Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Mission is not an option

Posted: August 4, 2016 in Church
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Mission is not an activity in which the church is engaged.  It is the central purpose to which the church owes its very existence.

The charge to be “apostolic” is not so much a call to orthodox doctrine as it is a call to be fully participant in their mission: the urgent proclamation of the Truth which brought them into existence.

mission

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Growing up in the church, I heard a lot about “slippery slopes”.  But you know what I never heard anyone say?  What every mountaineer knows:  sometimes you have to tie on the crampons, rope up and traverse a slippery slope to get to solid ground.

The church’s ability to regain its voice in the marketplace of 21st century culture requires that we be willing to traverse the slippery slopes represented by such things as the role of science or sexuality or the nature of truth, authority and meaningful discourse.  I am not suggesting for a moment that we give in to gravity and abandon ourselves to a downward slide into relativism.  Nothing could be less faithful to Christ or more enervating to His people in the long run.  I am only suggesting that the solid ground from which we can extend a helping hand may only be accessible after a very frank examination of what we have been doing and whether or not it actually represents the One in Whose name we claim to speak.

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Today I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and why the Pharisees who were there couldn’t see what God was doing, though many of Jesus’ disciples knew exactly what was going on.  What made the Pharisees so blind to God’s moving?

I suspect there were multiple reasons.  Fear was certainly one; they were probably worried about what the Romans would do to them if they acknowledged Jesus as the long-awaited King.

Hypocrisy is second option; perhaps some of them were more interested in appearing to long for God to move than for Him to actually do so and thus disrupt their comfortable little religion.

But I think another contributor to their blindness was what I sometimes call a crippling nostalgia. The Pharisees, perhaps more than any other group in Israel in those days, were prone to looking backwards rather than forwards.  They tended to look at how God had moved in the past and assume that when He moved again it would be in precisely the same way.

But this Jesus was something new.  He knew the Scriptures, sure, but he seemed terribly irreverent about them, at least from the Pharisees’ perspective.  He wouldn’t obey the rules about the Sabbath they had set up to make sure people were safely pious.  He hung out with people whose very existence threatened to pollute their rigid understanding of holiness.  This Jesus was, in short, a radical…and the Pharisees didn’t like radicals.  They wanted a return to the good old days when God had moved in ways that were both comfortable and familiar.

In short, the Pharisees were so fixated on how God had moved in the past that they couldn’t see what He was doing now.  That’s what I mean by a crippling nostalgia; a fixation on the past that keeps us from moving confidently into the future.

Too many of our churches today struggle to see God moving for the same reason.  I cannot tell you how many churches I have visited over the years that are fixated on what God has done in their past, yet seem to be blind to what God is doing now.  It’s terribly depressing.

I’m not saying there is no value in remembering the past, especially when it is a past in which God’s faithfulness is so evident.  On the contrary, I believe there is great value in erecting monuments that look to the past in order to find confidence for the future.  But when a place is filled with reminders of the past that stop at “remember when?” and do not challenge us to boldly trust ourselves to that same God in an as-yet unknown future, that place is not so much a monument as it is a mausoleum. Far, far too many of our churches today are more like mausoleums than monuments…and it is often a crippling nostalgia that makes them such.