Recently I’ve been mulling over a comment that Martin Scott made when we met, he said:
“We say the church is the body but the minute you say THE CHURCH IS…you’ve started down the wrong path, the truth is closer to: The body is the church…but even that creates questions”
That might sound like word play but it is much further than simple semantics because it reveals the underlying paradigm shift we need as the “ages end before our eyes”.
I’ve given a lot of thought to these things, being the third generation of a tribe of Pentecostal preachers , someone who is watching in amazement as the movements I participated in for years become more and more irrelevant to the culture they were rooted in.
Your children will be your judges
My offspring only “go to church” out of a lingering sense of duty, most of them admitting that for some time the message of a Sunday morning exercise has long lost its meaning to them, the more engaging connections happen for them far outside the realms of “church” as we have known it.
It is not simply the day and time we have church, its the way we do it…the Greek model of lecture and learning, passive pew person and special speaker not unlike the University and “higher” education, which for them was a transition NOT a way of life.
They all have a much more vibrant and healthy relationship with God than I did when I was their age, having faith and encounters that make me smile in mild jealousy…church for them is about as fun as sitting waiting for the dentist to call them in, because they are all relating to a supernatural God in ways that church did not teach them.
And yes before assumptions are made they have all been to the Bethels and conference addiction and participated in the latest “revival culture” and fire tunnels seeing past the banners into the culture around it, so be warned that we have nothing to offer them they have not already tasted.
And just pause here for a moment…we applaud the courage they have had to challenge liberal professors, we have encouraged the standing in the stream with a defiant look demanding real proof of life in the face of peer pressure and herd mentality… Pause and store this information for a minute, it will come in handy soon.
Good, bad or indifferent it is what it is and in one generation we will see the transfer of power from the houses of the holy to the ground zero of life, the generation of our descendants will determine if we built with hay, wood, stubble or gold.
MTV-REAL WORLD-BIG BROTHER
This generation has never been intimidated by authority…they have seen it as a construct of social order and honor it as such, but have never been impressed with titles, labels or notions of power that require enforcement by force, be it the force of jurisdiction or the force of “eternal punishment” and fear…so they calculate the cost, add up the items and go through the checkout line knowing full well that once they cross the thresh-hold the influence of power has ended.
I have seen them stand up in church, walk out muttering under their breath “You are retarded” because some insecure leader has misused scripture in a way that abuses people and power and creates fear, they are done, and everyone knows it, they have their own lines of power and when you cross that, you find your power has limits.
My point is a generation has been birthed whether by intention or miscalculation that has no room for insecurity and unreality, for example if you are going to preach how tithing works they will challenge you to prove it from where they sit with the rest of the sheep, give up your salary, your parsonage and your cell phone and get back to me on how tithing works, when you demonstrate it from the trenches without an agenda they will believe it, until then it looks like a sanctified pyramid scheme to them.
Here’s the money quote from David Kinnamen “So 59 percent of people who were 18 to 29 who were churched as a teenager said they had dropped out after attending some time regularly. What’s so fascinating is 57 percent said that they’re less active in church, but only 29 percent said they’re less spiritual.”
Almost 60% of the 40% that actually go…that means that 84% of this generation do not and will not attend church.
An entire generation.
For this generation, they have seen the tactics of “blessing” and the leverage of “cursing”, they can spot a carrot on string faster than you can say “servant-hood” because they have watched their parents serve and serve and serve until the carrot dried up and shriveled to a pickled state…and they have better things to do with their time, like raise their own kids to be powerful and mystical and partner with Jesus.
(My three year old Granddaughter RockyJo continually says “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me” even when drawing puppies or commanding scary things to leave her room.)
Questions: who left this mess?
And herein is the problem…its not simply tithing and preaching and a whole host of cultural scaffolding, it is the fact that they are not afraid to ask questions and know the difference between a holy cow disguised as a golden calf and the God on the mountain, mainly because they know who has to clean up the mess left behind.
