Friday, December 16, 2011

“Seek and You Shall Find” Beckoning the Seeker to Seek

Greg Austin

More than a few forecasters of the direction of the immediate future of the church are anticipating its certain and summary death and burial. Others believe that the church has long since become irrelevant to the majority of humanity, (and here, I might find closest agreement with the critics of current ecclesia). Still others see neither the need or the prospect of any change whatsoever. To these, like the generation Jesus spoke of, “all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”

While multitudes are curtailing their association with the institution of religion, many are content to huddle in their spiritual enclaves with either a stubborn or a naïve perception that “we’re ok, you’re ok.” So long as the band plays, as long as the lights shine and the money rolls in, Heaven is happy and we’re ecstatic, too.

Never mind the masses looking for and finding the exit doors of our sanctuaries with increasing frequency. Never mind the alarming downward spiral of church attendance and missionary participation and yes, the accompanying plunge of monetary income lining the pockets of institutional religion.

Never mind as well the more than alarming departure of preachers from the pulpit and the growing prevelance of familial dysfunction within the ranks of the remaining clergy: Apparently those leaving our organized religious experience just don’t get it. It’s all about a musical sound that pleases the ear, preaching (well, perhaps not preaching, we don’t want or need much of that – perhaps teaching, sharing, conversing fits us better) that salves the conscience and café esspresso instead of comittment and an expression of Jesus’ life.

Nor are increasing numbers of adherents the critical signet of success.

Like so much of life, there is a grain of truth in all of these diverse opinions and beliefs. One thing is certain whether it is realized or not: The church of Jesus is embarked on an undeniable course of change so radical that even the very word "church" has taken on new meanings and definitions.

In his book The Second Coming of the Church, respected pollster and author George Barna states "Today's Church is incapable of responding to the present moral crisis. It must reinvent itself or face virtual oblivion by mid-21st century. (Italics mine). Dr. Mark Hanby declares in The House That God Built, "The Christian drowning in a flood of human ideas and programs to bring 'God's dreams' to pass." Mike Regele writes in Death of the Church "The Church has a choice: to die as a result of its resistance to change or to die in order to live." Dr. C. Peter Wagner's book Churchquake, a treatise on radical Church Change has raised the ire of many traditionalists whose attitude about the Church is encompassed in the current slang expression: "it's all good."

God loves the church, guides the church and is in the process not only of restoring the church to a place of spiritual power and significance, but God has issued the command for a "course-correction" in the direction of the church so drastic that it is nothing short of a revolution of structure.

The days of Reformation, so sacrosanct, so revered and so essential to existent and prevailing church structure, are finished, concluded, over. God is the Architect and the Engineer of true, spiritual revolution. The New Creation species – those who have experienced genuine, spiritual rebirth are engaged in, caught up by a revolution that will result in the re-establishing of the true, New Testament, New Creation church; the church Jesus promised He (and no other) would build.

This church must, by its nature be filled with God, Himself. And being filled with and by the God of creation, it also will be a church filled with power and significance and efficacy; the embodiment of the true glory of God Himself. This may sound, to the religiously-contended ear like a reckless-sounding statement. Yet I assure the reader it is a proper, measured and fully-considered assertion.

Virtually every study that has examined the growth/decline patterns of traditional, Christian churches in America and in Europe corroborate the veracity of my brash-sounding appraisal. Yet I don’t need to appeal to the data-gatherers: The reader knows it by experience or by simple observation.

The modern-traditional-church-system has strayed severely from the course Jesus set for His followers.

Instead of "going" we have gathered in our comfort zones of doctrinal, ethnic and social sameness. Instead of distributing we have hoarded. Instead of "whosoever will," the church has become possessively "our church;" "our program;" "our doctrine;" "our faith" to the exclusion of outsiders, anyone but “us.”

Through the first decade of the 21st Century, Western Christianity has degenerated into a culture of "give me" and "feed me" and "entertain me" and "serve me" since we believe, “it’s all about me,” instead of advancing a culture of "reach them" and "feed them" and "serve them."

We "rate" the worship experience, the sermon, the teaching, the prophecy, the coffee, the children's program, the architectural structure, the carpet and the paint and the restroom decor. We choose our places of worship based on carnal, earthly criteria and so we miss heavenly atmospheres and divine architecture.

We chase success and disregard crushed and wounded souls. We use the gospel for self-improvement for our families, self-attainment for our businesses, and selfish growth of our financial portfolios instead of letting the gospel use us to demonstrate good news to dying men.

We applaud and deify charismatic leaders when their slick theatrics wow us and we stone them when God's truth through them wounds us.

Much of the contemporary church of the West is a sick Body. Like Samson, shorn of his power, blinded to the light, bound by his own, foolish cuteness and trickery, the church stumbles before a world that accurately recognizes her ineptness, her weakness and her ineffectiveness.
And yet multitudes cry for authenticity. Hearts yearn for what they have not seen, have not heard, have not known while all the while seeing, hearing and knowing something more is out there, awaiting discovery, beckoning the seeker to seek.

Greg Austin

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