Climate change… and Church change
Humanity’s days have been changed by a health-scare of Biblical proportions. If the earth wants great restoration toward a more life-giving climate and landscape, its population must learn from the 12-week hiatus experienced around the globe as air polluting activity has been suspended. Manufacturing, industry, use of cars and haulage, airline activity: all these and more have largely been placed on hold, more or less for three months on rotation, beginning in China in January and transferring along the continental pathways until finally reaching South America, where it is rising to a peak as I write. Will this change our way of life permanently, and can we step back from the brink of a ruined earth as we back off from polluting lifestyles?
The church is a living organism which also needs new air…
Places of worship have also been closed and church services have been put on pause as society has been navigating the pandemic. Now churches can open (in England where I live). But if we in the body of Jesus/Yeshua want a full restoration of GOD’s reign in society, we need to be transformed, not only by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12) but also through the expression of our faith. For a vitally different Holy Spirit-inspired adaptation and transformation, we need change in our worship, our prayer and in our action.
But how and into what should the church be changed?
First comes recognition and surrender; then can come change. And with the Holy Spirit outpouring, anything is possible.
When the first century church met, they congregated in homes and shared their food (Acts 4). Today when we meet, by-and-large, we sit while listening to one person speak for a good length of time on some part of the Bible. We contemplate what’s said, perhaps praying before and/or afterward; we sing a bit and shake hands as we enter and leave. Some places have coffee and snacks following the service. We usually don’t know many of the other folks present, and nor do we take the time to build relationships with each and every person. Some places are more lively, others more serene; some people are deeply committed to the concept of church, while others remain more on the fringes. Many people live lives of quiet desperation though few of their counterparts in a congregation will know it.
I don’t think this is all GOD intends for His church. In fact, I’m certain it’s not!
I have a desire to worship the Father in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24), as Jesus teaches. I’ve had that desire for decades and I’m not the only one. But I do not believe it is going to happen unless we abandon everything we know about church and church service, and begin with a blank slate both individually and corporately.
This is our chance! Coronavirus, Covid-19 and the shutdown have given us much more time to spend with GOD. He has made room for change. And here’s what I’ve concluded:
In order for the church to minister effectively, for its people and for the outreach of the Gospel, it must change radically.
What is Church?
Today church is not what it was designed to be. Before I sound too negative, here’s why I say that:
The word church means two things. From the Greek translation of Biblical references in the New Testament, church is translated from two words:
Oikos = family
Ekklesia = sent out ones
There is no reference to a building, but to the human body (1 Corinthians 12) and to the body of believers aka church existing to serve.
So, once we recognise the word church doesn’t mean a physical structure of bricks and mortar, we can consider what it is meant to be: a family of sent out ones … sent out to serve those who are not in the family, so that they can discover GOD and the saving grace of His son for themselves, and to support the poor (Galatians 2:10), widows and orphans within (and external to) the church group (James 1:27). Remember, We will be recognised by our love for one another and for the Father and for the Son,
“A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
When we look at the fact that church isn’t brick and mortar, then what will we do with the brick and mortar buildings? Whether owned or rented, we do generally speaking, attend a weekly service in a building.
I once studied under a pastor who had a small congregation called Celebration Church. It was so-called because the pastor knew that was what a Sunday* morning was meant to do: celebrate Jesus Saviour — Yeshua Messiah.
Taking that on board, when we meet as a large group can it simply be “in celebration” of Jesus’ resurrection power? Shall we celebrate the Creator and thank Him for His creation? Can we earnestly seek the power of the Holy Spirit and surrender as we pray to receive?
In 1 Corinthians 14:26-32 Paul pleads with the congregation in Corinth to have some order, urging them to express their gifts but one at a time.
“… If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn and let one interpret.” (vs 27)
Is this all there is?
How have we gone from being disorderly to virtually lifeless? Is this all there is? I don’t believe so. I think we barely scratch the surface. But if we let go and let GOD, He can lead us into celebration and allow the move of His Spirit.
Life in the Spirit
“Now the Lord is Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17) That would imply the converse is true: where there is no spirit, there is no liberty.
Some folks believe the gifts of GOD’s Spirit were only for the Apostles who knew Jesus personally. I don’t agree. But I do think that we have a long way to surrender before we can walk truly in the life, liberty and power of the Holy Spirit.
So, let us surrender
I don’t know what GOD’s church is going to look like. It will have something to do with a five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11), with elders and deacons thrown in. It won’t be a top down organisation and no one will be called “father” (Matthew 23:9).
But I don’t think it is intended that we know. Rather, as we yield ourselves to our GOD, prostrate and waiting, without chairs (except out of compassion for those with physical ailments in need of healing) and without sermons but rather walking in the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and with willing hearts to share, we will discover what church is meant to look like. And that, after two centuries of floundering, will be something to celebrate!
*Past posts I’ve written convey my attitude that Sabbath is Saturday and so is the day we ought to be congregating, but custom seems still to overrule.