Aug 21, 2012

When God's Kids Grow Up

As I mowed the grass in the sweltering heat, I thought about my spiritual discontent.

Again.

I watched a video last night featuring Greg Hawkins, the executive pastor of  Willow Creek church, who discussed the trend of committed, born-again Christians leaving traditional churches in large numbers. Wanting to know what was behind it all, pollsters like George Barna have been collecting data from studies and have reached several conclusions - one of which I'll discuss in this message.

The most startling fact uncovered is that most of the people who are leaving the church are not lukewarm, marginal Christians, but those who are the most committed to living for Jesus. The sold-out, on- fire children of God are seeking greener pastures in which to rest.

Five years ago - this revelation would have shocked me. But today, it confirms what I've seen happening among my friends and it sheds light on what I've experienced in my own life.

In 2008, when I first began having dreams - many of them took place in church buildings. I'd dream about praying for people to be healed or I'd be prophesying at a church service. At that time, my wife and I attended an AG church regularly. The church dreams didn't last long. The church we attended had a lot of problems and God called us to meet with people in different locations and soon, my dreams took on a different setting.

The church dreams ended and instead I was praying with people in ambulances, stores, streets and hospitals. Literally anywhere but in a church building. I knew God was calling us out of that setting, and into the community at large, but we had a hard time giving up our church life.

Over the years, my wife and I have tried to find a church to attend, but haven't been successful. We don't have an ax to grind against the institutional church. Yes, we see a number of problems with the traditional church scene, but we also see some positive things that a traditional church setting can provide. We just can't find one that meets our  particular needs. One of the problems is that we seem to have outgrown most churches and the things they teach.

Most churches are great at helping new believers become rooted and grounded in the truth of scripture. While some folks may be content to study the bible their entire lives, others require a bit more diversity. Some churches have nothing to offer beyond basic bible teaching. So when a church successfully nurtures it's members into maturity and they require training and equipping beyond the basics, where do they go?

Many believers today have discovered their identity in Christ and are fully capable of teaching with authority and operating in the power of God. They're not beginners any more. They're seasoned veterans. As their numbers have grown - it's become apparent (to me at least) that the manifestation of the sons and daughters of God spoken of in Scripture may finally be here. God's kids have grown up. And unfortunately for church leaders -  they've nearly worked themselves out of a job.

The body of Christ now needs advanced training and equipping and leaders are late in responding to that need. A few (Bill Johnson for example) have seen the need and developed advanced curricula. To their credit, Bethel has made their school of supernatural ministry curriculum available to others, but a better approach would be for local fellowships to develop and implement their own.

The need for more challenging instruction might explain the boom in conference attendance. Many people find that two or three days of immersion in worship and advanced teaching is more helpful than digesting weekly sermons.

The present challenge to leaders is to recognize the need for advanced training and equipping and ask God for the resources and insights on how those needs can be met. If the needs of the sheep are not met, they'll continue to head for the exit sign.

Here's the interview with Greg Hawkins:




9 comments:

  1. yes! Water's Edge Church, Marquette Mi has learned from both Bethel and IHOP ministries and added what they feel is also necessary to produce a dynamic church. I'd recommend you contact Charlie Holsworth there for a great discourse. :) He teaches a Life Ministry course there in how to incorportate and walk the above concepts out in one's life.

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    1. Thank you for dropping by. I may check out Charlie. I'm always interested in learning from others.

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  2. Praying Medic,

    There’s no doubt that the κοινωνία (intercourse/participation/community/intercourse – translated “fellowship” in most English translations) of the body – living our lives as family [in fact and not name] is the most effective way to transfer not just knowledge, but the application of it and athe wisdom associated with it –the *lore* of life in Christ.

    It would be awesome of the large culture we live among were receptive to that model, but largely, it’s not. The culture we live among ( I can no longer call it “our culture” having some years ago become very much an alien in it) is primarily isolated, and centered on self.

    The whole mindset of western culture is about convenience, and no t the sacrifices that come of loving a community of people.
    That being the case , I think that training programs can be ( and a few, as you’ve mentioned, are) and effective environment not only to teach people the ways of God and how to function in His kingdom, but to actually recruit many who otherwise would never become actual lovers of Him, but professional judges, window dressers and showmen many seminaries and bible schools produce.

