Friday, June 13, 2008

A Church in Exile

I am amazed how God connects the things I read, the talks I hear, and the conversations I have into some cohesive theme that He then supernaturally expresses in some way through this blog for the glory of His name and the edification of His people. Or, at least, that is what I like to think is happening. I take no credit for the posts on this blog. If you are a regular on here, I truly hope you notice the connection between a lot of the resources I lead you to: most notably towards a Sovereign God, and towards a very interesting “emerging generation” in which God is moving. That is not a coincidence.

Last night I heard perhaps the most sporadic, but intriguing talk I have ever witnessed at the young adult fellowship at my church. I didn’t think such an off-the-cuff message could ever be packed with so much interesting and helpful perspective on our generation. I mean, no disrespect, this guy was all over the place and couldn’t seem to finish a thought. Yet, it was beneficial. And it was challenging. We need an authoritative command from Jesus thrown in our face every now and then (more now, less then).

The synopsis of his talk, based on “6 questions”:

- Do I continue in the Word?
- Am I unashamed?
- Do I bear fruit?
- Am I concerned with management not ownership?
- Do I love Him above all else?
- Do I take up my cross daily?

and some excellent inquiries from the audience, was that our generation has their work cut out for them. Our parents and grandparents, identified as those who define the modern culture, attempted to use the scientific method to explain everything so there was no uncertainty as to the details of all human experience. That idea was a dismal failure. Now our generation has rebelled against this concept and has trouble believing in anything, let alone is able to explain it. We are “post-modern”, or even “post-post modern”, and have thrown tradition to the wind and sometimes even within the church adamantly reject absolute truth and the reality that Jesus can be the only way to salvation. This creates a problem, not only for the eternal destiny of those who deny such truth, but also for the discipline of those who believe it. In other words, it creates a problem not only for Jesus as Savior, but also Jesus as Lord. And, speaking to a Christian crowd, his main point was that a generation that doesn’t even believe Jesus is God is going to have trouble obeying what Jesus demands of us; i.e. the Ten Commandments, spiritual disciplines, fruits of the spirit, etc. In short, "Jesus has certain demands on your life, but you should know, because of your upbringing, its going to be hard for you be disciplined and obey." Thanks.

Then I read this article by a well-respected authority within Intervarsity, and my mind began to race.

Jim Tebbe - Emerging Generation

Please read this article. It is disturbing at the beginning and deeply encouraging by the end. For the purpose of this blog post, let’s focus on the encouragement.

For those of us who do have saving faith in Jesus Christ, believe in His exclusivity and authority, and live consistently with our profession of faith (albeit still as sinful human beings) the nature of how we fellowship and minister together as “church” is more strategic than it would first appear. We are in “exile”, so to speak, as the opposition around us from our culture is becoming much more outspoken and hostile (Oprah Winfrey, the New Atheists, etc.). And it will be a “landslide” from here, as the speaker at my church so eloquently put it. Nevertheless, we are in a unique position for purification and mobilization that I believe God can and is using for some remarkable and mountain-moving advancements in the kingdom. If you think about the Book of Acts, and the amazing growth and spread of the Gospel and the Church and the name of Jesus that took place in a relatively short period of time, it’s easy to get really excited about what God is willing and able to do within a church that is in exile, facing persecution, less visible, less socially popular, underground, etc.

The example of Willow Creek questioning the megachurch / seeker-sensitive model is very revealing. This major segment of evangelicalism (for lack of a better word) that is big and visible and somewhat socially acceptable (the megachurch) is potentially ineffective for the expansion of the kingdom. Wow. Instead, those within small local congregations, parachurch ministries, and “house churches” are living counter-cultural lives, flying under the radar, unashamedly proclaiming and demonstrating the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and making a difference. This is not to say that the megachurch is altogether ineffective. But it is interesting that there are so many smaller churches, congregations, and ministries that are preaching the Gospel and the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, living and demonstrating this Gospel and the demands and implications of it, all the while engaging a young, emerging generation, and humbly participating in God's work for His kingdom. And the Lord is adding to their number daily those who are being saved.

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