Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On the Future of the Church

I put the following on my Facebook status recently – my thoughts this summer are full tilt about church:

Leaders won't take the church into a healthy future. Neither will those intent upon "the will of God," nor the ones committed to a "healthy church." The hope for the church lies upon ordinary people who have experienced intimate nearness to God, Himself. Of Peter and John it was said, "They recognized them as having been with Jesus (Acts 4:13)."

A few comments on the future of the church:

 Pastors nowadays are good at evangelism, not helping others cultivate intimacy with God. These “converts” are like seed thrown by the path which will invariably get trampled by today’s culture and die.

 Pastors nowadays are good at running an organization. Churches have organization, but if the leadership is not in tune with the Spirit and deeply committed to personal Godliness, the only product will be fruitless activity, not kingdom building.

 Pastors nowadays are scholarly and good orators. But, if the words are not formed in the crucible of the prayer closet by a heart grown healthy in stillness and solitude ever heeding the Spirit’s direction, then sermons become nothing more than moralistic prattle telling others how to behave. And, God’s kingdom is not built.

 Pastors nowadays are good at telling others about obedience to Jesus. I know of very few that know Jesus – see the difference? We can figure out the implications of this one quite easily.

 The “successful” church will consist of, as Brennan Manning puts it, “bedraggled ragamuffins” whose desperate and primary goal is to plumb the depths of Christ-acceptance. Church people nowadays (who get this honestly from their leader(s) who think they know the love of the Father, but don’t) are driven by guilt or fear that God is gonna getcha! This will not survive the current wave of cultural and godless persecution.

 The healthy church will devote priority energy toward building community, true community – the context for true spiritual growth. (I have defined community elsewhere in my blog).

 The healthy church will hold tradition loosely, careful not to jettison practices just because they have been around for a long time, nor lose the respect for the holiness of God through crazy and novel innovations.

 The church of the future will live by and submit to the authority of God’s Holy Word, the Bible. Scholarship is a must. The right combo is a smart mystic!

 That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


The experience of Jesus as Lord, which brings forth the response of faith, varies as widely as the people who encounter it.

Could it be that we “experience” God more than we think or are aware of? We so limit ourselves by our already set ideas of experience.

(Quoting John McKinzie) The basic element seems to be recognition. In Him [Jesus] the obscure is illuminated, the uncertain yields to the certain, insecurity is replaced by a deep sense of security.

Our trust in Jesus grows as we shift from making self-conscious efforts to be good to allowing ourselves to be loved as we are (not as we should be). An inner stillness pervades our being….

Self-absorption fades into self-forgetfulness, as we gaze upon the brightness of the Lord.

Incremental and a slow process for me! I want fireworks, adrenalin and sky-writing. God wants to cuddle with me and warm my heart!

… The personal experience of the glory of Jesus, the shattering encounter with the transcendent/immanent Christ, is the foundation of the faith and the hope that form and inform a life of naked trust.

Oh, how I want everything under the sun but what I really need… HIM!

Like faith and hope, trust cannot be self-generated. I cannot simply will myself to trust. The one thing I need to do I cannot do.

Yet, somewhere along the way, we must practice stillness, solitude and a protracted willingness to listen and obey.

What does lie within my power is paying attention to the faithfulness of Jesus. That’s what I am asked to do: pay attention to Jesus throughout my journey, remembering his kindness (Ps 103:2).

Trust comes from some experience of the other person, an experience not reducible to proof. Most often, it grows in a relationship of mutual love, one in which we have loved, and been loved, by another.

Experience comes from a humble, yet eager, heart.

The story of Job implicitly states that we can endure the unwanted intrusion of evil when we have experienced a theophany – that is, an insight into the reality of God.
Walter Burghardt writes: “Only trust makes evil endurable – trust not because God has offered proof, but because God has shown his face.

Experiencing God seems to be, at its core, an experience of being totally loved and accepted by God and accepting that acceptance.

[Quoting Walter Kasper] “Experiencing God’s love in Jesus Christ means experiencing that one has been unreservedly accepted, approved and infinitely loved, that one can and should accept one’s self and one’s neighbor.”

[Quoting Julian of Norwich] It is God’s will that we receive three things from him as gifts we seek. The first is that we seek willingly and diligently without sloth, as that may be with his grace, joyfully and happily, without unreasonable depression and useless sorrow. The second is that we wait for him steadfastly, out of love, without grumbling and contending against him…. The third is that we have great trust in him, out of complete and true faith, for it is his will that we know his will that we know that he will appear, suddenly and blessedly, to all his lovers.

Experiencing God comes from an existential awareness that I am God’s little boy (girl), that He is my Daddy in the purest and most infinite sense of Daddy-ness!

(From Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning, Chapter 7, “Trusting Jesus” – bold words are my own)