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. (Heb 10:25)
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
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
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.
This material is copyright Robert
It may be freely copied or forwarded for the benefit of
individuals or house groups, provided the source is attributed.