    A few examples jump quickly to mind, not the least of which is our mutual friend Tyler J.

    It amazes though, how despite out fast paced constantly in motion society, great your men and women of God ( and by great I men people of Greatness, not fun or amiable) like Anisha Reza, Tom Apostolocous, Joel Adifon, Daniel Kotin, Michael King, Theresa Duffy and others are finding training in their passion of being Christ in the world.

    I do agree with you that the ̶a̶p̶p̶r̶e̶n̶t̶i̶c̶e̶s̶h̶i̶p̶ sonship of κοινωνία is a better way to teach than the “tech school” of church though.

    Long live the Church of Charred Chicken and Grilled Veggies!

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    1. Thank as for all the wonderful comments. My wife & were talking about the comments last night & it dawned on me how the ways of Jesus are so unlike the ways of the world.

      Even during the first century, the established and respected model of teaching was a formal lecture by one person to an audience. If you hope to be taken seriously in the world, you attend a school for a number of years and receive a piece of paper that qualifies you to do something.

      Jesus rejected this model of making disciples. Although he did preach to audiences, it was likely to be in a field, from a boat or some other odd location.

      He didn't tell people, "come to my school", "attend my lecture series", or " catch my next conference". He said, "follow me."

      I think he actually meant for people to literally follow him everwhere he went. Becoming his disciple meant walking beside him and asking him questions. It meant observing how he dealt with sinners, politicians, outcasts, the sick and the spiritually blind. It meant eating with him and perhaps hearing a story from him before bed time.

      Can we learn from lectures, classes & conferencees?
      Of course we can.

      But the most helpful things I've learned from my own mentors like McLain & Craig have been through infomal, everyday discussions...which are likely to happen while we grill burger and veggies.

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  3. The reality is that large institutional churches are businesses that have payroll and expenses and serious overhead.

    To keep the bills paid it's important to keep those seats filled and donations coming.

    This sounds more callous than I probably mean it to- I'm not suggesting that all pastors are just after money (though plenty are). I'm simply saying that the Christianity of the Bible was not about creating a central church but was instead about taking the church to the community.

    Most believers are only ready for "milk" not "meat". And I humbly admit that I still need plenty of "milk" but I vigorously pursue the "meat" as well...I'm not threatened by it!

    The early believers were full-time Christians first, and would take work as they could to support themselves. Most churchgoers are full-time everything else and Christians for an hour each Sunday morning.

    The issue is that as those who want to follow Jesus leave the institutional church, the church simply becomes more of what we don't need.

    It is true, and not surprising to me, that the most committed Christians are those so rarely found in churches these days.

    I also have to be blunt that when it comes to healing many institutional churches are against it or very afraid of it, and many charismatic style churches are simply put...wacky.

    Jesus stills loves his bride even though she's having an identity crisis and is a bit confused though. :)

    Churches are run by people that come straight out of bible college or seminary with lots of head-knowledge and sometimes little heart-knowledge.

    It's like learning to swim by reading a book about it. Read that book all you want, but when you get thrown in the deep end for the first time you're gonna be in for a surprise!

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    1. Thanks for your insights, Luke. It's sad to see the vibrant, glorious bride turned into little more than a religious business. She can (and one day will) be so much more.

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  4. You hit it right on the head. Yeah, that's exactly what's happening. Thankfully I don't go to a "basic" church I guess you could say. The church I belong to is crazy, so they are always challenging us to new levels in the supernatural etc. But yeah, that does make sense and I've seen that more and more. More Christians are (obviously) realizing that a ministry setting in a church isn't their calling, and the churches are trying to convince them or least put a bit of pressure that that's the only main way to serve God, in the greatest way. But, like what you do for example, your bringing the Kingdom of God to a hospital, etc. while others could be fixing a house (handyman/woman) and preach the gospel in every house they go to, etc. So yeah, we need more teaching on that, taking the gospel to our daily lives, streets, supermarkets, etc. etc. and those who are called to full-time ministry, God bless them, do your thing.

    Thanks for reading, whoever did! God bless.

    -Michael

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    1. Thanks for the feedback Michael.

      God bless,

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