Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning. God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. Ephesians 3:8-12(NLT)
You read the reports coming out of secular news sources as well as church denomination headquarters and they all say the same thing: the church is dead. By this the reports are not offering a critique on some uninspired sermon or boring hymn or the way church committees fall asleep regularly.
By this the reports are simply announcing what is painfully obvious – that the institutions we have set up to represent God are failing at representing God’s wisdom and eternal plan – so much so, that the church, as an institution, is unsustainable.
As the proverbial picture of rats jumping off a sinking ship, membership and attendance decline are stripping the church of the kind of impact it once had on the culture.
And that may not be bad news at all, really; particularly so if you consider the abuses that the church in general has inflicted on culture in the name of religion…namely, the Crusades, Holocaust, Waco, ethnic cleansing, Salem, and more recently, radical Islam.
This kind of so-called “church” needs to be left behind like a bad memory!
Paul spoke to a church in transition; it was a church largely comprised of Jews, converted to following Jesus. To the first century believers the idea of Christ as their Savior was entirely a fulfillment of prophecy for the Jews. Gentiles were not even an afterthought – they were considered beside the point altogether – not part of God’s plan (other than perhaps to fuel the fires of hell).
Paul had seen otherwise, as large numbers of Gentile believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began serving God. Paul convinced the leaders of this young church that God was indeed bringing His eternal plan to fruition; the change was going to ignite the worldwide Gospel message displaying the glory of God.
In Paul’s day change was just as hard as it is today; human nature being what it is – resistant (read that: “stubborn”)! We hardly ever want to be confused with the truth when we already have what we want. Just leave us alone to bask in our former days of glory and warm fuzzy, please!
But there are other factors today that didn’t cloud Paul’s message – the church then had little wealth and power in the cultural sense. What power she had was dependent on God’s Spirit moving as they moved out to share the message.
And therein we may find the one key piece of the puzzle that modern day leadership is groping-around to find in the spiritually-darkened malaise that is church these days. What we’re looking for is what we see precious little of…the movement of God’s Holy Spirit. Church in the 21st century has become like the 400 years in-between Malachi and Matthew…no voice from Heaven.
Like the Rich Young Ruler who came to Jesus looking for answers about inheriting eternal life, the church may have to divest itself of whatever aspirations politically, financially and lose its image of respectability by actually following Jesus.
The alternative is to walk away sadly. And that would be sad, indeed.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we always have that question before us, as to if what we’re doing day by day, even moment by moment, is following Jesus…or pleasing self.