The Church needs an “MRI”!
One of my greatest passions is the church. Anyone who has been saved by Jesus should care deeply about the house of God, which is God’s family and the Bride of the Lamb, right?
So how are we doing? From my American charismatic perspective, not terribly well.
Let’s take the one mark that should stand out above all others: love. Is love simply awash in our corporate gatherings? Maybe your experience is different than mine – I hope it is – but I see a lot of people out of church, and I see a lot of hurt people alienated from church.
I just devoured a small book by the late Derek Prince, entitled Protection From Deception. In it, this great elder of the church made the following bombastic statement:
From my experience I would say there is no greater problem in the church today than personal ambition in the ministry.
Wow! I haven’t come across that degree of honesty on this subject anywhere else, ever.
I envision the problem as a board game, “Careers in Christ”. It’s what burned me royale so many years ago, and I still haven’t forgotten. It’s what happens when church leaders put their own aggrandizement above the health of the Body and start abusing the sheep in order to protect their own interests.
And it’s darn ugly. I’ve seen churches split, families broken, and lives destroyed when people used positions of authority to violate the rule of love and desecrate the temples – both the corporate temple and individual person-temples – of God. I’ve seen devastated elders, their support system pulled out from under them, their faith destroyed, turn to drugs and dealing drugs, and end up prematurely dead or in a mental ward with their brains burned out.
As the military says, the enemy isn’t shooting blanks.
The problem at root is that we Americans have been socialized into the dominant culture, and we have bought into the idea that success equals money, power and prestige. TV has a lot to do with this – which is why I don’t use one – but at this point the false value system is everywhere.
Pity the youths, who have been totally immersed in high-pressure telegenics from the crib.
There is only one remedy to our problem, and it is radical obedience to the Gospel. Jesus told us to sell our possessions, give to the poor, hate our own lives, carry our cross and follow Him.
That’s not easy to do. At all. But do we even know that it’s what we’re supposed to be doing? I dare say many do not.
And frankly, I count the Evangelical community, which prides itself in biblical accuracy, to be no better than anyone else, in that the Gospel has been almost hopelessly admixed with the middle-class, keep-up-with-the-Joneses, American Dream.
There is also a corporate aspect to the solution. The church body must release its grasp on its buildings, its access to the halls of power, and – horrors! – its tax exemptions. We are rapidly approaching the time when being true to the Gospel will be illegal in the United States Of America.
Powerful political and social forces are converging, and it’s high time for a major reformation of the church. I read that Luther wanted to go much further than he did but could not at that time. He wanted to take the church all the way back to the Book of Acts, but instead we got stuck with various state churches (as opposed to the one state church sited at Rome).
Then along came the USA, with its beautiful but rather tenuous separation of church and state (note: pertinent religion values and state never were separated until neo-liberalism took hold of the judiciary half a century ago). A nice step forward, but a) we were seduced by prosperity and power, and b) neither the prosperity nor the separation is going to last anyway. We already see Christianity falling into disfavor, as the state rattles it sword of political correctness and the corrupt economy totters.
The great irony in all this is that we will soon be taking a page from our brothers in China, who have secretly labored under severe persecution for half a century, nonetheless growing to some 110 million strong. And those, by and large, are believers with a proven willingness to pay the price.
To survive, the church in the West will need to revert to the same basics on which our original forefathers relied: Apostles’ doctrine, intimate house to house meetings, faith and the Holy Spirit. It will need to walk in its tripartite MRI – missional, relational, and incarnational – calling.
While MRI sounds catchy, IRM is really more accurate. In correct order we have:
Incarnational: as individuals, but especially as a body, we manifest the real presence of Christ on earth in our age. We are His arms and legs, His hands and feet, His tongue. This can only happen through intentional consecration and yieldedness, as we allow Him to live His life in us.
Relational: the church is not a building, it is a Body. We are all intimately connected. When one hurts, all hurt. If one is diminished, all are. But when one is built up, we all are built up. Jesus said we would be known by our love for each other, and love is the perfect bond of unity. We must be one, even as Jesus and the Father are one. Think about how deep that really goes.
Missional: as we become one, our joy is made full. We are empowered to take the Gospel out into the world and bring in lost souls.
This is the bare-bones yet highly-functional ecclesiology that drove the early church, which was the very first viral social movement, whose growth was undeniably miraculous.
For this to happen, we must reevaluate our position in Christ and to discern what the Lord is saying to the Body and to each of us. Time will not wait; we already see massive tectonic shifts in our social, cultural, and economic landscape. Change is upon us, whether we welcome it or not; and it is speeding up, whether it is the kind of change some thought they were voting for or not.
This is an extremely important kairos moment for the church. It is time for America, the greatest evangelistic nation in history, to herself be reevangelized. If we obey, the results will be a glorious, dynamic church, hundreds of millions strong, returning to its original, God-ordained model and turning the world upside down perhaps for the last time.