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Monday, January 11, 2016

Our misguided church view

The Church has always been willing to swap off treasures in heaven for cash down.

Robert Green Ingersoll



Internet entwines our world in a labyrinth of information tentacles reaching into millions of homes and businesses. I am told that there are more scientists alive today than have ever lived in the past, that medical science is growing in depth, skill and diversity moment by moment.

We are developing new technology, skills and knowledge at speeds unlike any previous moment in any past decade. Physical excellence of our human body is resulting in more and more records of the past being broken (albeit some would argue due to illegal substance use). Yet despite all this, the Christian church in its mediocrity clings to past structures, past organization and past traditions with an almost blasphemous ignorance and intensity. Why?

The way we interpret our bible is almost pharisaical, and limits God’s work, often extending to slaughtering God’s truth in its extreme. Young Christians are not only disappointed in the lack of integrity that we as a Christian church reveal, but want to scream with frustration at the very way any attempt to try and move our lethargic and arthritic structures into the 21st century is resisted. These attempts are refuted on the most dubious of what is framed as “Christian” or “biblical” arguments.To pre-empt the question: No! I am not speaking as a new ager, or one who does not hold dear to the doctrines of our early church, or one who does not respect the failures of the church during the 3rd to 12th centuries. I do respect the huge step forward of the reformation, and giants of the faith such as Luther, Calvin, and others. I do listen to Kay and John MacArthur, Chuck Swindoll, Joyce Meyer, and loved to hear Billy Graham preach, and also respect the work of Dr. Dobson.

Yes! I am a true follower of Jesus Christ with belief in all that the Nicene Creed requires. I like to believe that I work in the guidance of Holy Spirit and that I check my understanding against our bible. I consider the bible to be God’s word revealed to us mortals. I use translations, not paraphrases, and I check the odd word against the Greek or Hebrew of the original language. Despite this, I have to say, I find our institutions old, crusty, unwilling to change, quick to find fault, bickering, and unsupportive of moving into new areas where we could actively engage while being virtually incompetent at building dialogue with millions of young people in the world, who are resistant to the church, but not yet to our Lord Jesus Christ.
What is holding us back?

With a short look around I think we can all agree that it’s nothing new!

The traditions of the past, like ghosts, enthrall us with their past wonders which are seemingly of real value today. These on deeper investigation disappear into the mists of history. As Christians we have built such a mass of expertise and invested so much of ourselves historically into these edifices of past Christian strength, that we fail to see that these were in their days, the very opposite of the solid core institutional systems we consider them today. The reformation to those living in its birth pains was not mainstream, but a knife in the side of the traditional Christianity of the time. Traditions were torn apart as God’s Spirit moved our world into a new era. The elders of those days shook their heads and considered how much better it was in the old days, those days when people respected the church. Does this sound familiar, or are we so uninformed that we are unaware of even these criticisms leveled at many progressive members of our own churches?

Is what I am saying sounding disrespectful? I hope not! It is not that I don’t respect all the work we put in. It is that we are putting it into the wrong places! Often we are going against the very principles Jesus taught us to hold near and dear. I know this sounds heretical, but I hope, within the paragraphs and pages that follow, to ground this in common sense and pure facts.

To kick this off, let’s start with a biblical text that probably motivates us more than any other to get out there and do something. Matthew 28:17 to 19  says Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”[1]



Sound familiar? I hope so, or perhaps you have the wrong blog. I want to emphasize two pieces of this text. The first isgo and make disciples”, and the second isteaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”.

Let’s get this into modern English. We haven’t used the word “disciple” in everyday language for years, and that phrase should perhaps be translated into “mentor them”.  To “mentor” (or in the disused term “disciple”) another, you need to be trusted. This is key requirement! Those people out there who don’t know Christ should consider us trustworthy. The must respect us! Do we think they do? Are we kidding ourselves?

What do the younger generation think of televangelists?

That’s the church they see as representative of Christians because these young people certainly don’t walk into our churches very easily.

They consider televangelists to be preying on the weak in society for monetary gain and self-indulgent reasons. While this is perhaps wrong, it is a prevalent perspective. If you need more information about these views a fine statistically correct resource is “unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters” by Kinnaman. It is relatively up to date, i.e. 2007, and based on solid research not opinion. The horrific facts are obvious, the church is not relevant, and may become less so as time progresses!

Was Christ relevant? Is Christ relevant? I think so, and you must as well or you wouldn’t be reading this discussion. If we do believe this, maybe we need to find a way to also become relevant and have the non-Christian people that are out there “doing” life trust us?

One problem is that we as a formal church just cannot see where to go to improve this, because many of us running the church are not in the new world! Have you noticed how the churches seem to be getting a 12 to 40 year old age group gap in their congregations? Not all churches, but if you look across the first world western countries, this would be the trend. This means that key decision makers in the church are generally 40 years or older. Sorry to be difficult folk, but in that age range you are not likely to be “current” regarding the new world. This new world is a world of podcast, iphone, texting, mp3s, new forms of music, messaging, VOIP phones, instantaneous gratification, and a whole lot of information overload (to mention just a few aspects).

Younger people want to get input on demand, and not have it delivered or pushed to them in pre-considered, pre-packaged formats a few times a week(unless they ask for it). They want to search, compare and determine for themselves what truth is available, not be told what it is. They want honesty, love and compassion, not judgment, rules and traditions. So what are we doing to mentor them, to build their trust, to lead the way for them, to teach them to obey Jesus? “Too little” is the answer I am sorry to say!


The question today is this...what are we going to do about this?



a Or into; see Acts 8:16; 19:5; Romans 6:3; 1 Cor. 1:13; 10:2 and Gal. 3:27.
[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Mt 28:18-20). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
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 RiftInEvil.gifThe town of Zinaville is dropped into a spiral of evil causing a young man and a beautiful but abused woman to launch into an investigation that unveils an evil conspiracy.

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