The State of the Church

 

 

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                               "The State of the Church"
                                      -by Colin Wilson.
 
For a period of over 5 years or so I have been increasingly
bumping into committed Christians who are unsettled. They
often find difficulty in articulating how they feel, but the
general drift is a dissatisfaction with the level of Christian
living in their own lives and in their churches. In the past, a
common response in these situations has been to move
church (and I should stress that the folk I am referring to are
not immature church-hoppers looking for the ideal church)
but part of  the perplexity that they are sensing is rooted in
the fact that surveying a cosmopolitan church scene
(everything from strict Calvinist to chandelier-swinging) they
do not see evidence in any of the churches of whatever it is
that is eluding them.

This may sound a bit complicated, and it is. The best way
of summarizing is to say that folk (maybe not thousands
but significant numbers) are unhappy with their own situation
(personal and church), are not sure what they are looking
for, and do not see any promise in the churchscape around
them.

I might describe it as a God-given unsettledness, a holy
dissatisfaction, a hunger and thirst for reality. The
"disconnect" which they seem to feel is the disparity
between what they read in the Bible (typically the book of
Acts) and what they are experiencing in their own situations.

Many are puzzled and insecure - feeling "out of step" with
others who seem to be quite comfortable with the general
scene (apart that is from being concerned about falling
numbers in churches).
 
Meanwhile, society in general is MUCH less inclined just to
offer unthinking allegiance to organizations and institutions.
Indeed there is a growing disillusionment with structures.
Folk are prepared to get behind specific initiatives, projects
or people with whom they can identify, but they are no
longer inclined just to automatically support historic ties.

This dynamic is also in evidence in the church. One result of
this is declining attendance and financial support (especially
at the younger end of the age spectrum).
 
Although there are perhaps several different views concerning
what exactly will be the shape of the church into the 21st
century, there seems to be a consistent view that it will be
different; and what we are currently experiencing is the
transition in process. The words I hear are "liquid church,
emerging church, unstructured church". We have also heard
the term "cell church". My concern is that the latter is often
described in the context of cells/super cells/mega cells with
an "apostle" sitting atop the pile. The other concern that I
have is that we will succumb to the seemingly-innate urge to
"organize" everything in new "structures".
 
SHAKING
 
Structures which have stood for hundreds of years are in
imminent danger of toppling. And those who derive their
status, income, ministry base from organized religion are
most at risk.
 
I do not discount the notion that God might be behind all of 
this; indeed I believe that He is. And in that sense the
general situation could turn around tomorrow. However my
sense is that there is a winnowing, shaking, refining,
purifying, purging going on. I do not believe that God is
going to send revival into the churches in their current
situation. And to that extent, I feel that the shaking etc.
will intensify.
 
REFINING
 
Over the last decade (as it seems to me) personal lives, local
churches and denominations have been shaken to the core
by "covered-over sin". Minor issues which would normally be
easily dealt with have been causing much deeper and more
serious problems to be forced into the open, as great
eruptions. The latter have often been suppressed (pushed
into the basement) over a period of years.

Ezek 13:9-10:
"My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions
and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the
council of my people or be listed in the records of the
house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then
you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD. 'Because they
lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no
peace...'"
 
KINGDOM BUILDING versus EMPIRE BUILDING
 
I believe what God is looking for is a chosen people who will
give over their hearts, their lives, their all to the will of the
Father. Names and reputations and religious machinery
that have been built on man's value system will be shown
for what they are. Pride has been the driving force behind
so much of what we do.
 
COMMITMENT
 
Western Christianity has succumbed to the values of our
age. Our lives are governed by the same aspirations, values,
lifestyles, choices as the secular world around us. In the
matter of "giving" God doesn't want a tithe. He wants our all.
 

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