I don’t know why my thoughts travel to the places they do.
I’m mapping out a thesis for a graduate program I haven’t even applied for yet. haha
I don’t think that’s normal.
But I can’t stop thinking about this “Second Reformation” that I’m seeing in the Post-Christian-Era Western Church, and this release of grace in the prophet Joel’s sense of the words:
“I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants – men and women alike.”Joel 2:28-29
Because the Acts 2:17-21 reference to these words were a large part of its fulfillment, however, we are still in the “last days” because Jesus has yet to return. So the “will” of then is now, too.
These stunning moves of God came out of the darkest of times, like the Protestant Reformation 502 years ago that propelled the Church into its next era of vitality and reach through radical struggle and heroic faith. I believe strongly that it’s happening again in parallel ways that are offensive and challenging and will ultimately result in an explosion of the gospel, though we may not recognize it until retrospect lends us its point of view.
What are you saying, Emily?
You know that thing where we’ve been sort of lulled into a consumerist mentality when it comes to church?
We started wanting the best, most relevant communicators with the most talented and attractive worship bands and the most energetic and inclusive community, and we refused to settle down until we found it. But then we got there and the music was too loud or too soft, or the pastor said something in one sermon we didn’t agree with, or the small group went sideways and we got our feelings hurt, and so we left that field for greener pastures elsewhere, but it turns out there are no perfect churches and no perfect communities and the Word of God is still the Word of God no matter how relevant the communicator seems… You know that thing?
Listen, we’ve been there too! Just because Kurt and I have been part of the same church for the past 17 years doesn’t mean we haven’t had moments where we’ve gone “hmmmm…” and thought about bailing. So no judgment, it has just been part of American Christian culture. However,
I believe that era is ending.
The disillusionment with organized religion is polarizing. Either it can drive us away from the church, or it can cause us to dig in deeper and be the change. Regardless, I strongly believe that the days of complacent consumerism are coming to an end.
Churches can’t afford to compete for our attention anymore. They are realizing they can’t make everyone happy, so they’re focusing on mission over membership numbers. Instead of building bigger buildings, they’re planting smaller campuses or satellite communities.
And we, as church-goers, are no longer satisfied with pulpit lip-service, we want truth. We don’t want community in name only, we want to be known. So we’ve decided to find that in the world if we can’t find it in the church.
Analysis suggests this will be the undoing of the church, but I have a different point of view. I don’t believe the effect will be the end of the Church. I believe it will be the core strengthening of the Church.
Because those who ride the wave of this Secondary Reformation without being sucked under will be those whose faith does not depend on comfort.
I know there are books that have been written on this topic that I still need to read. I’m not claiming to have all of the knowledge and understanding required to support that last statement.
These are just my observations and the stirrings in my spirit, so I thought I’d share.
In the same way the Protestant Reformation rocked the church beginning in 1517, I believe we will also be rocked with a choice: We can continue to assume the church will serve us, or we can begin to truly serve the church.
That stuff Jesus said about dying to ourselves, taking up our crosses daily, and following Him? He meant it. Our life of faith isn’t about our weekend preferences and conveniences. Our life of faith is about laying it all at the feet of Jesus and saying, “Here I am.”
(I’m tempted here to write out some examples of why people leave churches and what they could do instead, but I don’t want to hurtfully generalize anyone’s circumstances. I will say there are correct and incorrect ways to “move on to a new assignment,” but I trust if you are seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit that He will lead you along the right path. I’m definitely not writing this as a passive aggressive swipe toward anyone, so hopefully that’s not what you’re reading here. Honestly, I’m just thinking about our family and the discomfort God is calling us to and the great reward I know we’ll find there.)
Truly, this is a time of great hope and great anticipation.
We are seeing unprecedented accessibility to the Word of God.
And what will follow this move of the Word and the Spirit will be people whose heart’s cry is to obey, serve, love, and share – people who take the Word of God at face value and know no better than to gather in imperfect communities to pray and worship and send.
All. Over. The. World.
May we in this privileged Western Church be ready. May we be freed from concern with our own egos, our own comfort, our own preferences and weekend consumption.
May we study and lean in to the Word so when baby Christian communities call, begging for instruction, we’ll be ready to love and exhort and educate and empower them.
May we begin to be the change in the communities where we have been planted. May we not abandon ship but stay with buckets in hand and faith in Jesus and ride this wave into radical struggle and heroic faith.
The harvest is plentiful. Let’s get uncomfortable.
25-27 So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. If those who ignored earthly warnings didn’t get away with it, what will happen to us if we turn our backs on heavenly warnings? His voice that time [on Mount Sinai] shook the earth to its foundations; this time—he’s told us this quite plainly—he’ll also rock the heavens: “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered. 28-29 Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!Hebrews 12:25-28, MSG