As I write today for the church of tomorrow, I am mindful of an ever-increasing uptake in church bashing. It’s a rising trend. After all, what’s not fun about jumping on a band wagon that’s rolling through town? If everyone else is criticizing the church, why not join in?
Socrates had a different take on things: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Those of us who have been called out of the institutional church have a job to do. We must build the church of tomorrow in a knowable, sustainable way. Spending energy telling the church of today how wrong she is might garner a huge following on social media, but in the end, the church of tomorrow must be built—not out of anger, resentment, or disgust over the failure of the church to be who we wish she would be . . . but out of obedience to the leading of God’s Spirit.
Our parents, and countless generations before them, were handed a faith tradition that they honored. It was their inheritance. Did our parents and grandparents realize that the legacy they passed to their children was theologically unhealthy, wrong-headed, disobedient, or spiritually abusive? No! They didn’t know. So, let’s not waste unnecessary energy on church bashing.
The institutional church is a broken entity. That’s a fact. Now, what are we going to do to fix her?
I’m of the opinion that the church cannot be ‘fixed’ with human imagination. We can demand theological changes. We can insist on changes in attitude. We can suggest that a greater degree of love will change the church. All of these are essential changes. But, in the end, no amount of human effort can move the church to the place where she needs to be because the church is lost at sea! She has lost her way!
Christian leaders can keep trying to re-direct the church on human power alone, but we will eventually run out of ideas. In fact, after only two decades of trying, we are already running out of ideas. The spirit is willing but the flesh needs more light. We have arrived at a time and place where only an intervention on our behalf can point us in the right direction. Only an intervention can give us what we need to move forward with clear eyes and a right spirit. Only an intervention can bring us to the humble place of obedience that God desires for the bride of Christ. We need an intervention!
When we stop trying to ‘fix’ the church . . . when we admit that we don’t know how to ‘fix’ the church . . . when we can admit our powerlessness . . . when we get to that point . . . then we will be ready for God’s intervention on our behalf. That being said, I am an ordinary soul who must announce that, “An intervention has already occurred.” I’m someone who must say: God has given us what we need, before we knew that we needed it!
God’s intervention on the church’s behalf includes three gifts for the church of tomorrow: a Clock, a Key, and a Net. No amount of human imagination could ever bring this intervention about! And that poses other questions that must be answered:
Do we believe a true intervention is possible in today’s world? Or do we think interventions and revelations occurred only in the biblical past? If intervention and revelation is possible, to whom do we believe God’s Spirit should reveal? Should God’s Spirit intervene within our theological institutions of higher learning? If so, which of our theological schools of learning should God enter? In other words, which vein of the church universal should God approach? The Catholics? The Baptists? The Presbyterians? The Non-Denominationalists? Would it be for the best if God’s Spirit revealed a clock, a key, and a net to a successful, high-profile evangelist within Billy Graham’s family? What about someone within the family of Jim Wallis? Or, Joel Osteen’s family? The Pope? Certainly all of these channels hold celebrity status in the world’s eyes. These people are spiritual mentors to whom many people turn for guidance.
Well . . . if we know God, then we know that God’s Spirit never chooses to get our attention via the celebrity route! If an intervention on the church’s behalf is to be believed as a true intervention, then God’s Spirit is going to chose the path of silence – no fanfare, no cameras, no lights, and no action that is noticed by the world. True to God’s method of operation, that’s exactly how the intervention occurred. Moreover, the intervention on behalf of the bride of Christ was revealed to a woman because the bride of Christ has the spiritual identity of a female. The lights, cameras, and action will only take place in hindsight, when people look back in time and realize the importance of the intervention!
The church cannot move ahead without having a clock that provides a spiritual perception of the human journey through time. We need a timekeeping tool that places a spiritual perspective on everything we see in our museums of natural history throughout the world. The Clock of which I speak is embedded in the text of Genesis 1, which will ultimately resolve the conflict many people have over how to interpret this text. The Clock will have the power to gather people to the middle of the theological garden rather than remaining polarized in our interpretive views.
The church cannot move forward without A Key to improve her language so that she can speak to all peoples, nations, languages and kings in a common spiritual tongue—a tongue that has the power to open what no one can close and close what no one can open. We need a comprehensive vocabulary of spiritual concepts. The Key is also embedded in the text of Genesis 1, which will ultimately resolve the conflict many people have over how to interpret this foundational text. The Key also has the power to gather people in the middle of the theological garden.
Lastly, the church cannot move forward until she learns how to organize herself. She must build nets and cast them out over the spiritual waters of humankind, regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, or creed. The image of an organizational net was first introduced within the Mosaic encampment in Exodus 18, and adopted by Jesus during the miracle feeding of the 5,000. The net-like organizational structure is a combination of Law (the Ten Commandments) and Love (the two summations of the commandments in Deuteronomy 6:4 Leviticus 19:18). This is the organizational structure Jesus embraced during his earthly ministry—a balance of Law and Love that has been long forgotten!
Yes, an old covenant was replaced with a new covenant, but the Ten Commandments remained integral to the core of both covenants. Jesus replaced the 600+ laws of Moses with two laws of love. Jesus did not abolish the Ten Commandments. This teaching is not discerned or clarified within the church of today. The illustration to the right shows God’s Law wrapped in the covenant of Love.
Three Gifts, Three Tools
So, these three things—a clock, a key, and a net—are embedded in Genesis 1, Exodus 18, Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 6, waiting for us to accept them as Jesus accepted them during his earthly ministry. In fact, many of the parables of Jesus are reflected in these tools. Likewise, many of the visions of John of Patmos will make sense when we have integrated these tools into our spiritual conscience.
The tools have always been part of Scripture, but our eyes have been clouded by the passage of time. The tools are like life preservers thrown into humanity’s spiritual waters. They are purposed for a time when the church finds herself lost at sea and realizes that she cannot ‘fix’ herself. These three tools are three gifts, not unlike the legendary gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They will be given to the church as she is born anew in the world. That time is now.
Thoughts along the way,
Carol Wimmer is the author of the acclaimed poem When I say I am a Christian, and three books entitled: The Net—An Organizational Vision for the Church of Tomorrow; The Clock—A Timekeeping Tool for the Church of Tomorrow; and The Key—A Spiritual Language for the Church of Tomorrow