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27 March 2008

The Big, Overwhelming Picture

My children are homeschooled, and sometimes during extraordinarily busy weeks my wife takes their work at a more leisurely pace (I should interject that I envy my kids for having the privilege of being homeschooled -- I wanted this to happen when I was a child, but it was really an unrealistic fantasy back then).

Occasionally school work will pile up, and as I was talking to my son about random stuff a week or two ago, he told me how burdensome it was to know that sometimes he had "two months' worth of school" (his words, intentionally sensationalized -- really more like a few days' worth) backed up that he had to do. Knowing this makes it difficult for him to be motivated to do the day's work, because it will seem like a drop in the bucket -- a day of work that will feel essentially useless because it won't seem like he's making any real progress in the grand scheme of things.

Similarly, I sometimes think about the big picture where the Church is concerned, and I become dismayed at the glaring negatives:

- Did you know that a Barna Poll (one that's a few years old) showed that just 6% of "born again" adults obeyed God through tithing in 2002?
- Do we see evidence that God is on the move worldwide or nationwide through His Spirit-filled people in the Church?
- Do we see poverty, crime, abortion rates, etc., plummeting as a result of social involvement by Christ-followers all across America? How about in our individual communities?
- Do we see the name of God being lifted up and praised by "the nations" as a result of His Church preaching, worshipping, and living out the Gospel? (Psalm 67)

My response to the first bullet above would be, "Golly, self, I did not know that until I hunted it down for this post." My answers to the last three would be, "Not really," and this kind of thing is what gets me near the point of dismay. It feels like the world will never be changed, and I become very disappointed (that's a rather mild word) in the Church, of which we are a part.

But then I think of the kinds of things that I typically write here. They're not particularly meant for the masses; rather, they're thoughts meant for me and for you -- one person at a time. When we're told by Jesus to love each other (John 13:34-35), that's the very best way we're really capable of showing love -- to one another. In this way our perspectives will begin to be adjusted by God so that we will love the larger group of people, but the way love must be shown is one person at a time.

When a car doesn't run properly, we typically don't replace the whole engine. Instead, we find and repair the faulty part in a localized area.

God gave the Israelites the land He promised them, doing so one city at a time; not the whole lot of it at once. By the way, even those few groups who wanted to remain outside the promised land (with God's blessing) went in and fought with the rest of Israel to secure it.

Even starting within my own church fellowship, it's unlikely that I will be able to be a catalyst for change for everyone all at once, either in leading them to Christ (yep, I said that) or showing them that they must be serious and diligent about what they believe. However, loving, discipling, and fellowshipping with one person at a time has a remarkable chance for success.

The domino effect starts with a single domino.


Jan said...

Dean, something I have heard from missionaries and those that travel much more than I do in ministry is that there are revivals going on across the world - but not so much in the US. In Asia and in South America there is a wave of people coming to know Christ and do you know what one of the primary vehicles is for this evangelism? WORSHIP. That encourages me. Actually it makes me want to take a trip to check it out and be a part of it! This is what I thought of when I read your bullet point about the nations.

We ARE in a war, a battle of unbelievable proportions. We battle Satan, that is true. But we also battle our own apathy, self righteous attitudes, tendency to isolate ourselves, selfishness, etc. Perhaps a greater part of the battle is the battle within - to care and thus to tell and to go. When I read those bullet points I have to ask myself - "Is my heart broken by what breaks the heart of God?" and "Do I sincerely care about the fact that people around me are separated from God - perhaps for eternity?".

Good points.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Very convicting.

Preston N said...

Dean, personally this is THE reason I left corporate church over a year ago. In otherwords I decided that the engine DID need to be replaced. Personally, my heart became so grieved at what I was seeing (and hearing) every Sunday that I could no longer take it any longer and decided (along with much prayer) that it would be best to leave and start a home church. I did in fact try to become a "catalyst" but like many others who try to be a change agent, I soon realized church leadership is often the problem (sorry please take no offense here). For example, if a pastor has not bought into your idea of "change"- then you'll find yourself paddling against a strong and often unbeatable current. Most if not all church attenders look solely to one person in their church for all spiritual matters - the pastor. If your teaching or telling people something that is contrary to what the pastor beleives or teaches, most often you will not be successful in your effeorts to bring about change. The issue most people are unwilling to accept is that the "church" is often the problem. I have found that most people are hindered in their Christian lives as a result of their thinking. Where then do they get most of their ideas or concepts of God from? The church! George Barna wrote a fantastic book about this very dilemma in a book entitled "Revolution". It documents why hundreds of thousands of devouted "Christ-followers" are leaving the corporate church en masse. Much of my journey began shortly after reading this powerful and alarming book.

Please by no means am I promoting people to leave the corporate church - as this is a very personal decision and one that requres much prayer and thought. All I am saying is if your heart is grieved by what your not seeing occur in the church today, there are other avenues by which you can bring about change.

Dean Lusk said...

Preston is a personal friend of mine. You will not find anything in my comments here to suggest the contrary, but I do feel the need to make a few notes in response to his comment. We simply see a different way of dealing with this situation (and possibly are even talking about different situations).

Preston, while your home church structure is likely set up in a way that does not emphasize domineering leadership (I mean that in a positive sense, and I’m not suggesting that the typical organized church has “domineering leadership,” either), you must realize that you or another individual or group, by the simple act of setting up the home fellowship, have indeed become a leader; the very entity that you chastise in your comment. (And by the way, I didn’t take any personal offense. On the contrary, I understand your point.)

There is, of course, the possibility that someone within your home fellowship will read the Scriptures to teach something that they believe to be in contrast to what the leadership (you, for the sake of my discussion) is teaching. Now, one great thing about a smaller fellowship is that situations like this are very conducive to one-on-one discussion.

