Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Love The Church

I don't know about you, but I love the Church. Jesus LOVED the Church, and said the gates of hell would not prevail against her, he said that we are his bride..., what a wonderful image, I love the Church.

Jesus also said that where two or three are gathered together in His name he is with us, in our midst!! I guess that is not such a big deal because He is in us and we are in Him, from the day we invited and accepted Him into our lives.

I love journeying with friends who are daily discovering Papa's lavish affection for them and the incredible realities that Jesus accomplished on the cross,  then said "It is FINISHED", the work is done, enter in to the freedom my life will bring.

I love the life that is given and received, when Christ followers meet and share together the things they are hearing and learning from the one who is "especially fond of them". I love the life and worship that is generated from those who are learning what it means to offer their lives as "living sacrifices". From my experience, as those realities are shared when believers get together, Christ is glorified, and the world gets to see.  
What I am not that keen about, is what many people in today's world frequently think of, when the "c" word is mentioned. My experience is that the institution that we often refer to as the church,  has not delivered what it has promised. It promised what I have attempted to describe above. It has however largely delivered, programs,  to do lists and building projects. All were offered with the best intentions, but they never seemed to lead me into a closer more intimate relationship with my loving Dad and His amazing Son.

We need to dis the illusion that many of us have come to think of as the church, and embrace the Church as Christ described her. I think Wayne Jacobsen's description of the institution that many people today call the church  is one worth contemplating. It may help dis your illusion, it's helping me.

Extract from "The Naked Church"

"How easily Satan must have thought he could snuff out the light of God’s kingdom in the world once Jesus had ascended to the Father! Only 120 followers remained, and they were huddled away in fear. Though the Day of Pentecost must have been a setback for him, he soon responded with a new strategy – bring in a heavy dose of persecution to extinguish the flame.

But it didn’t work. Centuries of persecution followed, first by religious leaders in Judea and later by the Roman emperors, but the church continued to thrive and expand. People discovered the power of the Risen Lord and at great cost surrendered their lives to him.

Sometime late in the third century Satan must have called a conclave. Hades I, he might have called it. Since persecution had failed so miserably, this diabolical council needed to develop a new strategy to undermine the life of the church. The solution it produced has done far more to render the church powerless than any persecution ever has.

The objectives were clear: The plan would have to diffuse the self-sacrificing love that carried the church through conflict, distract it from intimacy with God, and devalue the importance of the individual believer. And, since the church had already prevailed over direct assaults, the plan needed to be so deceptive that it could not be recognised as coming from hell.

A few suggestions were offered, but they were so weak that they didn’t even invite discussion. After a painfully long silence, someone, perhaps Srewtape, came up with a very simple idea: “Trying to keep it small hasn’t worked – let’s make it big!”

All the other devils gasped, thinking that old Screwtape had finally bolted his sanity. “Make it big? What do you think we’ve been working so hard to prevent?”

“Hear me out, colleagues. We can kill it with its own success. What would happen if the church suddenly became acceptable?”

“Lots of people would go to it idiot.”

“But what would all those people do to it?” Srewtape replied with a smirk, then sat back as he watched their minds churn. One by one the others began to see the brilliance of his scheme. “Many would come just for social reasons. They would quickly dilute those who are really in God’s clutches.”

“And imagine all the programs and activities they would have to plan to keep those people happy. Nothing chocks out intimacy as well as busyness’.’

“A crowd like that would have opinions so diverse and disruptive that the power of the gospel would be compromised in just a few short years.”

“The church would eventually become a machine, chewing up individuals instead of loving them. Programs would take over where personal ministries now flourish. And everyone knows how easy it is to kill with a program.”

“Hear! Hear!” they all yelled.

“They couldn’t possibly teach all the followers to walk with God personally, so they would soon substitute rules and guidelines for his ever-present voice.”

“the machine would have to be run by professionals. The others would become nothing more than spectators and bill-payers.”

“And that leadership would waste most of it’s time tied up in administration, which we know benefits almost no one.”

“Who would have time for individuals? They would have to try to disciple people by regulations, and the cracks in that are so wide we could go on vacation.”

“And best of all,” Screwtape spoke up again, “they wouldn’t even know what had happened to them. They would think themselves successful beyond their wildest dreams. They would be pillars in the community and stand before huge crowds. We would let them keep all their Christian terms, but we would substitute our own meanings. It’s foolproof!”

“But size alone won’t do that, Screwtape,” Satan himself finally said. “they could still teach all those people what it really means to follow God and they could still love people one by one no matter how big it got.”

“True, O Wicked One.” Screwtape waggled his index finger, “but do you think they would? Do you think they would risk losing all those people or would resist the corruption that such power and influence would give them?”

Satan smiled in whatever ecstasy hell allows. “Of course not!” He slammed his fist on the table, “let’s do it!”

Wayne Jacobsen  - The Naked Church,  page169 -171

What might the Church that Jesus is building look like - The Life of a Pilgrim

Wayne’s conversation with Jack Gray, a Scottsman who has resided in New Zealand for almost 50 years. They continue their discussion from last week on the life of the church and Jack’s journey to find the church Jesus is building, rather than the one man is building. They talk about a Swiss theologian from the mid 1900s who pointed out that when the love and power of the Spirit faded in the early church, we replaced him with dogma, doctrine, and institutionalism. They talk about Jack’s rich experiences with church life as a relational reality and how people cannot resist the desire to put things into a box, rather than continue to embrace the unfolding work of the Spirit.

You may like to listen to the conversation by clicking on this link