God’s work always seems chaotic, until people come along and nail it down with a structure of their own. As Christians we cannot see the overall view of the Plan of God through the ages or even our own time. We do what is right in our own eyes, under the man-orientated structure of “church” or other organization.
We construct methods of evangelism and events to appeal to various kinds of people. We like to have it all worked out and we think it’s about the great method we use, or literature someone has produced. We rely on the “stuff” and fail to develop the people skills we need to actually relate to other human beings. Our view of reaching out is very limited and we want to be able to measure the outcomes.
Church or religious structures are not like anything else in life, and are not adept at meeting the needs of the people who are seeking Christ. Church is not like Christ. It is a set structure that doesn’t seem to be able to change or adapt to the needs of people who live in challenging environments, the street and places were people actually go. The visitor to the organization must acquiesce to the organisational cultural norms and change themselves to fit in. Maybe then they will be allowed into the kingdom of heaven….
The person in charge dictates everything – the atmosphere, the social mores, the various behaviours that he regards as “suitable.” The culture is so odd and out of kilter with the lives of actual people, no one is able to fit into it, except the inner circle, hard-core, determinists.
The Bible is a book explained by the one person who is at the top, and applied in the style and substance of the leadership. There is almost no opportunity for wider thought or sharing ideas and spiritual applications together as a group.
People become disillusioned. They leave – preferably on good terms, so that the boat is not rocked. Those who ask the awkward questions and suggest radical answers, are side-lined and kept out of influence. People give up on church and seek something else. So we have a huge divergence away from the church organisation and people find different ways to worship, learn, serve and fellowship. “Church” becomes a ghetto for the well-to-do. It becomes an organisation for certain types of people to get support. Once you are in the organisation, you are safe and someone will always look after you. So faith is undermined and people see the human help in the organisation, rather than the living Lord Jesus.
The “church” begins to die, and becomes part of a cycle of deterioration. It is a cultural and theological museum, which God can use to reach those trapped within it, but ultimately, it is finished.
If a brave leader in one of these institutions should step up and speak up and act on the obvious, something could be done and a new start could bring a real and genuine blessing. Salvation could yet be seen, experienced and preached. Sell up your sticks and stones, give away your assets and cast yourselves on the Lord of heaven and earth. If your faith is true, you will hang on and trust His love to come through. The Spirit will guide rather than the philosophy of corporate identity.
You will meet in the highways and byways, and the Lord Himself will show you what He is like. He will again build your church and it will be Hischurch and not in the image of the men-in-charge.
Other people and their plethora of mindsets will take part and you will see other ways of doing things that you never saw before. The Word of God will take a new centrality and the joy of the Lord will infiltrate every heart and life. People will come to church again, because they will see the love of Jesus, not seen before. The work will be the Lord’s and all glory will be His.
But we are too scared. Not of the Living God, but of “man”. If we truly feared the Lord our God, we wouldn’t be intimidated by anything.! It is so hard to break through the unbelief and deadening cycle of judgment and self-justification.
God almost never uses what is regarded in failing institutions. He will raise the unexpected, the disregarded and the castaway. It will be seen and known that it is His work and He will do it His way. Just because we cannot see a pattern, does not mean chaos. God’s ways are past finding out…
Lord, come down and save your people….this is the message of all the prophets…