In her book, “Christianity after Religion,” author Diana Butler Bass briefly discusses the First Great Awakening, launched in 1730, followed by a Second and Third Great Awakening. Bass mentions the 1960’s as the beginning of a Fourth Awakening in North American religion. Following her brief discussion on these four awakenings, Bass writes:
Most people would agree that the church needs a transfiguration. She must become a more effective presence in the world. She must become more relevant in her mission to meet human hunger, in all its forms. But, before we can appreciate the scope of such a transfiguration, a veil must be lifted from our spiritual eyes. From 1996 to 2000, I experienced such a lifting. I freely admit that I was unaware of my blindness until the lifting process started.
Once upon a time—before the Gutenberg printing press, in 1450, the church patriarchs had it made! Week after week, an eager audience of people rushed through the church doors to hear a reading of the Bible, which couldn’t be printed to the masses. The work of the church was synonymous with instruction. “Right-Believing 101” was the course to take and pass on to others.
Christians, we like our walls! I mean we love, love, love our walls! We love the walls of our church buildings. We love our denominational walls, and our non-denominational walls. We love the church walls in our towns and cities. We love our regional walls, and we love our national walls. The church’s walls are time-honored! They were built by our ancestors who shed blood, sweat, and tears to erect them. We must not tarnish or dismantle the work of our parents and grandparents, by disrespecting the walls they built. We’ve inherited them and we must care for them. Right? Read more
The past 30 years have provided a slew of new ideas regarding the way Christians ‘do’ church. The best thing about these fresh entrepreneurial efforts, is that they have successfully broken a mold that needed to be broken. But more recently, people have begun to question the sustainability of the newer church-planting models. Moreover, the term, “church plant,” is problematic. It creates an image of something that is planted from seed, and grown from the ground by those who sow the seed. While this may be a great metaphor for sharing the Gospel, it’s not helpful as a working, organizational image.
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 bandwagon that’s rolling through town? If everyone else is criticizing the church, why not join in? But 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.”
Have you heard? People are leaving institutionalized religion by the droves in order to seek spiritual autonomy. Why? Because the general public is sick—to the point of nausea—of the idea of religious superiority. Like kindergarten kids, fighting over toys in a sandbox, too many adults actually believe their religion is better than their neighbor’s religion. God is on their side in every argument, and God’s enemies are strangely the same enemies they have encountered.
Christians, we have a problem! We are confused by something fundamental to our faith—Law and Love. When we talk about God’s Law, the Ten Commandments, the Law of Moses, the covenant of law, a new commandment, and the covenant of love—we often lump each of these separate entities, into one big law versus love debate! We don’t take the time to define the differences between these very unique subjects! Then, we wonder why we disagree, or why we don’t understand each other’s perspectives. The result? We live with a plate full of scrambled eggs!
Christians make one mistake—and it’s a whopper! We don’t understand the Way of Jesus! We think we do, but we don’t. As a Christian, I never knew we were making such a huge mistake. The way we do church is just plain wrong! So, now that I see the mistake, it’s impossible to keep quiet about it! I can’t. Nor should I. As a member of the body of Christ, I am obligated to speak up. Moreover, I believe that the church will spin her wheels forever, unless Christians deal with this mistake, and agree not to continue making it.
Continued from Part I: So, when we look at how the church should’ve organized herself, we must see the 3,400-year-old model, that the first believers in Acts 1 understood! If we don’t look to the original tribal model in the Sinai desert, then we are left to our own imagination, when it comes to building or growing the church. And, so far, human imagination has blown the church way off course! The organizational models that we’ve chosen, and continue to choose, will never fulfill the vision Jesus had for the bride of Christ.Read more