Thursday, December 3

Renewing the Church-Part 2

We need to get rid of the notion that church growth is directly related to techniques, hard labor or charismatic personalities. We would not demean these, especially the "hard work" ethic. But what we deplore is a faith dependency on these things, a dependency that turns our eyes off the Master and away from the Holy Spirit for our empowerment. It is not alarming that many voices have been crying out for renewal in the church. What is alarming is our apparent faithlessness with regard to the "Old Paths" (as J. C. Ryle would call them). However we choose to deal with today's culture, we must realize--shouldn't we--that man is basically the same today as he was 200 or even 2, 000 years ago? Sin still blinds man's spiritual eyes and jades his ability to understand the truth. It is this with which we must deal, ever and always. The gospel cuts through that where the Holy Spirit drives it home to the heart.

Mark Galli's article (see post 2 days ago) in the October Christianity Today writes of numerous problems in the church requiring, as he calls it, a "kaleidoscope of answers," many of which rightly deal with horizontal issues such as racism, and indifference to injustice as well as poor ecclesiology,  and inattention to doctrine. And while granting that many of the movements he cites do pay attention to the vertical (the Godward issues), "our practical and activist sensibility--one of our movement's stellar attributes--tends to undermine the vertical" (p. 25).  This supports what I have often taught, namely that much of our brand of Christianity tends to (if not outrightly) objectify the gospel, reducing the life of Christ to a set of Christian actions . . . minus Jesus, the Person.

Spiritual formation certainly aims the believer in the right direction, as long was we don't get our hands on it and reduce it to yet another method! We American Christians have an uncanny way of taking the living Word and the Spirit-filled life and quantifying it and qualifying it and ultimately consigning it to a laboratory where Christianity becomes a set of laws born out through experimentation and testing. Will we ever learn to walk with God like Enoch, become a friend like Abraham, or earn the moniker from God as a man/woman after His "own heart" like David? We do not promote comparisons here, but example. I love what Jesus told Martha, "Mary has desired the one thing necessary" (Luke 10:42). His "one thing" seemed to involve the attentive sitting and gleaning from Christ himself. Paul would later cry out, "That I may know Him . . ." (Phil. 3:10). That's getting at it!

Applying it slightly differently, Galli quotes Martin Luther, who said, "One thing, and only one thing, is necessary for Christian life, righteousness, and freedom. That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ." One more time. We can turn the Bible itself into an idol (bibliolatry)--not to be too negative. Still, John Wesley's reputation is commendable to us all, that he was preeminently a man of one book. I love God's Word, and especially as it gives life. "We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete" (1 John 1:4).

Get enamored with Jesus himself. Walk with Him in solitude. Do more than merely read, but pour over Scripture intentionally praying "open my eyes to behold wondrous things" (Ps. 119:18). Look for wonder. Worship the Wonderful!! When our hearts are renewed IN Christ, we will then likely start to see changes within the body of Christ at large. That is God's call.


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