Feel free to ask any questions from me as you read through the first chapter.
Hi Wayne, this is more of a comment than a question (sorry), but as I’ve come across your path and compare it with my own, I would suggest the “The Way”, ie’, “Finding Ekklesia” is on a compass heading to the meaning/core of the original body, living stones for whom following/experiencing Jesus was/is a 24/7 experience. If I were to formulate an appropriate query, how Oh how could it be anything else and what a tragedy that it has become what it is.
I don’t know if this is a fair question to ask because I don’t know how much you know about the history of the institutional church in America (I only know enough to be dangerous), but I’m curious to know, when do you think at what point in our history did the ‘IC’ stop becoming an integral part of the majority of Americans’ daily life, if it ever was? Seems to me at one time it DID have a more dominating influence, like in the Colonial days for example. A generation ago, pockets of communities with people of the same nationality were represented by churches which were vital to those communities. I know the repeal of the ‘Blue Laws’ certainly didn’t help the 'IC’s cause. But am I correct to say that the ‘IC’ at one time was more revered than it is now? Or am I way off base?
Wayne, what is your thinking about why some are more hungry - more interested in spiritual matters and discussions than others? I enjoy such discussions for whatever reason but find among friends such discussions are not their favorite. I know it isn’t because I am more loving than others because that just isn’t the case.
Amistogoso, When we lost sight of the church as a thriving community of persons and instead saw it as a meeting, a building, an institution, we really lost something. I like that the focus is coming back to the outcome of the community people share who are living in the reality of Jesus, rather than all the processes and rituals that don’t produce the desired outcome. I think some amazing things are ahead.
I believe that God has called and equipped you to go where no man has recently been, and in the context of the present it is “one step” for man, and “one giant leap for mankind”, no credit to man other than obedience to God.
What God is doing is a “game changer”! May His blessing and favor rest upon you continually and may he grant you great wisdom in time management!
Medwar2, it may be what Jesus was talking about, when he told of “those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.” I find that those on a journey with Jesus love to talk about it. Others for whom God may be an obligation or a ritual find such conversations stilted and awkward. God knows I’ve been in many conversations about God that were forced and unfulfilling. But when people on a journey connect, it is so cool. We certainly don’t need to think ourselves better than them, but by simply loving, not pushing them into conversations they are not ready for, they too may have their spiritual hunger triggered.
Guess I stumped you Wayne lol! Time to do some self study and see what I can come up with.
If you’re comfortable doing it let’s sign of posts with our name and location, so that if we’re near others that might want to connect in real life, they will know to so so.
Wayne in Thousand Oaks, CA
Wayne. Encouraging reply. All we can aspire to do is to be available to trigger spiritual hunger if that is where one in their journey with God.
I love your comparison of church to your experiences of Gethsemane, one a beautiful experience the other a painful disappointment. I so see how “church” movements come out of an epiphany and revelation and have the awesome presence of God in them, but then leaders arise and camp around that revelation as if it is all there is, for they have to control what God has done. Then God is not mystery but only this truth that they discovered. Soon everyone else is wrong and God becomes god and an idol on the mantelpiece. I’ve been in a number of “revivals” most recently the so called Toronto blessing as it manifested in a large church in Hatfield, Pretoria. I was a worship leader at that point and although the emotional expressions of that did not impact me, I did see, particularly in the teens and young adults a huge response and it brought great change within them. For me, I thought this was the more I was so desperately hungry for. We took that experience back to our local congregation near Durban, and for a couple of weeks it definitely seemed to be life giving… However within a month, I was being asked to “tone down” our worship times, within 2 months, I and those who had been with me in Hatfield, were no longer leading worship. Within 3 months I was out of IC. Within a year, “Toronto Blessing” was no longer being expressed in Hatfield either.
Revivals… like the valley of dry bones, confuse me… was God in some of what we experienced… Oh absolutely… I guess again we take something that God began in answer to hunger in his beloved and try to make it manageable, controllable, to keep our place as authority and leader. Revival is not the more, it might be a taste of. So when I read the valley of dry bones in Ezekial now, when the Lord asks Ezekiel if these bones can live… my answer is Oh Lord, please not again. Let the dead be dead, please build your church, your beloved well away from the bones of our controlling structures and divisions. I fear I am too biased on this, that when I hear about Azuza NOW, from respected men of God, as hungry for him as I am, I wonder if I need to slap myself around the face and get back on board. Right now everything within me cries NO… hang in there… change is in the air. We have had a really hot week weather wise here in UK. No rain and plenty of sunshine. When I came out of work the other day into the underground parking lot, I was immediately aware of this smell that I knew was rain. I LOVE that smell it reminds me of Africa. It made no sense tho because everything up to that point had been clear skies and sweat on brows! But I knew it had to be raining somewhere, somehow, and yes, as I drove out of the parking lot the first heavy drops of rain began landing on my windscreen. It feels like that at the moment… I can smell something in the air but pray it is not “revival”! What do you think Wayne, is Revival part of the “Alive and well”?
Wayne, looking at this response, wondering if it was directed toward my question, instead of Amistigosto. In reading it, it seems to fit as an answer to what I was attempting to ask. Initially I didn’t look close enough, and thought you had simply failed to answer the question. For that I apologize.
