spring, my musician friend, David, visited and he’d suffered through enough of my corn and hog jokes and parody songs, that one morning he woke and requested I drive him to a farm so he could have his picture taken with a hog. David must have thought our little town was like “Green Acres” where the pig Arnold roamed Main Street and was included in the population count.
I rolled my eyes at David’s request and told him there was NO such thing as a free-ranging hog. All the small family hog farms are gone and all that’s left are mega hog farms. On a mega hog farm, the animals are locked in large buildings with a concrete floor and chest high walls, with retractable canvas flaps between the foundation walls and roof line.
Grain silos between the buildings keep a steady supply of food in the feeder bins. The buildings are not lighted or are only dimly lit when the hog farmer is cleaning the buildings. The hogs themselves are literally standing in their own feces and when they reach marketable size, have very little room to move. It all stinks terribly!
Still David insisted on going as he believed God had something He wanted to show us through a hog farm. Reluctantly I agreed to go, insisting we drive his car since it was a rental and I didn’t want any pig poop in my car. Armed with a county map and phone book, we drove over numerous back roads looking for Arnold. We saw free ranging cattle, sheep, dogs, cats, squirrels and a possum but not a single hog.
Finally after an hour or two of looking, we come upon one of the large hog farms and stopped for a look. By the time we stopped, I’d copped an attitude a mile wide and snapped at David: “Do you see any hogs – it’s just like I told you – no hogs where you can see them.” So we took each other’s picture in front of a grain silo which had the cartoon caricature of a hog on it. As we turned to go, I noticed that the side flap was rolled up on one of the buildings, so we walked slowly up the grassy berm until we could see the hogs over the top of the concrete foundation wall.
The moment the hogs caught sight of us and heard our voices they began to squeal in fear! They literally stampeded away from us, bunching up to put as much distance between us and them as possible. The open space between us formed a semi-circle and the hogs that were closest to us were butting and biting each other to push into the mass of hogs and not be the hogs nearest to us. About that time David lifted up his FLASH camera to take a picture of them and I pulled his arm down saying “are you out of your mind? – they’re terrified of us and fighting each other to get away from us. If you flash your light at them they might stampede and injure one another while trying to get away from us”. So we took a final look and walked back to the car.
The spirit in me was deeply grieved over the whole experience; I was haunted by the sight and sounds of it all. David remarked “I don’t understand what that was about”. And like a lightning bolt, God’s message in our experience hit me.
Pigs are unclean animals. Metaphorically, they represent the unsaved. Even if washed, they are filthy inside just like the Pharisees whom Christ said were full of unclean things (Matthew 23). The hogs are captive in pens with no chance of escape. They are kept in the dark, knee deep in their own filth and fed just enough to fatten them up for the slaughter, to profit the hog farmer.
What really hit me hard, was that the hogs feared us, but trusted the farmer who is fattening them up for the slaughter to sell their flesh and bones for profit. To the hogs, we were foreigners, though once David and I were like them. Before we came to know Christ, we were unclean and unregenerate and existing in the hog pens of institutionalized religion, for the purpose of feeding a hireling (John 10:12).
Fortunately, Jesus snatched us out of the hog-farm of religion, where Jesus cleaned and sanctified us, baptized us with the Holy Spirit and stood us up on 2 feet, where we are now free to go wherever the Lord leads. The LIGHT in David’s camera is akin to the LIGHT of CHRIST which if we had illuminated it, would have caused a stampede and injury – most certainly to them – and possibly an injury to us in their rush to get away from the light.
This revelation came to me with deep heartache and weeping, because for many years I thought I had failed to reach the people in the IC. I couldn’t escape feeling like I did something wrong or that I could have done something different to “reach” them, or to “usher in revival”. I lamented for years that they weren’t interested in our “light” – whether it be the manifestation of the Spirit through gifts, spiritual songs, or the messages and revelations we had from Christ. Like the hogs, the people in the IC wanted no part of us or what we had to offer. The ONLY way they would accept us was IF we would get down on all fours like the rest of them, eat the slop of their religious tradition and dogma, pretend to like it and respect (fear) the dominant hogs.
Through that experience, I came to understand that there was absolutely nothing I could have done to make the people in the institutional church see the Christ I see (ref: 1 Cor. 2:14). It was NOT a failure on my part to bring revival to that place. The only difference is, that unlike the hogs, people in the institutional church are there by their own choice. The door to leave is wide open and Jesus is calling them to leave, saying:
Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues. (Revelation 18:4 ESV)
The Good Shepherd is there to lead them when they come out, to teach and guide them and feed them good food. Fear is the only thing that keeps them captive.
To my friend David, I’m sorry, brother, for busting your chops (grin) about going to a hog farm. God did indeed have a message for us there.