(This is Number 9 in a series. I encourage you to read in order, Top 10 Things That Are Killing The Church!; #10: Choosing Religion Over Relationship; #9 Ignoring That We Are In A War; #8: Wrong priorities; 7: Cookie Cutter Attitude; #6. Self Reliance; #5 Fear Of Change; #4 Form Rather Than Substance; and #3 The Loss Of Passion. The tenth and final one in this series should come tomorrow!)
Remember that these are my reflections on what I have observed about the western church, and in particular the church in the good old U.S.A. Without the empirical work such as that done by groups like Barna I am left with simple observations, deep reflections and even deeper prayers. So this work is subjective so I do not ask nor even expect anyone to agree with my conclusions. This blog has simply given me a means to express the deep burden I have for the local church in the U.S.A., and for my own Tribe.
This next one may not have made the lists of others who have tried to label the various maladies that has infected (and might I add “affected”) the western church. It is the most subtle, and thus most deceptive, of all the reasons why our churches are in an overall state of decline (with pockets of exceptional congregations that are in fact growing). It is because of its deceptive nature that it comes in strong at #2: False Humility!
Because someone will take me out of context, I must preface my next remarks with this. Humility is a much-needed and often missing virtue. I have found that many think it is M.I.A. among those in my profession, that of being a pastor. And I will admit that some of my fellow shepherds seem to have a propensity of not modeling this virtue of humility. So, in some sense, I would have to agree that some of my companions really appear to lack this essential virtue. But humility is not limited to the “Backward’s Collar Society” (known by most as “preachers”). It is to be modeled at every level in the life of local congregations. Humility is what gives our witness and message credibility. But not all that is called and treated as humility, is true humility. There is a false, counterfeit humility that is greatly impending the impact of the local church.
While some my think my reflections and comments reveal my lack of hope about the future of the western church, I am very optimistic about the future of the, let’s call it “organized western church”. One of the reasons I am so optimistic is the rise of the group known as the “Dones”. I believe the Dones reveal something more than just giving up, as some critics have said about them. No, they are done with the institution of church, to which I gladly shout, “Bravo! Amen and Amen!” These Dones have understood which so many Tenured Pew Sitters have either not understood, or have simply been living in denial. The local church will never prosper as she is designed as an institution.
She truly is a living organism. But when programs and missions are clearly designed to maintain the institution and to protect their version of orthodoxy, it slowly bleeds the church until she is on life support without much hope. The Dones are teaching us that it is futile and a waste of God’s many great gifts to focus on survival in order to protect a history that once reflected the Kingdom but is far removed from that Kingdom today. If we listen to the Dones, we can hear not just them, but God calling us back to our deepest roots and richest orthodoxies which is that of caring about and caring for others in the ways that Jesus did as He walked this earth and now moves on this earth through the Holy Spirit. The Dones are teaching us again about the importance of relationships–both human and Divine.
Another reason I see that there is hope for the future of the western church is The Nones. Like the Dones, they have no interest in the organized institution that is being guided and maintained by the Tenured Pew Sitters. The Nones are longing for a better world and they clearly see that the push by liberalism that WE can make the world a better place is nothing more than political promises–empty and without hope. This longing for a better world by The Nones is closer to the Kingdom of God than many realize. You see, Jesus came for this very reason–to give us live and show us how to live life that has deep purpose and abiding peace.
The difference I see between The Nones and The Dones is that The Dones know that the source of this deep purpose and abiding joy comes from God, not by sitting in the pew. The Nones know there is a better way to make a difference in their community and they are looking for ways to make it a reality. This is GREAT news for local congregations. Here is a group of people who know little or nothing about the Bible, and what they know about religion is enough to know that religion doesn’t work. I say this is great news for the church because we are surrounded by a growing number of Harvest Hands, hands that are longing to do the work of God. We just need to show them by our example.
But the main reason I am hopeful for the future of the western church is because I am seeing signs of God’s Kingdom strong and vibrant almost every day. God is on the move here in the good old U.S.A. The Dones and The Nones are not the only ones dissatisfied with the status quo. I am seeing and hearing stories of real Disciples of Jesus connecting with their communities, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to make a difference in hearts and lives one at a time. I am sensing and seeing the beginnings of a great upheaval and revival. Some are hearing and faithfully responding to God’s call, even in small pockets of communities. But more are needed.
I believe with every fiber of my being, that God is calling out to new leaders in our local congregations. God has put within them the gifts, tools, abilities, and most of all, a passion for the true mission of the Kingdom of God. I hear of pastors reaching out to those who have not been in leadership before but…but those being called out are saying No! No to the Mission. No to the Kingdom of God. And it is not because they do not believe in the mission of the Kingdom. It is Reason #2: False Humility.
I hear people and hear the stories from other pastors of those being called out into new ventures and new adventures repeatedly say, “Well, I’m just not the leadership type. I’m just a poor Christian that doesn’t have what it takes to be that kind of leader.” They pass it off as humility. By the way, if you are one of those who thinks that you don’t have it, remember Gideon, hiding in a wine pit threshing wheat because he was afraid of his enemies when God called him a “mighty man of valor”!
This False Humility that comes from the mentality that you do not have what it takes, is robbing the church of valuable leadership and keeping her from the task at hand. False Humility keeps one out of the mainstream of the movement of the Holy Spirit because He is calling us out of our comfort zones into places where we will fall flat on our faces, UNLESS we have on to Him. It is not easy getting out of these comfort zones, and though getting outside these comfort zones is the place to grow and be who God created you to be, still they resist. Why? Either they do not see what God has placed in them to achieve His purposes, or they doubt that God will do it for them. If you are one of the doubters, then listen to Paul’s words here:
Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that.
2 Corinthians 4:5-6 (The Message)
Our message is not about ourselves, it is always about Jesus, who is living in the hearts of every person who trusts in His Redeeming work on the Cross and who is willing to be His Disciple. The more you see yourself as ordinary, the more you see yourself as an unadorned clay pot, or in my case–a cracked pot–the more your local congregation needs you and it is the reason He is calling you into the work of the Kingdom.
God is calling up a new group, a new class of leaders. Here is the best definition of leadership: One person influencing another person with the Gospel for the sake of the Gospel! You have a sphere of influence and God needs you to be found–found to be available. Don’t worry about being ready, God takes care of that part when you trust Him, listen to Him and Follow Him into the domain of the Enemy; and let His power flow through you. Trust Him to provide the power, and do not let False Humility keep you away from where God is calling you.