Hi fc71 (Ron),
I just wanted to share with you… if you haven’t heard of it, Frank Viola and George Barna wrote a book called “Pagan Christianity?” which may not specifically answer your question about IC here in America… but it’s an interesting read, if it’s your sort of thing, on how much of what we know of as “church” in the institution came to be gradually since the time of the New Testament church…
It will be interesting to hear what Wayne has to share in response to your question. Blessings!
Nancy in Everett, WA
No it wasn’t, Ron. I answered yours too, but for some reason it didn’t post here. I probably didn’t hit reply. So I don’t think I was stumped, just missed my response. It went something like this: I don’t know that anyone has nailed down why the “church” lost its hold on the western civilization, but certainly secular influences began to win over religious sensibilities. When I was young people went to “church” because it was expected in the community. Families had been doing it for generations and that’s where you saw grandma and grandpa, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. It was a congregation full of friends and relatives with potlucks and singspirations and overall a fun time. Going made you an upstanding citizen, gave you business contacts and for most people it was unthinkable not to, not so much from religious obligation, but simply its as part of the cultural norm. While many blame increased secularization, I blame our religious institutions for being content with ritual and rote and losing sight of what it really meant to engage God as a real presence in the universe, equip people to know him and follow him all week long, and cultivate a community of loved people sharing life with each other. They became less engaged communities and more machines and people grew disillusioned. i wonder what would have happened had church had continued to be a place where God made himself known and people were deeply loved… I don’t think secularism would have won.
Wayne from Thousand Oaks, CA
Anne, man is this a minefield with a thousand trip wires. Some people swear by this “revival” movement whether it be the Torontos, Reddings, or Azusa rallies. And if people catch the fragrance of Father in those things then follow your heart. To be honest, I don’t. I wish I did. I hunger for more of God’s supernatural working so I’m not unsympathetic, but behind these things seem to be someone building a movement for themselves and the fallout from such things are often disillusioned people that for all the hype about supernatural encounters, they were left empty spiritually. Does that mean they are all bogus? No. God does things among people wherever he finds them turning toward him with hope and faith. So some is genuine but a lot is not. I had a conversation with Randy Clark (one of the initiators of the Toronto thing) and he said as much as well. It isn’t all God. God does some stuff and then we camp around it, try to make it our own, but one thing these all have in common is that they all fade away and the fruit that’s left is often people who felt used and left empty. Even Jesus seemed to diminish the spectacular in his miracles and moved them away from crowds, not used them to If you know of the fighting that went on behind the scenes to see who would get stage time and how much of it at all these things it would make your heart grieve. Do I think this is part of the “alive and well”? I don’t. The expressions I see of his church that most excite me don’t have stages and stars, but normal people finding a breathtaking journey in Christ, and sharing it freely with others. In that space God does lots of miraculous stuff, but it doesn’t draw attention to a person or a location.
Wayne from Thousand Oaks, CA
Glad you weren’t stumped, Wayne, and as usual, you provided a thoughtful, eloquent response. Thanks.
I have seen what you described played out in my stepfamily for the last 25 years I have known them, headed up by the patriarch who, at 95, still possesses a sharp mind and a strong faith. The immediate and extended family have pretty much followed suit, whether by his side or thousands of miles away, out of what I’ve seen as reverence to his life. It will be a sad day when he departs this earth, and I only hope his legacy which includes the church as you described, continues to touch the generations after him as it did himself. I fear it will not. I don’t know if the church system of the 21st century can sustain the same loyalty in his absence, that the relationships which foster the loyalty to the church in his presence do. I think we know the answer.
Thanks for the book idea, Nancy. It is definitely an area I would like to know more about. I assume the Frank Viola you reference is not the former pro baseball pitcher (lol)! But I will definitely seek it out, and read in due time.
The ‘church’ I have experienced for the most part, is the large, impersonal type which Wayne and Brad have talked about on the God Journey podcast. Many times I have gone, sat down, read the bulletin until the service started with not a soul to reach out to me, and then left afterwards not saying a word to anyone. I could watch a sermon on television and come away with the same result. The interpersonal. informal relationships which define the real church is something I have longed for. for years. And I do believe it is taking shape in the world, for those who are ready to receive it.
If someone, who is convicted that being a member of the church isnt a hoop to jump through, but a reality of who they are in relationship with the head and with other members of the body, is attending a local congregation and feeling led to be more involved but “membership” is required to be, is that a hill to die on? Membership only requires a coming to faith story and an agreement with a “what we believe” statement, which is mentally already agreed upon.
I already know your answer “ask God”, but any other insight might be helpful also.
I have felt something similar. I long to discuss all I’m learning, but find that my friends only want to stay on shallow topics when we are together. I have often been with many people but felt ‘alone,’ because I don’t care about the shallow any more.
Jake, I don’t think it’s a hill to die on. God can lead us here through our conscience. If I had to agree to stuff that isn’t in your heart to be a member, I wouldn’t. For the most part “membership” is simply a legal requirement for a 501©(3) organization. If we look at it that way then it’s simply whether or not I want to be a member of that organization to share responsibility in how it develops. It’s when organizations try to spiritualize that and make it proof of your engagement with the church Jesus is building that problems result and it becomes incredibly legalistic in may quarters. We don’t need to fear it, but we don’t need to submit to it too when it’s not in our heart. Being a member of Christ’s body has nothing to do with institutional membership. That’s a very different reality, though I’ll admit most congregations will not draw the distinction… regretfully!