I am almost nine years into a Word spoken to me on December 28, 2008, “My Church is in Foreclosure.” Since that time, I have been amazed at the struggle within the Body of Christ, as so many have watched the industry of church (little “c”) undergo enormous change, and in some cases church campuses have actually closed down. Yet, anytime significant change occurs, especially in established institutions, the faithful fight ‘til the end. I am included in that lot, believe it or not!
Most of my adult life has been given to the Church and unlike many who migrate throughout the institution seeking comfort, I have chosen to suffer through crisis after crisis, serving only two; one rather small rural and one mini-mega. However, I have consulted with numerous denominations and in several states, the challenges all seem similar, which has implications for the model.
When I first “heard” that Word from the Lord (I believe He still speaks), I recall flinching at the thought that such a harsh word would now be mine to communicate. That was when the gentle Savior I have come to know, took me immediately to Revelation Chapter 5. If you have been reading my posts long, you may have already beat me to the punch! Though I knew little more than a title for this post when I started this series last Monday, my devotional read today has me at that same place as in 2008!
“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”1
“Deeds to property would often have a brief description of the contents on the outside, visible without opening it, and details on the inside. It is not unreasonable to see the scroll as a sort of “title deed to the universe”, as it was written both on the outside and on the inside. This theory explains John’s consternation when no one was found worthy to open the scroll: the contents of the scroll are not a mystery to John, because he has read the brief description on the outside of the scroll and knows that it is the document that proves God’s ownership of the universe. If no one were able to open it, would the world continue as it was without God’s intervention; would there be no relief or justice for the martyrs? Happily, Jesus was worthy to open it, being perfect in justice and in mercy, in authority and in humility.”2
After reading several Theologians’ thoughts on the significance of the scroll, this seemed to make sense to me. What originally came as a startling statement of rebuke had become a very rational and loving declaration. It makes sense, when an institution designed to be salt and light gets as far off course as the American Church, why would the rightful owner, “the prince of the kings of the earth”3, not reclaim and transform it for His purposes?
In fact, it appears that every 500 years or so the church is due a reformation; the last occurred in 1517!
Change is not without crisis. Just Google “Chaos Theory”: “the branch of mathematics that deals with complex systems whose behavior is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences.”
These are exciting times, why not begin to think differently, even ask the Lord, “if we as a congregation were willing to give up everything that we have built over time, even change how we do church, what might that look like?
I was thinking about content for this final post yesterday as I was blowing leaves. An analogy for the church came to mind. I love the Church and I love coffee; drinking my second cup as I write. When I get a bad cup, I don’t decide to quit coffee, I consider new beans!
Maybe you should try an intermittent Latte (for us Pentecostals, a little Pumpkin Spice) and at times a new Barista. Yet, these are at best temporary fixes, if what you really need is a completely new model of coffee maker!
1 Revelation 5 NIV.
3 Revelations 1:5b KJV.