“Framing Christianity within a dualistic ‘us versus them’ paradigm can be a successful way of achieving numerical growth. The nefarious ‘them’ serve as a foil to assert our own rightness. Sunday after Sunday we are made to feel good about belonging to those who are on the right side of all things religious and political. This is the problem we have when churches are led by religious entrepreneurs instead of contemplative pastors. . . . [when] the institution is fully committed to a reactive kind of Christianity. If we are stuck in a reactive form of Christianity, any move toward a contemplative form of Christianity is viewed as a kind of betrayal. It’s often condemned as ‘falling away from the faith.’ But that’s not what it is. It’s leaving behind childish things and growing up into the fullness of Christ. . . . . As long as our churches are led by those who view being a Christian primarily as a kind of conferred status instead of a lifelong journey, and view faith as a form of static certitude instead of an ongoing orientation of the soul toward God, I see little hope that we can build the kind of churches that can produce mature believers in any significant numbers. The American entrepreneurial model of church growth has created a situation where the pastoral vocation has been rendered nearly impossible. On one hand the pastor must satisfy the demands of a consumer-oriented constituency (which is more properly the work of a politician or businessman), while on the other hand seeking to produce real spiritual formation in the lives of the congregation. These two objectives—satisfying a contingency and spiritual formation—work against one another most of the time. It seems impossible.” Brian Zhand
“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones
God can raise up children for Abraham.”
Moving From Head to Heart
*For you does being a Christian mean you have arrived, or that you have embarked on some kind of lifetime journey? Why does it matter?
*If a journey, is it one of constant repentance–where you’re always becoming someone new–new thinking, beliefs, perspectives; motivations, and practices?
*Does your church experience cause you to judge other faiths, castes, races, sexual orientations, ethnicities, etc., or does it give you interest in the welfare of these “others?” Which seems more “Biblical” to you and why?
O God, I thirst, not for comfortable certitude, or feelings of superiority towards others, but a life of constant repentance where my soul is oriented toward you.
For More: Water To Wine by Brian Zhand
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“A state that threatens the proclamation of the Christian message negates itself. There are thus three possibilities for action that the church can take vis-à-vis the state: first, . . . questioning the state as to the legitimate state character of its actions, that is, making the state responsible for what it does. Second, is service to the victims of the state’s actions. The church has an unconditional obligation toward the victims of any societal order, even if they do not belong to the Christian community. ‘Let us work for the good of all.’ (Gal 6:10) These are both ways in which the church, in its freedom, conducts itself in the interest of a free state. In times when the laws are changing, the church may under no circumstances neglect either of these duties. The third possibility is not just to bind up the wounds of the victims beneath the wheel but to fall [ourselves] within the spokes of the wheel itself. Such an action would be direct political action on the part of the church. This is only possible and called for if the church sees the state be failing in its function of creating law and order, that is, if the church perceives that the state, without any scruples, has created either too much or too little law and order. It must see in either eventuality a threat to the existence of the state and thus to its own existence as well.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“So [Jesus] made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle;
he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.”
John 2:15 NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Think about that first sentence. Does government have a genuine self-interest in protecting Christian proclamation?
- Bonhoeffer says the church must bind up the victims’ wounds in an unjust state. When a government is really out of control, such victims could include large parts of the population–even its majority. In such a case, wide-spread neighbor love (likely in some form of “direct political action”) is required. (Matthew 22:39) Is your church even thinking about these responsibilities? Are you?
- Does the church where you live focus on other things rather than these things? If so, on what?
Abba, give me a heart for any of my neighbors who are victims.
For more: Works (Vol. 12) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“The Technical Assistance Research Program study for the White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that 96 percent of unhappy customers never complain about rude or unfriendly treatment, but 90 percent of those unhappy customers will not return to the place where that unfriendliness was manifest. Further, each one of those unhappy customers will tell nine other people about the lack of friendliness and courteousness, and 13 percent will tell more than twenty other people. …Now, we all know that every church thinks it’s friendly. I’ve never met a church yet where the people said, “Yeah, we’re mean and proud of it!” No! Every church thinks it’s friendly. But what that means is …they are friendly to each other …to people they know …to people they like …to people who are like them. That’s not friendliness; that’s a clique or, at best, a club. To prove the point, another recent LifeWay Research survey found that while three out of every four churchgoers say they have significant relationships with people at their church, they admit they don’t make an effort with new people. In fact, only one in every six even try. That’s not very friendly. …If you are going to reach the nones [the religiously unaffiliated], they are going to come to you as a none. That means they will come as couples living together, as gay couples, pregnant outside of marriage, addicted, skeptical. Is that going to raise an eyebrow? Or is it taken in stride in a way that makes the person feel instantly at ease? At Meck [the author’s church], it’s just another day of normal.”
“I was a stranger,
and you invited Me in.”
Jesus in Matthew 25:35
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Stand back and watch people interacting before and after the worship service. Are people being ignored by others? …gathering in familiar cliques? …”stranded” – standing alone in silence, during the time of greeting?
- Do you make a point of regularly speaking to people you haven’t met?
- When you attend church are you looking for opportunities to show the love of Jesus to others – or just for your friends?
- Have you been included – or even worse, in the “inner circle” – too long to remember what it’s like to “break into” a new church?
Abba, use me, and all your people, to embrace others with your love.
For More: The Rise of the Nones by James Emery White
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”