Part of my weekend Seminar, www.9010formation.com…more 2016 dates soon.
I grew up in a traditional church environment. Then, my life started getting expanded by authors and speakers and singers from different traditions. They were Christ-centered, and they loved the life of the mind, and they were not afraid of ideas. They engaged the culture, and they were reflective. They were theologically informed but they weren’t separatists. They were globally aware, and they had deep convictions, but they would express them civilly. They believed in the authority of Scripture, but they believed that that authority empowered people. It did not push them down by giftedness and not gender or status. They were concerned integrating the Lordship of Jesus with work. They believed in Science, history, and valued the present, and that strengthened their commitment to Scripture. They were concerned with political processes without getting coerced by one political party line. They did not express their faith in thoughtless, stupid, polarizing ways that make you cringe when you hear certain faith terms spoken. They were unapologetic followers of Jesus without creating a weird, goofy isolationist subculture. What a precious legacy we have inherited, and when I discovered it, I felt like I had come home! I felt so grateful that I could be a part of it.
But it is dying.
Mainline denominations have shrinking memberships, fading churches, a preoccupation with survival, internal strife, and apparent irrelevance. Not just theological drifting. There is an old saying about preachers, “He never really says what I think he wants to say…He never puts the hay down where the goats can get to it.” That means that there are churches in our world today that: know the goats, and they are very attractive to reaching the goats. They go after the goats really strongly, but they have no hay! Worse, they don’t know that their barn is empty! Even worse, they don’t pay the price to grow their own hay. They just download the hay fro bigger barns.
Then, there are other churches: they have wonderful hay, and they have been thinking and studying and preparing. But they never reach the goats, they live in denial, and they don’t care, either. I believe that God is looking to make us be a part of a movement hat has the hay, and knows the goats. He longs for a generation that cares about the goats, and will give up their comfort to reach the goats. The desire of the Father is for goats to become sheep, and that is the fulfillment that started with Abraham. You and I are stewards of an unspeakable and precious legacy. We have a song to sing, and our world needs the gift of what we have to give and pass forward. We aren’t the only room in the church, and it’s not the only gift, but it’s our gift to give. I don’t think God’s call for us is “Let’s decay more slowly.”
But what if there was a movement of God?
A real action, not some bottle rocket fizz. Long-lasting movements cannot be manufactured in time by humans, for we cannot produce a move of God. What so many think are a movement of God is only pre-planned, programmed lighting. Only God does can set real atmospheres for change. But we do know our theological limitations. Like a Presbyterian friend of mine said, “No one who believes in total depravity can be all that bad!” If anybody ought to believe that God can start a radical move, it should be the people here!
Let’s dream a little bit. What if God started a movement of Spirit-led Jesus-centered churches? A launching place where leaders took the Biblical injunction seriously to become teachers of the nations, so that our world could once again hear that there is moral and spiritual knowledge to guide human lives.
Imagine that the claims of Jesus could be taught and expressed in non-churchy ways.
Imagine if these churches were places that anyone could come.
Imagine that individuals with thoughts about science, culture, evolution, and doubts, those who suffer, and no in-house apologetics, not vague Christianese, could all find hope in the answers in which their souls search for in life.
Imagine a movement where church and denominational meetings never waste anybody’s time.
Imagine a movement that says “When leaders and volunteers waste potential in the crap holes of political hoop jumping, it demotivates mission and passion, and ultimately shuts down a leadership culture. We call it out by saying, “It is not God’s will for His church, and it is not okay!”
Imagine that when leaders gather together, it is to learn and receive the information AND the impartation of vision and to mentor one another, to fire each other up, and they ask questions of authenticity instead of how to copy other church styles.
Imagine a movement that requires that the church learns all that it can. It must learn about spiritual formation, theology, leadership, who partners with world changer organizations in entrepreneurship and counseling, because we believe that culture should look to us when they need information or are hurting.
Imagine a movement where churches are being planted right and left.
Imagine a movement where ministry experiences are being run every day.
Imagine a movement where the norm becomes taking calculated risks to see souls saved. It is constantly developing a people who have a willingness to fail, where daring things for God outweigh comfort and salaries.
Imagine a movement that when young people come out of school, and they want to make an impact. But, they want their lives to count for something other than getting a record deal or a modeling contract. Their dreams are bigger than just themselves, and they are committed to justice, and evangelism.
So, what we want is for God to birth a fresh spiritual ecosystem that churches spring out of us. You may ask, “Why should we bother?”
Why should we endeavor to live out loud and plan a fresh way of ministry? We know that it will be messy and complicated and risky and hard. Why should we bother? Why should I risk changing my life, or why should I step out of the boat and try a new ministry or career?
The answer is simple… People are going to Hell.
Our job is to put Hell out of business.