Our tithing model has left them an economy that is on the brink of total collapse…
They hear us say “Give and it will be given to you” full well knowing that love gives with no intention of getting and that this is being told to the top 2% of the wealthy people in the world and they immediately apply this truth to the orphans in Mozambique…is it true? And if it is so true why aren’t we trying to bailout our economy, just invest everything and the world will be saved, right?
Our authority structures have left them a culture of inequality and class separation…
They hear us say “All are equal, all are members of the body” but they clearly see the roped off pews reserved for those who are more equal than others, and think about the illegal aliens halted at the roped off borders simply looking for clean water.
If all are equal then why does a “culture of honor” run and label everyone orphans or wounded when it is questioned, and the truth is they just wanted to know if Muslims, liberals, gays and black Presidents should be honored as well? It seems all are equal but there are in-equal levels of honor to disperse.
They hear us preach about the mountain mandates and capturing our culture for Christ wondering where were we for a generation while Hollywood mocked our political activism for the shallow assault it always was, and then watch in silence as we play “Gangnam Style” video announcements proving how we are different.
Our theology has left them a world where questions have been ignored and have festered into raging cultural shifts and they realize the inheritance has been spent in routine and tradition, there is no fatted calf even if the prodigals do come home.
But they have learned to ask questions…”Because I said so” has NEVER EVER worked on this generation and it will not work now, any leader who does not allow questions will not get the time of day from this Exodus generation…and if they will accept questions they better be prepared for the hard ones…like why is our focus on same sex issues which is only mentioned 6 times in the bible but greed and ignoring the poor is mentioned at least 30 times with just a casual glance?
And they have been to college and had heaven and hell questioned by linguist and scholars and the inconsistencies of the Genesis narrative has been shoved in their face with the fossil record, so “I said so” is just not going to work for them.
I suppose we should have seen it coming…really what were we thinking?
The body Jesus claimed was ordained in the volume of the book long before he arrived in a manger and long before before Mary missed her period and knew for sure the Word of the Lord was “in-wombed”, it had a supernatural history even before time itself according to the generations listed in Johns gospel.
Then that same body lived a quite normal life until it received a supernatural commission by John the son of a Priest turned mystic/all-natural food eating/baptizer along with the Holy Spirit descending bringing Supernatural endorsement far away from the temple…
A supernaturally endorsed body went about doing supernatural good healing all who were being supernaturally oppressed by invading spirits, with various supernatural signs and miracles scattered throughout the journey…
This supernatural Son supernaturally declared to everyone an event, long before it happened, all the while dragging the worst of human corruption into himself, both naturally and supernaturally, he said if he was lifted up he would draw all to himself…all meaning all, which obviously would require a demonstration of supernatural truth.
This went on until the principalities and powers that were, decided to naturally end this supernatural life by the cruelest of executions and declaring it a cursed life, lifted it up on a stake in the natural earth.
In the next to last stanza this body of Christ was supernaturally raised from natural and inevitable death, dragging all of humanity up out of the tomb, appearing in different forms for many days after that, sometimes recognized, sometimes not, making an obvious statement about doors and walls no longer having any influence upon the body we were supernaturally joined to.
Finally in a supernaturally charged prayer event the Supernatural Spirit came and invaded the supernatural body that we call the church.
So we use natural rules, natural order, natural hierarchies, natural methods to describe, contain, control and endorse a body that has never ever been natural in any sense of the word…and even when we change the names, not calling it “church”, not using the title “pastor” an astute generation knows perfectly well what we mean, they’ve seen this movie before so the remake is old hat…no wonder they think we’re crazy.
They see with unflinching gaze the tsunami of larger than natural disasters headed to the planet and we have been offering them a body that is quite natural with a history that projects a natural ending not many days hence.
When we say “the church is His body” they surely smile and say “you are retarded in your calculations”…the church they are looking for will not be found in natural forms, it probably won’t be recognized by those who knew it best…
It must by definition be supernatural.
Therefore it is the body that is the church and not the other way round.
And while we continue to tend to our holy cows they are out in the wilderness searching in for a body prepared and saying:
“Low I come…to DO thy will…”
In my next post I hope to spy out the land a little…what does the body really look like?
A land flowing with milk and honey, two of my favorite things…and maybe even some wine and coffee for the journey as well…