The challenge we face, as people and churches, in our fight to survive:

“The ‘ultimate concern’ of most church members is not the worship and service of Christ in evangelistic mission and social compassion, but rather survival and success in their secular vocation. The church is a spoke on the wheel of life connected to the secular hub. It is a departmental sub-concern, not the organizing center of all other concerns. Church members who have been conditioned all their lives to devote themselves to building their own kingdom and whose flesh naturally gravitates in that direction anyway find it hard to invest much energy in the kingdom of God.

They go to church once or twice a week and punch the clock, so to speak, fulfilling their ‘church obligation’ by sitting passively and listening critically or approvingly to the pastor’s teaching. Sometimes with great effort they can be maneuvered into some active role in the church’s program, like a trained seal in a circus act, but their hearts are not fully in it. They may repeat the catchwords of the theology of grace, but many have little deep awareness they and other Christians are ‘accepted in the beloved.’ Since their understanding of justification is marginal or unreal – anchored not to Christ but to some conversion experience in the past or to an imagined present state of goodness in their lives – they know little of the dynamic of justification.

Their understanding of sin focuses upon behavioral externals which they can eliminate from their lives by a little will power and ignores the great submerged continents of pride, covetousness and hostility beneath the surface. Thus their pharisaism defends them both against full involvement in the church’s mission and against full subjection of their inner lives to the authority of Christ.”
—Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Renewal, page 204-05.

Questions » How do you see this in your own heart? In your community?


6 thoughts on “Survival.

  1. My first inclination in reading this is that the church is to blame. By and large the American Church has so watered down the message to make it palatable that it is marginally effective at most in the lives of the American Church attendee. The word of God is a full meal deal, we can’t just preach the stuff we know the people will swallow hoping that they will come back and maybe contribute to the offering at some point. We are afraid to preach holiness and call sin what the Bible says is sin for fear that we will offend people or be accused of being unloving. And in doing so we leave very little room for the Holy Spirit to move thru the vessel of proclaiming the word. I think our hope in effect is placed in human effort and so we throw the doctrine of grace out to the masses and hope that we can attract a following and then pray that the Holy Spirit will lead them to the disciplines. The word says WE are to make disciples of all men…does the American church provide a vehicle for discipleship?

    What I have seen is the church generally substitutes fellowship for discipleship in an effort to build relationships and social systems that will make it difficult or painful to leave. Actually a good thing but absent the more important issue of true conversion and discipleship…ultimately meaningless.

    Would we birth a baby, abandon it and expect the Holy Spirit to bring it to maturity? No, we have the responsibility of teaching our children…..the basics at first and progressing to the more difficult concepts until they can walk on their own. Ultimately our love and focus should be on the groom and our pure and wholly surrendered relationship to Him…not believing that I am fine because I have an attendance relationship with the church. Isn’t this why churches (various denominations) compete against each other? Who or what is the attendees relationship with? And where do we get that message but from the churches themselves? Ok….nuff said I ‘spect.

  2. Good points, Mike.

    I would content it is our methods, and not just our message, that undermines making disciples in our culture.

    Churches are full of people, and thus are a mixed bag. Lovelace labors in the chapter I lifted this quote from to talk about the process of “enculturation,” and how we come to reflect our culture instead of God, and instead of reflecting God in our culture.

    We’re not all wrong; but there are ways in which community, truth, grace (and so much more) are distorted into our image, and not reflecting God’s true image. Psychologists call this “normalizing” behavior, and yet Jesus calls us to an utterly new normal, becoming His people who reflect Him in this world.

    When we do for people what they must do for themselves, we hinder their growth and hinder God’s work in the world.

  3. Morning Jeff….tell me more…what are you referring to?…”When we do for people what they must do for themselves, we hinder their growth and hinder God’s work in the world.

  4. Mike, I am a little slow on a response here. Thank you for your patience. You bring up a good question, for my brief quote may not have been clear.

    What I mean by the statement is that if we do for people what they should be doing for themselves, neither of us is helped. The same is true in parenting, where it’s totally appropriate for a parent to select the clothes for a two-year-old child AND dress their child, but not appropriate to dress a twelve-year-old. The near-teen may not be able to choose the right outfit for the occasion, but having decided on what to wear, the kid needs to get dressed himself. If a maturing adolescent hasn’t learned to get dressed, that kid has been hindered greatly, not matter how much “love” motivated a parents’ desire to do everything for him.

    I think modern Christians are so used to their pastors seeking God for them and studying the Bible for them, that they live vicariously through their leaders. This 2nd-hand spirituality becomes especially problematic when people encounter trials, but since they have not truly developed an ear for listening to God and depending on Him through a growing and dynamic history and relationship with God, they feel ill-equipped to face the inevitable trial. And they are ill-equipped for it. I say this as a Christan foremost, and not as a pastor, for I too have tended to cruise and not cultivate a life after God, under Him, with Him and in Him.

    Monday’s post (10/24, link here, but not live yet) will deal with a bit of a pastoral solution to what I posted above here. In a string of posts I hope to draw some lines in defining the problem and offer wisdom on how we can get back on track.

    Thanks for engaging in the conversation, Mike!

  5. hmmm yes…. a few questions come to my mind for which I am not certain of the answer. As a church who has the responsibility of shepherding the body to which we have been entrusted…(mostly rhetorical)…

    1) Are we aware of when a baby christian is born in our flock and should we know?
    2) How do we identify that birth has taken place? Baptism? I assume the birth takes place sometime prior to the outward witness of baptism…
    3) Once we have identified the baby is born, what is our immediate responsibility? 4) How did the early church handle these things?
    5) Assuming we aren’t satisfied with allowing them to rely on the Pastor to seek God and hear on their behalf what can we do as shepherd and family for taking them from infant to child to pre-teen to adolescent to mature adulthood?

    I need to read the following posts…you may have addressed some of these questiosn…

  6. Mike, you bring up some really key questions. No “real” baby would be born into a healthy environment without a plan to nurture and raise this beautiful child. Same should be true in the spiritual sense.

    I cannot say I answer all your questions in the upcoming class I GROW HERE, but we do deal with #5 in a robust way.

    When Christians are endeavoring to give more than we take, we’ll recognize the work God is doing in other’s lives, because focusing on the Gospel will produce in us a desire to see others grow and change … as God has and is growing and changing us.

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