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The Church’s Next Great Headache

I very rarely get headaches.  Spare me the joke, I’ve heard it….no brains, no headaches, I know.   But they’re not a complete unknown to me, and I can usually trace their genesis to something – overwhelming pressure, a nagging fear, or the ever popular lack of coffee.

The church has a whopper of a headache coming on.

We don’t perceive it yet, but I’m telling you, I can see it on the horizon, and if we don’t make adjustments, the church is going to wake up with the most unholy of hangovers.  What might be the cause?  I’m going to save Barna the trouble and tell you now.

The greatest dilemma facing the church is the possibility that the Bible is true.

It’s not the threat of fallacy that will do us in, it’s the terror that comes with infallibility.   That’s right.   The greatest thing we have to fear is that the message we propose is an entirely accurate one.

Volumes have been written about the pursuit of authentic Christianity.   With very few exceptions – in fact, none that I could cite of the top of my head – those volumes were written by well meaning people who were seeking truth where they could find it.

Our problem is not a lack of good intentions…but with our failure to consider that the Book means what it says at the simplest level.

What if true, authentic Christianity has nothing to do with small groups or vision statements?   What if the holy grail wasn’t relevance to pop culture or even believable leadership?  What if, upon darkening the door of heaven, the first angel you meet doesn’t ask anything about ‘how many are you running?’

What if James really was inspired by God when he wrote that pure, undefiled religion was to care for the widows and orphans?  That verse is like poetry, isn’t it? We love the rhythm and meter of that phrase, but are we convinced of the accuracy?   Because if it’s more than poetic….if it’s true….we’re jacked.

There is no magic formula for church growth, but there certainly is a biblical equation for church behavior, and true to the outward focus of Jesus, this one has little to do with our needs.    The litmus test for purity of one’s expression of church is how that church treats widows and orphans – two groups of people who contribute little in the way of financial or relational equity.

James’ practical instruction is a solid steel extension of Jesus’ “when you’ve done it to the least of these….”.

Jesus laid down a principle.  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, James took the principle and gave it names and faces.

Caring for the widows and orphans who can give nothing back…that is radical church theory.   What on earth would church look like if we fully embraced that?

For once, the thundering voice of God joins the cry of an unbelieving world to ask the very same  question.

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16 Responses

  1. you truly threw down on this one. wow. good stuff.

  2. I have left congregations, had many a good verbal debate, and angered a good many group attendees/preachers over topics such as this. I personally feel that the “church” overall has lost the true man Yeshua was, and what he so eloquently laid his own life down for. I have seen preachers refuse to help people, congregations spend more time, effort, and money on promoting the building than reaching out to people who are emotionally or financially bankrupt. Too many people have lost the scriptures themselves.
    Very well put, as usual. I always appreciate your thoughts.
    Shalome,
    Amber Blake

  3. One thing I have been learning is the fact that churches should be lead by leaders who pray about the direction Jesus has for them (among other qualifications for leaders).
    Too often we pray about our programing and events, and not at all for the people and the cities that are made up of them.
    Man, two great posts in the last week. Keep it up!
    -Don-

  4. Sigh…just what I have been thinking. I have served as the director of Children and Youth Ministries at a church for nearly 6 years. It is my first “job” as a youth director. Had you told me 6 years ago when I took the position that I would battle the authority of Truth, especially with the leaders of the church, I would have thought you were nuts.

    My church, along with 3 others, are in the chaos of a church merger. It is messy, awful, even mean spirited. The “leader” the conference has brought in does not believe in the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection, but believes that Jesus became the Messiah when he was baptized. I’m sure anyone reading this is thinking – GET OUT! And I think that often myself. But for the season of the merger the Lord has called me and my husband to speak truth into the lives of those in attendance. This means standing against leadership, and we have to prayerfully do this. It is hard, very hard – as I know it will probably cost me my job. And to be as honest as it comes, that scares the cr*p out me – with a self employed husband, a two year old, a baby on the way and a tanking economy at times I just want to shut my mouth and ride it out for the sake of a paycheck…

    Thanks for your thoughts and bringing reality home. And please, pray for us.

  5. After spending some time yesterday reading some emergent church theology (which is quite frightening), this is just what I needed.