But at what point do you, as the leader, take a step back and say to yourself, "Maybe I could be incorrect on this particular thing"? If never take that time of reflection and consider that you may be in error, then you'd be as guilty (not the word I'm really looking for) as those the "establishment church" leadership of being stubbornly unwilling to allow change to happen, as implied in your comment.

The obvious answer is that if you see that you are in error, you’d better immediately go the route of Scripture instead of what you’d prefer to believe. I would commend that, because it is always the correct course of action.

But what if you have searched the Scriptures and you find that you are, indeed, absolutely correct in what you have been teaching? You would obviously remain steadfast in what you believe and continue to teach it.

What I'm saying is that it could very well be that the leadership actually disagreed with what you discovered to be truth. Not that they were “unwilling to change,” but it is possible – probable – that they actually had a very firm conviction that their belief is correct and in accordance with Scripture, and therefore could have found it essentially immoral and unreasonable to change.

Your case is one of those where I look in from the outside and say you made the correct choice. Church-hopping unfortunately seems to be the preferred “solution,” but that is typically based on someone’s personal preference rather than on the basis of Scriptural teaching.

You may say, “You’re missing the point here.” I’m not, but I diverged from it a bit. Similarly, this whole line of discussion is not perfectly on-point with my post yesterday (though I can obviously see how it leads to this discussion -- "personally this is THE reason I left corporate church over a year ago" -- evidently very relevant to your situation).

So what was the point of my post? It’s simple and age-old. Nothing new here: most often, change happens one person at a time. It can happen in a home church setting. It can happen in a larger church setting. It can happen in a coffee shop or at Wal-Mart. But it must happen in the heart.

Preston N said...

Dean, let me first say thank you for your comments. Your words are in no way taken as harsh or chastising and I covet your comments.

First, I interpreted the topic of this blog as being a "catalyst" for change in not only our lives but the church as well - my response is YES, but I may differ as to if the current church structure truly allows change to occur or is even an environment that is conducive to theological agreement. My comments were merely that the home church setting is one that does not have a “domineering leadership”, but rather we have a group of "elders" that collectively approach doctrinal issues with one central standard and that is hermeneutics (Rules for Biblical Interpretation). I realize this is a word I bring up quite often on this blog but I can not stress it's vitality and necessity to obtaining biblical agreement and ultimately sound Christian growth(I say growth because our growth is tied directly to our understanding and our understanding is tied directly to how one interprets scripture).

As a member of our home church, one of first requirements as a member is that everyone who joins must first agree to the rules of biblical interpretation before EVER entering into any biblical or theological discussions. If you can not agree to these rules, then we will address why you don't agree with these rules before proceeding any further. By establishing these rules of interpretation, this will allow everyone to be on the same page when entering into or having a discussion about a particular concept or theological idea (A good analogy here is understanding the rules of a game before ever playing a single inning or quarter). Therefore, if at anytime someone brings up a new idea or concept - we first determine if any of the rules of interpretation has been violated - if not then the idea or concept can be accepted as truth. If a rule of interpretation has been violated we identify which rule has been broken and go back to address the issue.

By establishing the rules of hermeneutics we eliminate the following conflicts and problems:

- Personal agendas
- Personal Presuppostions
- Violations of the Law of non-Contradiction
- People arguing about pet doctrines and never seek the root of the disagreement
- Traditions that are not rooted in scripture, etc.

What does this have to do with being a "catalyst" for change? In order to bring about change a persons understanding must change. In order for this to occur the rules of biblical interpretation must be defined so that there is a starting point. My point here is this stuff is found hardly no where in the modern church. NONE of this is ever discussed or even mentioned to the members of a church, and if it is discussed it is just discussed on a surface level and is never really implemented. Typically there is but one sole individual that defines the method or rules of biblical interpretation - the pastor! It is through his rules of interpretation that all theology is discussed or preached. For example, how many within your average church know what the rules for biblical interpretation are? I would guarantee that if you went around to most churches and surveyed each person to give their definition of the following topics you will get a myriad of differing definitions and theological concepts - all attending the same church:

- Sin
- The Law
- Grace
- Faith
- Atonement and its purpose
- Purpose of the Holy Spirit

If your church members have varying definitions of these central core tenets of Christianity you have to ask yourself HOW and WHY has this happened! If Paul stated that we are to be unified in Christ and the gospel (of which all of the items I mentioned above are a part of) and yet almost all members of most churches will have very different definitions of these core beliefs.

My point is this - change does not have to occur on a person to person scale. Is not "revival" large sweeping "change" that occurs as a result of a few people who "changed" and that sparked hundreds if not thousands to "change". Is this not the very picture of Acts and other historic revivals that occurred throughout Christian history? Granted, a genuine change of heart occurs one person at a time, but I know that change can occur on a much broader level and that is if men would get back to the one thing that brings about real heart stopping revival change - the unaltered Gospel of Jesus Christ! Its amazing what happens when you preach just the gospel and how powerful and how effective it really is! My question and my point is this - why is it no longer effective? What has changed? i would offer up that it is the rules of biblical interpretation that has changed and thus so has the gospel.

Christy said...

I was reading about martyrs today in the VOICE OF MARTYRS newsletter I just received. It was heart wrenching to hear about believers worldwide being killed for their belief in Christ. However, it was also awe inspiring. The thought that lingered in my mind was how we in America are not being martyred and I know it's because we are NOT LIVING for Christ! We are living for ourselves - even those of us who WANT to live for Christ and THINK we are living for Christ! Why do I say that? Because of the point Dean made, we aren't SEEING change in crime, homelessness, poverty, etc. We simply are not living for Christ as if LIVES DEPEND ON HIM! We are too spoiled, too comfortable and too complacent.

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