In the news recently there have been a lot of shots of supporters of various people and organisations. Something struck me as I went through the reports.
All the supporters in the crowd in each picture were the same. No evidence of original thought anywhere. Each of us is merely a passenger as we walk through this life, carried along by the society we live in.
Then I looked at some pictures of churches I’ve been to…
I stood out at one church in terms of appearance. I was a biker, could sit on my hair and tuck my beard into my belt quite comfortably. I raised a lot of eyebrows on visitors when I was part of the welcome team, and even more when I helped out in the youth church activities – especially with the youngest kids!
But for the most part everyone looks the same. Suits in some churches, and hats for the ladies. Jeans and polo shirts all round in others. Even the preachers sounded the same, no matter how many there were in any given church. Everyone follows the same pattern of behaviour, the same dress code, manner of speaking and association. Everything is predictable.
Every so often something comes along and shakes things up – thankfully.
Change for the sake of change is pointless. There has to be a genuine need for the change. And the change must, must drive us towards the Gospel.
Read my last couple of posts and you’ll see where my heart has been for the last few days. It’s about returning to the basics. What drove me to Christ in the first place.
I don’t mean the events. Robin’s death, Yvonne’s, could have pushed me away from God – especially with the pseudo Calvinistic stuff I was being taught about God’s Will and nothing happening unless He allows it. Free Will and Predestination are fascinating thoughts, and not in complete opposition to one another. Our future is foreknown, not written. God does not exist within the confines of Mortal man and Time. Rather Time exists within the confines of God. And as such, for God, everything is now. The last dinosaur is in the same image for Him as the last man.
In the late 70s and early 80s my dad had a few children’s plays published in England. He had written them to use in his job as a Primary School Teacher and I’m sure in today’s “politically correct” environment they would never have made it. One reason I believe this is he included jokes that were aimed at lampooning the religious leaders of the first century. He had the shepherds on the hills just before the angels appear asking each other “What do you get if you ask 2 rabbis a question?”, “3 answers!”. The humour appealed to his (and my) sense of humour and is accurate even today if you look at any leaders – especially religious ones.
The anecdote may not seem to “fit” here, but bear with me!
One of the issues I had, and often still have, with leadership is the problem of unity in the Church.
I have a friend whose father is a senior minister in his denomination. The denomination teaches that certain spiritual gifts – tongues, prophecy, healing in particular – passed away with the Apostles, and that the 11 Apostles and Paul had a “special” anointing for that particular time and place and the ministry of “Apostle” died with them. One worship leader in the church was instructed not to use certain songs that spoke about healing because it might make people think God could still heal today.
Mainline denominations all have these oddities reducing Christianity to a moral code and supporting the concept of pre-destination to an extreme view in some cases.
There’s no Grace in that. It’s highly intellectual, even reasonable in its logic. But logic is cold. Would you want a typical Vulcan to babysit your child? Of course not. (Mind I wouldn’t want a Klingon to either).
Every denomination produces clones. It’s truly scary.
I loved going to conventions a few years ago because they shatter the cloning process. 2000 people from different denominations, backgrounds and religious rituals camping in a field for a week, sharing worship drawn from all their backgrounds, is an amazing experience. The only common factor is usually God and a hunger to deepen relationship with Him.
Andrew Wommack talks about needing to live in the balance of Grace and Faith, and there is much wisdom in that. Learning to find that balance is a very personal walk for all of us though. For some it means letting go of repetitive actions in order to find a way beyond the purely intellectual and learning to feel God. For others the opposite is true. I went through a stage a few years ago where I waas so far into the “feeling” side of things that I was getting into dangerously shaky foundations. My pastor at the time suggested I say a Rosary twice a day. It freaked me out until he went through it with me, explaining that the purpose of the repetition is to cement the foundation in both my heart and mind. Otherwise we end up hopelessly stuck in an overly liberal all-encompassing everyone’s-the-same-anyway theology with no power behind it or the opposite, a group that is all an exclusively about power where forgiveness and Grace have no place.
To paraphrase Tolkein, our quest walks the blade of a knife, stray but a little in either direction and it will fail, to the doom of all.
The best way to deal with conformity is to shake things up. The problem is we like our comfort zones. Jesus told the disciples to go into all the World, so they went to Jerusalem and sat on their behinds. If the Sanhedrin hadn’t begun to persecute them and forced them to run then the Church might have ended within a few years. Instead, persecution made them finally do what Jesus had told them to do in the first place, leave Jerusalem and tell the whole World about Jesus.
Do not be shaped by [conformed to; pressed into a mold by] this ·world [age]; instead be changed within [transformed] by a new way of thinking [or changing the way you think; the renewing of your mind]. Then you will be able to decide [discern; test and approve] what ·God wants for you [is God’s will]; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.
Romans 12:2 EXB
Paul was concerned two millennia ago that Believer’s minds were corrupted by the morals of the day. Acceptable behaviour not very different from the society we now live in was the norm.
I went to Pompeii and Herculaneum a few years ago with my dad, on the last holiday he and I took together. The official guided tour insisted on taking us to several houses excavated that had been identified as brothels. Each room had a mosaic on the wall beside the doorway depicting the “speciality” of the prostitute within. These days we find that online instead on door posts, and the “actresses” would have a fit if they were to be described as prostitutes – but that is, to all intent and purposes, what they are.
It’s too easy to turn a blind eye. But we do. We repeatedly fail to stand up to the society we live in because we will be ostracised for doing so.
I heard some time ago of a young person confined to a mental hospital for hearing voices and seeing an individual telling them how to behave, tormenting them. The individual was put on major anti-psychotic drugs to control the “hallucinations” and silence the voices. But the more I looked into the situation, the more apparent it became that this individual might actually be experiencing something spiritual rather than psychological in nature. The description of the complaints and behaviour is not without similarity to the youngster who Jesus drove a demon out of, who had thrown himself into the fire. Self-harming, abnormal physical strength, all the symptoms that today get you thrown into the loony bin were encountered by Jesus and treated as possession. Yet today suggesting such a thing is enough to get you locked up with them!
We stop thinking for ourselves and become slaves to the society. Drones who do anything we’re told to preserve the “status quo”.
It’s time to shake things up a bit I think.