13 October 2011

ponder anew

I think I first realized the lack of wonder within the church when it became painfully obvious that many congregations have simply become corporations capitalizing on the business of spirituality.  We now have church leadership books, seminars, retreats, coaches, etc. to teach us how to do church better - or, at least, gain some desired outcome.  And thus we now subject ourselves to a litany of tests: spiritual gifts inventories, church health profiles, core competency evaluations, ad nauseum.

When did the love of God become institutionalized?

Can someone please answer this for me?  At what point did we systematize and organize ourselves away from the passion and fire of the wild and fierce Spirit that can penetrate our hearts?  And, who still figures that we must simply do better systematization and organization to get ourselves back from our current state?

The pastorate is full of good men and women who are giving everything they have for the sake of becoming better leaders, teachers and ministers.  So there is no surprise that such books sell out, conferences fill up, and the coaching treks have become well-worn paths.  These are the signs of people who are giving of themselves, trying to erase whatever deficits they've been convinced their ministries will not overcome, and become the best kingdom workers they can be.  Perhaps, however, it is time to consider that sentiment does not make truth out of opinion, even when it is in the name of the Lord.

I find it inconceivable that the early church - and many, many centuries of believers since (even to this day!) - were able to successfully build the church without classes, seminars, retreats, 7 Secrets to Making Your Church Awesome, or even Outreach Magazine.  These poor souls had but the Word of God in front of them and the Holy Spirit surrounding them, and yet they still managed to make a little good come from it, if you think they're results were anything worth considering.

Of course, I speak facetiously here, but it makes my point.  We have all of these other things and we seem to be losing touch with the Spirit in the average experience of the church.  It would be good for us to remember that the average experience of the early church was a continual filling of the Spirit, personally and corporately, that led to the unleashing of the gospel.

In Acts 2 Peter (who quotes Joel 2) says of the experience at Pentecost, "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams . . ."  One of the reasons we think that this passage is so exciting is because it demonstrates the passion and power of God as it moves to create and sustain his church.  There is no reason whatsoever to believe that such a promise has ceased since Peter said it - in fact, the point of Peter's message was that it was the dawn of a new era of salvation that comprised the 'last days' and would bring us to the return of Jesus.

Yet there are no dreams and visions in the shallow mindsets of systematized religion.  The love of God is a reckless raging fury that refused to be tamed or controlled.  It unleashes itself into the world with such abandon as to bring death upon the very Giver of life.  We who can not comprehend such love have no business trying to organize it and packaging it.  There are simply too many of us who fear that we will not have jobs (or a purpose) without doing so, thus keeping us from trusting in God alone . . . alone . . . alone.  We instead choose to trust in God plus whatever clever ideas we have in front of us.

Those who have awakened will ponder anew what the Almighty can do, rather than become lost in a sea of competencies that inevitably lead to vocational depression.  For, although we may try, and even succeed in convincing ourselves we are spiritually profitable in doing so, he is not silent and he will not be contained.

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