  6. Hey Randy, my name’s Brittian–I blog over at http://www.sensualjesus.wordpress.com and I found you on a blog aggregate called http://www.theglorio.us…anyhow–enough introduction…

    I thought you came at this in a very interesting way. I really loved the article.
    I appreciate the question and the challenge, “what if it’s all true”?
    I exist in a post-literalist interpretation of the Bible. What that means for me is that I’m willing to discard some of the “miraculous” imagery as literary device or metaphor, etc…even the 2nd coming can be seen through that lens…for me, I ALREADY approach it in such a way as you describe about taking the moral and practical realities of the Bible at face value and applying them to the praxis of my daily life. So what you’re post led to me thinking, is WHAT IF the imagery is true? What if all the angels, and burning bushes, etc…are physically fact? What then? How would that change my decision to pursue life in the way of Jesus?
    I’m not sure if it would…but still…it’s a great question…the next big problem brewing (in both conservative and liberal corners) in the church is what if the Bible were True… Love it.

    Good stuff!

  7. I agree, and I think Its even deeper than James…

    James was under inspiration true… but Yeshua wasnt saying anything new. Taking care of the poor, the widow, and the orphan is inherent in Torah. The disconnect bewtween the modern religon called “Christianity” and “Church” and its own roots has cut off many things, including simple instructions to the poor and the least.

    The diobedience of “Church” is simply the backdrop of individuals (not leaders) refusing to take simple, original commands seriously. I could care less about one clique or another, or someone who actualy thinks they direct the affairs of believers. The reailty is the simple commands were given to the WHOLE tribe.

    I have to answer for my actions, and I dont need anyone else than the simple same Spirit that led Jesus to know Im called to do this.

    I love how you put it Randy. Its way simplerthan we make it.

  8. Sean,
    Not to be nit picky, but Yeshua (Jesus) is the Word. This means He is the very essence of the Scriptures, including the Torah. Of course He wasn’t saying “anything new” because He was re-affirming what He already said.
    When God was using the prophets as His mouthpiece (OT guys like Amos) He said the same things.
    The lack of Christians taking care of “the least of these” is nothing new. This is not a “new” disconnect but an existing one. I know many churches that help the poor, but helping the poor is not what constitutes church. What constitutes a proper local church service would be the preaching of the Word (proclamation of the Gospel as well as rebuke, instruction and all that 2 Tim 3:16 stuff), and the practice of the ordinances (baptism and communion, etc).
    What constitutes the capital “C” church is the body of believers everywhere (locally, nationally, etc.). It is not the churches job to feed the poor or to be charitable, but the Churches job to do so.
    So, this being said, if the Church is not doing so, this is a salvation question, not a mission question.

  9. Brittian – you wrote “WHAT IF the imagery is true?”

    That’s actually the larger part of my point.

    A friend once spoke of hearing John Wimber say “The crazy thing is, the whole darn book is true!”. John was right – it all is true. A half-true book isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

  10. excellent- God Bless you and yours!

  11. WOW this conversation kind of exploded. Good stuff as usual, Randy. I have never understood how some parts of the Bible could be true and worthy of me believing and others not…and who decides that stuff? and are they right? it’s just so much easier to say, it’s all true!

  12. This is why I love reading your blog, well… besides the cute kids and your heart for adoption 🙂 I’ve been thinking about this alot myself and it’s bothering me that the church and the pastors that I love don’t “get it”. We tried to start an ophan/adoption ministry and they’re just not ready to go down that road yet. I feel like we do too much for those already in the church. What are we doing for those who really need to see Jesus’ Hands and Feet? I do love my church and our pastors, I just wish they could catch this vision. God is moving in this and we need to get on board.

  13. Our church just had a 9 week challenge to read through the New Testament. Reading through it that quickly gave me the chance to be stunned by its simplicity. I could not believe how often the importance of obeying God was central to the book, chapter, or verse. How those simple things you mentioned were all that mattered to God once you simply accepted the redemption offered through Jesus.

  14. Hi,
    I knew Kelsey back in school and came across your blog from her. I really find this comment to be one of the most well said thing in ages: The greatest dilemma facing the church is the possibility that the Bible is true.

    I think there are a too many people out there who don’t believe the Bible is real or that they are merely parables of life lessons. I know that’s what my mother believes.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and giving me something to think about.

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