I used to go to church

With the ever changing landscape in Canada continuing to embrace a lifestyle and worldview that is void of absolutes, more and more people are moving away from any sort of centralized thinking and behaviour.  In fact, you could almost say that any type of message that believes in an absolute truth or champions a moral standard is viewed as being anti-cultural.  Viewed this way, such a message is often deemed restrictive and treated with hostility and anger.[1] What is the church to do?  How are we going to evangelize a culture that views the gospel message negatively and with potential hostility?

Enter stage left, a young student who grew up going to Sunday school and was told various stories about God.  Now, being challenged with alternative options and viewpoints, they almost feel lost and drowning amid the rising tide of voices.

Enter stage right, a young family parent who also grew up going to church, walked away from it during most of their college and young adult life, but now have children who are being taught a very different curriculum than years gone by.  They begin to wonder what’s really true.

Standing stage centre is a senior adult who also used to go to church, but has since walked away from any such belief in a superior being beyond what the natural mind can understand.

Do you know anyone like this?  I do.  There are acres of them in the community I live in.  So what can be done?  What can the church do?

Depending on who you ask, the answers are various.  Thom Rainer in his book, ‘Autopsy of a Deceased Church’ calls for churches to assess their level of sickness and radically change their  inward, preserving focus and embrace the work and call of the Great Commission to go and reach those around them.

Samuel Chand, Ed Stetzer, Frank Damazio and others realize that a church’s culture can and will trump any type of vision each and every time, or to put it another way: church culture eats pastoral vision for breakfast![2]  For them, a church cannot move forward until the culture inside has changed, transformed and is willingly moving forward strategically together.

Also, there are obviously still some voices that speak to past glory and believe that if we continue to do what we we’ve always done, things are bound to get better and revival will happen.

We all know what the definition of insanity is.  If not, please look it up and stop listening to those who say that all we need to do is to keep doing what we’ve always done.  Please take your head out of the sand and look around at the landscape of our nation.

I came to this realization perhaps later than most.  As a fourth-generation Pentecostal byproduct, there was much that I needed to unlearn.  It seems that the more I learn about God, the more unlearning needs to happen.  It’s called the unlearning curve, and it is still happening daily for me.  I’ve also discovered that what Pelikan said about Christian tradition was correct: ‘tradition is the living faith of the death, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.’  I wonder what most of those who have given up on church have come to experience?  Is it a living faith, or dead traditions?  Has the church embraced a form of traditionalism?  What breaks my heart is that it seems as though millions in our nation have given up on the living God.

You see I believe that the Bible portrays a wonderful portrait of humanity’s exposure to, belief in and oftentimes bewilderment in trying to figure out this God who is alive, speaks and acts in our world.  How is it that God being ‘wholly other’ has decide to love us, be for us, and actually come to earth and live among us?  How is it that ‘we’ (humanity) can come to know, feel, hear, taste, touch, and even smell what this God is like?  Furthermore, what does this God want with me, where is this all going, and how does this all end?  Oh, and is my pet, Starbucks, grandpa, and grandma going to be there in the great beyond?

These are great questions that the Bible can help us understand, but I am afraid that ‘we’ (the church) have not been so good at answering them.  In fact, perhaps we have been communicating a message that looks more like a conservative political agenda than anything else.

Let me ask this, true or false: whoever tells the best story wins the day?  Most would say true!  Well, ‘church’ what does our nation say about who is telling the better story?

Here is where I will end for now.  My deep conviction and heart’s cry is this:  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of Israel; the God of the Bible whose one and only Messiah is Jesus Christ; is the only living, loving, and liberating God.  His Name is Yahweh.  Yahweh is God and no god is like Him.  He is merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness.  He loves to love and deeply cares about us.  His Word is Faithful and True, and He has poured His Spirit out upon all humanity so that we can come to experience Him and His Kingdom.

The question that I continue to ask those who are standing on the proverbial stage mentioned above is this:  Have you ever experienced God’s Kingdom and have you ever experienced His Holy Spirit here on earth?  I often receive blank stares.  Spirit?  Kingdom? What’s that?

The path that I am on today is one that specifically views God through the lens of Spirit and Kingdom.  In fact, Steven Land would agree that Pentecostal Spirituality is indeed a passion for God’s Kingdom.[3]  A challenge moving forward is that the Christian Church has two main theological traditions that are modelled for our culture: a systematizing tradition (Aquinas, Barth, Augustine, Calvin etc.) and an experienced, non-systematic tradition (Munzter, Kierkegaard, Unamuno etc.)[4].  This is not a thrashing of any tradition, nor an elevation of one over the other, but is a call to evaluate what perhaps in needed.

When Jesus called out to those around Him, the ask was to follow Him.  Follow.  Not study, analyze, sit, converse, and believe in only.  It was a journey of going, experience, testimony, wonder, confusion, trials, joy, suffering, love and deep fulfillment.  People were fed, prayed for, healed, loved, talked to, and even partied with.  Jesus was a friend to all.  His message was His lifestyle.  According to Theocracy, you could even say that Jesus was a rockstar!  This is something that Christianity can offer and bring to those searching for something real, meaningful and ‘wholly other’ beyond themselves.  Christianity is a living experience with the living God.  It is a ‘wholly other’ God engaging with my ‘whole’ being.

My prayer is that ‘we’ (followers of Jesus) will return to the wonder and amazement of our wonderful, amazing God who wants to meet us, love us and lead us.

My prayer is that those who know us will come to know Jesus through by His Spirit in whom we live, move and have our being.

My aim, goal and desire is for the church to be a breeding ground for people to experience God and His Kingdom.

I hunger for God’s wholly-other-supernatural-wildness to break-in, overwhelm, change, transform and conform my reality and worldview to His!

I want the power of God to come and agitate the city that I live in so that the culture of the church and community will look more like the culture of God’s Kingdom.

I desire to see His Kingdom come and Will be done on earth as in heaven.

This is my story.  This is my journey.  This is my Pentecost.

 

Maranatha!

 

 

 

 

[1] Timothy Kellar, from his speech at a convention addressing the challenges facing evangelism today.

[2] See Chand’s ‘Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code’; Stetzer’s ‘Comeback Churches’, ‘Transformational Church’; Damazio’s ‘Strategic Vision’, ‘Strategic Church’, and ‘Gateway Church’.

[3] Stephen Jack Land, ‘Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion For The Kingdom’

[4] ibid

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