The problems arise when one realizes that the gospel preached by Jesus is unfit for the spiritually healthy. The Good News of God's Kingdom is left for the bottom feeders and the sick. This poses a dilemma for the religious body since no model of church growth is based on algorithms that attract the sick and broken. Religious success demands a new gospel, one that is quantifiable, one that attracts the kind of members who will support the bottom line and provide the resources necessary to maintain the building and employ the staff. Careful demographics to promote a homogeneous growth attracts the correct target group to increase the prominence, showcase the talent, and achieve results that out perform competing bodies and previous internal numbers.
How did we get here? Why does the current religious climate prevalent in our churches look so different than Jesus' gospel? Who is initially responsible, and what is our responsibility individually to the current situation?
I propose 3 answers that I am pursuing personally.
Answer 1: RECOGNITION THAT THE GOSPEL IS ECONOMIC
Luke 3:10-14 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”When the people of Israel were convicted by the reality that their membership in the right religious circle was of no spiritual value and therefore asked what did have eternal value, John responded with a model of lifestyle that reflected a new economy where food, clothing, and provision were equal among all. John proposed they stop pursuing the quest for more stuff, and instead pursue more satisfaction. John as well as Jesus in his preaching demanded a whole new alignment of our finances, and gospel alignment.
Answer 2: RECOGNITION THAT THE GOSPEL IS COMMUNAL
Mark 12:29-33"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these."When tested as to the marker of spiritual health by a religious professional of his day, Jesus responded with an unachievable commission that God's people are to live in a community of complete dependence on His nature that then manifests itself into loving others out of the same surrender each is surrendered to God. That is an all consuming command. That takes a commitment of every hour, and every thought. That takes a commitment of surrendering my rights to God, my rights to the people I am in community with. I am seeking out people and making space to be intentional in vulnerability, dependence, and responsibility. This is God's desire for our relationship with him, and his desire for our relationship with each other. This requires time daily in community with him, and in cooperation with other members of his body, so that we can mutually be Jesus, and experience Jesus in one another.
"Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
Answer 3: RECOGNITION THAT THE GOSPEL IS CONTINUAL
Matthew 8:18-22 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him,he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Another of the disciples said to him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." And Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead."Jesus reminds these would be disciples, that "Follow Me" is a radical realignment of the entire life structure you had previously known. Your old home is no longer your home, your old family is no longer your family. There is CHRIST and CHRIST ALONE! "Follow Me" is a challenge that requires new senses. My touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing must change so that I can feel the living God, I can experience the sweetness of his work, I can inhale the fragrance of his business, I can respond to the callings he gives. "Follow Me" requires my listening, and responding to the fact that God cares enough to desire every thought of my head be captivated by his majesty. "Follow Me" requires I am continually going alongside God to the places and communities he wants me to be a part of, it requires I am listening to his guidance to what is beneficial and what is harmful to our relationship, it requires I am a part of his Kingdom, working where he directs my hands to be. In short, "Follow Me" requires that I respond to the Holy Spirit in my body, in my mind, and in my spirit.
So that is the answers I am being led to. I am done cleaning the outside of the cup. I am accepting Christ grafted into my Spirit, being changed by His vision of a community of a new economic reality realized through committed following of His Spirit. If you miss me Sunday morning, please know I miss you too. I would love to sit down, share a meal together, and talk about our glorious Lord and where he is calling me, and where he is calling you to be more conformed to his image. If you miss me Sunday morning, know that I am obeying my Lord who demands that my god be CHRIST and CHRIST ALONE.