Archive for July, 2005

Leave It to Piper…

…to turn conversations on their heads. Here’s an excerpt from a sermon preached by John Piper that correlates with what we’ve been talking about on this blog:

A man came to see me last week who had visited our morning worship a couple times. He said he just wanted to encourage me to keep on and then tears welled up in his eyes and he said, “I went home and cried because we don’t worship at my church like you do at yours.” I was surprised because I know how far we have to go. He had been nurtured as a new believer in a very informal house church. So I said, “Then our service must seem really stiff to you, since everything is pretty much planned out.” But he said, “No, no. It’s not the form or structure. It’s whether there’s life. Whether the leadership and people are really meeting God.” And he’s right. There are dead charismatic churches and there are living liturgical churches. The form is just a track to keep us all going in the same direction….

Let’s not get bogged down in forms and structures, but rather follow Jesus Christ. Let’s pursue him with all we’ve got. Let’s bring others into a relationship with him, not just an association with a church. Let’s quit making “church” about a time and a place and make it a lifestyle. Let’s be the kind of believers that people are drawn to. Let’s provide the kind of community our pre-Christian friends are down with.

Lord, help us be more Christlike! Make us nothing so that we can be used by you!

Amen.

Mega Shift


Mega_Shift
Originally uploaded by smh00a.

If you’ve been participating in or an observer of the conversation on this blog over the last week or so, please spend some time reading and engaging this blog post.

From Wolfgang Simson’s (author of Houses That Change the World) weekly Friday Fax (I know it’s long, but it’ll be worth it…promise):

Megashift
That’s the title of American author Jim Rutz’s recently-published book. It’s hotly debated on TV, and one of Amazon’s top sellers. It has also caused
controversy in broad swathes of self-contented US Christianity. ‘Megashift’ is a sharp-minded analysis of current Christianity around the world, and is partly based on dozens of carefully-researched Friday Fax reports. Rutz is now one of the popular columnists in the conservative Internet news site World Net Daily (www.worldnetdaily.com). What are his main observations?

– The 1700-year nightmare is over: the Constantinian Shift is shifting back. Under Emperor Constantine, the Church became an imperial audience, but is now finally freeing itself from the corset of state control.
– An unprecedented transfer of divine power is underway, from clerics into the hands of ordinary people. According to Rutz’ research in 49 nations, hundreds of people have been raised from the dead in the past 15 years.
– This is giving rise to an entirely new form of Christianity – with far greater repercussions than the Protestant Reformation.
– Over 1 billion non-Christians could become active Christians in the next 10 years.

When millions of ordinarly people do extraordinary things

The Charismatic Evangelical movement, currently numbering 707 million people around the world, is growing by 8 percent per year. That alone is exciting. The centre of this movement, though, is a mostly unknown and little-understood movement of 100 million Christians who have no building and neither pastor nor programme. “A church without vertical hierarchies,” says Rutz, “which will change the future.” They have experienced what Rutz calls a ‘lifestyle upgrade’:

Lifestyle upgrade

Anyone who uses computer software knows what an upgrade is: a new and better version of a programme replaces the old version. Through an act of God, many millions of people have experienced an ‘inner upgrade’ leading to an entirely new quality of life. Rutz lists a number of chances and advantages offered by this upgrade, which were previously unthinkable for many people:

– People experience release from the limitations and burdens of a traditional, hierarchical (and unbiblical) religious system, being freed into an ‘open Christianity’ with 100% participation.
– They are no longer a number in someone else’s religious programme.
– They experience personal empowerment and are able to do things they previously could not even have dreamed of, including the supernatural (healing, prophesying, performing miracles etc.)
– They learn to overcome their own problems, and help others to overcome theirs.
– They experience fellowship with a small group of close friends who give mutual support, so that each person and the whole group reaches God’s aims, which are their calling.
– In doing so, they find that which they have sought for their whole life.

Away from spectator religion

The path away from spectator religion frees people from fixed church role-playing. Previously, many people were passive, conformist churchgoers, experiencing church as a television without a remote control. The personal involvement of every follower of Christ, though, rouses millions of talents and abilities to solve even the most difficult problems. The result is a ‘Megashift’, a quantum leap in church history.

Post-Protestant revival

Protestantism was an important epoch in church history, but it is now time to stop protesting and start acting. The current post-Protestant awakening is larger than the great American revivals since 1727 under Wesley, Whitefield, the Herrnhuter or Johnathan Edwards. “This third Reformation,” says Rutz, “has three characteristics:”

1. The church is transforming itself from an organisation to an organism

After 1700 years of institutional structure, the Body of Christ is emerging in the form described in the New Testament. People are rediscovering the original forms and functions in an open, participatory system mostly consisting of house
churches.

