We need a new vision.
If God is going to shake up his people, it has to happen inside the Church.
Recently, God has shown me that whenever a righteous king took over the thrones of Israel and Judah, two things happened:
1. The heathen idols and temples were torn down.
2. The broken-down things of God were raised up again.
I’ve already talked about tearing down idols. Now we need to think about raising up God’s standards again.
1. God’s Word – We have got to start preaching the inerrancy of Scripture and start getting back to the idea that the Bible interprets the Bible. We need to get preaching and teaching back into the pulpit, and I don’t mean this emphasis on topical preaching that we have so easily fallen into.
Correctly handling the word of God is critical, but in most churches anymore the primary teaching is being performed by people who have little or no biblical training, and certainly cannot put together a systematic theology. Poor discipleship is part of this (see below), but the biggest issue is that the very people who are best trained to teach and preach, pastors, have abandoned expository preaching from a set Bible passage and have moved to topical preaching, leaving the less educated small group leaders to handle teaching passages out of the Bible. This is completely backwards. It is far easier for a “layman” to lead a topical Bible study than an inductive, passage-based one.
The result of this is that few people in the seats have a good overview of how Scripture fits together. It is seen as nothing more than a series of sentences in several books that can be pieced together to say something.
Ironically, pastors believe that their teaching is becoming better and better (90%, according to George Barna), but then look at these positive responses from adults who identified themselves as born-again Christians in a poll by George Barna:
– 68% agreed that the Bible says that God helps those who help themselves.
– 53% said that the Holy Spirit does not exist.
– 47% said that Satan does not exist.
– 31% agreed that good people can earn their way into heaven.
– 30% claim that Jesus died, but was never resurrected physically.
– 24% believe that Jesus committed sins.
Does that sound like people are getting Bible-based teaching and preaching? I don’t think that pastors/preachers should be so high on their own opinions of the quality of their teaching and preaching, if these responses are typical.
2. The Holy Spirit – Without the Holy Spirit, NOTHING we do will work. We will wind up with a sad, man-made “attempt” at church, but will lack all the qualities of the New Testament Church. Having given short shrift to the Spirit, we have substituted clever programs, marketing gimmicks, and a million other tricks to hide the fact that the Spirit isn’t here. So much of the preaching we are getting possesses little or no unction of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe that the Holy Spirit today is only speaking via three points and a conclusion.
When was the last time you saw someone raised from the dead? Has your shadow fallen on the lame and they are healed? Are you operating in the power of the Spirit? I’ve written elsewhere why the Spirit still works today, but what are we doing to cultivate a Spirit-filled life? Do we believe the Bible when it talks about being filled with the Spirit?
3. Holiness/Counterculture – Christians are called to be the “peculiar people,” but increasingly – due largely to churches’ obsession with cultural relevancy – we look exactly like the world. How then are we to model Christ to a dying, sin-obsessed world if we look more like the world than like Christ? People wonder why we don’t see the miracles of the Book of Acts today, and my simple answer is that we are not willing to live lives unadulterated by the world.
4. Community – People talk about community, but most of us still live like islands. With society showing signs of strain (e.g. – three million American white collar jobs will go overseas by 2005, health care costs are punishing families, and culture is becoming increasingly perverse), we Christians have got to find new ways of pursuing community or else we will find our families being taken down one by one. This is increasingly the case, but the churches are doing little to stop it. In my own church it was noted that the number one request by people seeking prayer was for jobs, yet no program was in place within the church to make that happen. If churches are unable to address these issues with cutting edge community approaches, then people are going to lose heart. The lost can spot hypocrisy a mile away, so if the churches can’t model a community that buffers that community from harm, then we’ll be seen as just another option that doesn’t work in reality.
5. Prayer – Prayer makes things happen. A prayerless church is a powerless church. Increasingly, times of focused prayer are falling prey to harried lives, or have been converted into “practicing the presence of God” – an admirable spiritual discipline, but one that was never supposed to supplant focused prayer time.
6. Discipleship/Commitment – When we ask nothing of people, we get nothing. That many churches are asking little or nothing of the people that attend in order to keep from driving them away, we are creating an underclass of quasi-disciples. Rather than diluting the message of the Gospel, I suggest we ratchet up what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Let the Spirit of God convict, rather dilute the qualities of a disciple in order not to lose people. The road is narrow. Are we preaching that?
7. Revelation of Jesus – Can’t we let Jesus be Jesus? Do we not trust Him to draw people to Himself? The truth is that people want Jesus, we need to reveal Him to people and let the Spirit work. Deep inside people I think they know that all this talk about getting our felt needs met pales in comparison with knowing Jesus. Do we really KNOW Jesus? Not merely ABOUT Him, but Him in all His glory? Pastors, preachers, teachers – show us Jesus. He said Himself that eternal life was knowing Him. Why are we so afraid to present Him undiluted to people? Let’s get back to that.
There’s more, but I’ll leave that for another day.
Church, are we willing to go God’s way or are we going to continue to play “church?”