Tired of Church?Reclaiming Church and rekindling fellowship.
Let us not give up meeting together,
as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another –
and all the more as you see the Day of the Lord approaching.
Reclaiming Church and rekindling fellowship.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day of the Lord approaching.
What can be more wonderful than to meet with like-minded people in the flow of the Spirit, and to know that we are touching heaven’s throne together? Conversely, what can be more soul deadening than to sit in church and feel out of touch with all that is going on?
A major part of the problem is that we are stuck with the model of people coming to church rather than being church wherever we are.
Some years ago, I attended a seminar that sought to link God and the work place. One survey showed that a staggering nine out of ten Christians working in the business world feel that the Church has no real relevance to, or indeed interest in, their professional work. Since our place of work represents our principal mission field for most of us, something is seriously out of balance.
Many feel restless and even disappointed in their churches. Surveys amongst churchgoers reveal a startling number who confess to feeling disappointed – and these are the ones who are still there to fill out the forms!
Disappointment becomes potentially terminal when believers fail to differentiate between ‘church’ letting them down, and Christ Himself. Gavin Calver describes this well in his book, Disappointed in Jesus, (Monarch) in which he grieves for the adolescents who turn to Christ, but whose faith is insufficiently robust or rooted to withstand the peer pressures. Surveys suggest that 75% of eleven- year olds will drop out of church before turning fourteen).
Himself the one-time prodigal son of evangelical leader Clive Calver, Gavin set his sights on booze, sports and girls – except that these too finally let him down. In the face of the most intense distress, Gavin allowed his heart to be humbled sufficiently to make the costly decision to follow Jesus – even though he soon discovered that this would mean attending the place he least wanted to go to – London Bible College! We ought to add, perhaps, the place he thought he least wanted to go to, for the Lord has wonderful ways of bringing immense blessings out of the very things that cause us so much distress at the time.
Given that God does not want the Church of tomorrow to endlessly repeat the ways that worked for the Church of yesterday, we need to find new ways to harness the flow of the Spirit. James Rutz’s book, Megashift, provides important pointers towards this by chronicling the incredible speed at which ‘portable’ churches (unencumbered by buildings) are emerging all over the world.
What is important is to ‘catch’ those who are in danger of spinning out into a vacuum, away from church altogether. Most of these ‘unsettled’ people are not ‘backsliding’ at all – but they could be if they are neither able to cope with the diet they are served week by week in their fellowships, nor replace it with anything meaningful. I have met many in this category who were once pastors, elders or worship leaders. Some have fallen from grace, others fell into the trap of allowing ‘empire building’ to overcome their original desire to share in the work of serving the Kingdom of God. As often as not, however, it was the pressures of leadership (constant disputes, rejections and so on) that overburdened these sensitive souls until the time came when they were unable to take on any more – or to take the time out that they needed to recover from the strain.
When they burned out, they found that the ‘flow’ they had been used to operating in had, as it were, been switched off at the mains. Many have returned to their former professions, seriously disillusioned. Pray for God to rekindle a fire in the hearts of such people, and to find ways to use in new ways the wisdom and anointing they have had in the past.
Some dear friends of ours, who had persevered for years with a style of ‘churching’ that no longer appealed to them, set up a chapel in their home, which they opened up to people in their neighbourhood. It already feels like one of those places that have been prayed in for years. This year, they held Advent meetings with a difference for the unchurched. Of course, they have faced misunderstanding from various quarters, including those who worried out loud that they must be backsliding. They were not. They were, and are, simply exploring creative, new ways to fulfil the Great Commission.
This is part of the ‘Church without walls’ we have been hearing so much about. In our own small diocese over forty new churches have ‘emerged’ in such ways. Such ventures are going to be vital to meet the needs of a generation shorn of all Christian heritage.
Colin Wilson, a Scottish prayer leader, points out in Highland Christian News that people are much less inclined these days to offer unthinking allegiance to institutions and structures. People are more inclined to get behind specific initiatives, projects and people than they are to automatically support historic ties. There cannot but be financial consequences for many churches and organisations as a result of these changes.
God has resources to meet the needs of this hour – but each one of us needs to be playing our part, not least in asking the Lord where, what, and with whom we should invest our prayer and resources.
Networking and relationships are all-important in this sphere. We used to say (and this is as near to a guiding principle as we would dare go), ‘Don’t let your children get a whiff of (spiritual) death.’ If they are receiving nothing from a church set up, it is vital that they go somewhere and be part of something that provides real input. If you fall into the category of being uncertain where you belong, may He give you strong confirmation when you are on the right track, and clear leading and course corrections when you are not.