2. 100% active
Moving away from the one-man church system, in which the pastor literally did everything, a growing number of Jesus’ followers are becoming active participants, leaving their spectators’ seats and taking their place on the playing field. It should be no surprise the number of goals scored increases. When 100 people pray for the sick, prophesy, and plant churches instead of just one, it is also reasonable to expect the number of miracles to increase.

3. Immense numbers of new believers

Church growth outside America is breathtaking. Tens of thousands of new believers (Rutz speaks of 175,000 per day) means that although all religions are growing naturally, only Christianity is experiencing significant growth through conversion. Where religions meet, Christianity almost always gains new believers, and new networks of house churches are formed.

How to be part of this Megashift
1. Stop going with the flow, and decide to actively turn away from the outdated control structures (clerics & laypeople).
2. Take responsibility. That also means paying the price of being a pionier, including Christian friends’ suspicion and ostracism.
3. Learn to love others, overcoming selfishness and becoming a team player. That requires a lifestyle of repentance and obedience – out of healthy enthusiasm, not duty.
4. Help carry others’ burdens, and not stagnate but take small steps forward every day.

Rutz says: “Is there a small voice inside saying ‘that’s right!’?” Follow it. But you also have the choice to ignore it. That too is freedom. But please don’t complain later…” Or, as C. Peter Wagner says, “Jim describes what God is going to do tomorrow. You can’t afford to miss this book!”
Source: Jim Rutz, www.megashift.org, e-mail ocmoffice@openchurch.com.

There’s a great critique of some Rutz’s focus on the supernatural acts (healing, resurrection, etc) at the House Church Blog.

So…now that you have read about the “Mega Shift”, what do you think? What will we do about it?

My Thoughts


Lakewood Church
Originally uploaded by smh00a.

I appreciate the discussion surrounding my question about Houston’s Lakewood Church Sunday night. As always, people thoughtfully presented many sides of the story. Thanks to Cody and Fajita for pointing out some of the positive implications of such a church. Here’s what I think about Lakewood Church, the Compaq Center, Joel Osteen, etc…

While I agree with Fajita that God certainly uses all types of models of ecclesia to expand his Kingdom, I believe the mega-church is on its way out. Too many people are beginning to realize what several of you mentioned: Community and accountability are next-to-impossible in these settings. I would go a little further…community, accountability, and “togetherness” may be best lived out in small group churches, where these aspects are part of the community’s “DNA”, not just a program added later. This was clearly the method used by the apostles in their church planting efforts: creating a city-wide church made up of networks of house churches. Why wouldn’t this work today? Emphasizing attendance over discipleship is alienating many nominal Christians who want to follow Christ with their whole hearts, but feel like the bar of discipleship has been lowered to simply “showing up.” Plus, many “mature” Christians don’t see it as their duty to coach or “bring along” young believers, and this problem is expounded in attendance-based mega-churches like Lakewood.

Here’s my other problem with Lakewood purchasing the Compaq Center: I think it illustrates the Western tendency to base success numerically. I watched the re-showing of the first service last Saturday night, and Osteen mentioned repeatedly how God had blessed them with this building and all the people. An interviewer on the after-service show encouraged viewers to “celebrate with those whom God is blessing.” What does this say about a house church of 8 people that meets on Sunday nights? Is it less blessed because it doesn’t have an arena? What’s more, the solution to perceived church growth in the West always seems to be “building bigger barns,” and lately, it seems, the emphasis has been on consciously or unconsciously outdoing other area churches with the new barn.

I appreciate what several of you said about the general message Osteen seems to convey in his preaching, and I agree — ultra-positive, rarely scripture based, and more like a self-help book than a challenging presentation of gospel. The church must not stop communicating Christ as the one way to salvation. The church must not gloss over the negative and even devastating events in life, but it must engage them and join people in these places of sorrow. I understand how Osteen would be wary of the “Hellfire and brimstone” preaching of the modern era — so am I. But he must not throw out the core principles of the faith for a “feel-good,” “self-help” gospel.

Finally, I certainly don’t want this to be viewed as a “bash Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church” blog entry. I do, however, think we can reflect on and learn some things from this situation, because in many ways it reflects many of the dangerous trends in Western Christianity today.

If any of you agree or disagree with this response, please post! Blessings today!

Your Thoughts?

Read this and tell me what you think. Does it make you happy? Sad? Discouraged? Encouraged? I’ll reserve comment until a few people have responded, but I want some immediate reactions to what you read (or had heard before reading).

You’re Rich

Think you aren’t? Read this.

Blessings today!

Melanie’s Link

http://www.charismamag.com/a.php?ArticleID=10434

Thanks to Mel for the article above. If you haven’t already, read it. Then tell me what you think this means for the church. How should “the church” respond? What does this tell us about the things Christians hold as of the highest importance? I think this article holds several implications.

Discuss.