21 September 2009

braille on a computer screen

The ongoing quest for the modern church to find its own relevance continues to interest me. Evangelicals have long been consumed with the drive for intrinsic value and purpose to validate their own spiritual journeys. In other words, we want what we do to matter . . . we think that what we do should matter. Yet, in the end we are plagued with the sense that it doesn't matter. And thus we think that our faith lacks fulfillment and that there is something wrong with how our churches operate.

My observations have led me to believe that such thinking comes from the enthronement of the individual above any other within our modern concepts of spirituality. In reality, though, this sounds more like eastern religious thought than it sounds like Christianity (when both are properly understood). Often people who are quick to proclaim that their association with the church has brought them to the *true meaning* of their lives are the first to say that they are still *seeking* for their place and significance in this body of believers. This is not a valid paradoxical experience such as being satisfied and still hungry for more of God's Spirit. No, this is the quest for personal validation rather than the embracing of Spirit and truth.

Still, there just might be a valid question embedded in all of this: What good is it to a broken world that the sum of our spirituality, our truth, our experiences, our worship amounts to nothing more then our own expressions of a wandering existence? If the truth leads us to freedom and we are called to know the truth then why are so many believers captive to their own unfulfilling spiritual experiences?

This situation might be quickly addressed in thought, but issues a strong challenge to postmodern evangelicalism: that our own spirituality has once again become a pile of filthy rags bundled up by our own needs for self-fulfillment.

The gospel of Jesus, along with the kingdom he launched into this world is not about achievement or significance or prestige. In fact, it is about letting go of such things and becoming champions of surrender and loss . . . the surrender of wild spirits . . . and the loss of a life to be found later. There is no place for aggrandizement in the kingdom, no need for promoting our own spiritual ecstasy. Such believers and communities accomplish little more than braille on a computer screed - there might be some truth in the stories, and it might technically count as spreading the gospel message. But, in reality it doesn't help those it was designed to reach. In the same way, we miss out on reaching those bound up in the search for personal fulfillment . . . and wanting something more.

If the church has been uninspiring to the world, it is because we have existed among ourselves and too often required outsiders to become like us before they can participate. Almost like Jesus requiring the blind to see before they could participate in the year of the Lord's favor. But we know that isn't what happened - the inbreaking of the year of the Lord's favor is what brought sight to the blind in the first place. To follow Jesus and bring his kingdom through the spirit and truth which flows through our lives will change everything . . . and everyone.

Therein lies true significance and value.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Great observation - although the "search for personal fulfillment . . . and wanting something more." is due often to the "church's" becoming satisfied with attendance more than substance. When adults are drawn to church because of a need to ascertain their meaning in life, it is often the soft voice of God telling us that our successes and failures without Him mean nothing. When a person accepts Christ, many churches consider their work done rather than just beginning. When a believer really discovers what God has called them to do, it really does energize and give the only truly substantial meaning to their lives.