The church is not immune to movements, trends, programs, and people latching on to the latest study that’s supposed to transform our lives. Each of these movements or trends is supposed to be that thing we’ve been missing; that thing that will take us over the top spiritually speaking. We could talk about the prayer of Jabez; the latest Christian recovery program; the contemporary music trend; or trends related to drama, power point, conversational preaching, contemplative prayer, men getting wild at heart, confessing our sins in front of God and everybody, accountability partners; and on and on.
Beyond that, there are countless thousands caught up in the health and wealth gospel movement. Others are leaving traditional churches in droves and most are chasing one trend or another. Those who call themselves revolutionaries are revolutionizing church but many don’t seem to know what the revolution is really about, what it should look like, or what really needs revolutionizing. Like so many voters in the 2008 Presidential election, they just know that something needs to change.
Why? That’s the real question; why are so many leaving churches and chasing so many trends? While there are some who know what they are doing and why, the vast majority of individuals do not. The problem lies in the fact that most are not experiencing the real Christ or what we might call real or biblical Christianity. People get caught up in going to church and doing what we do at church. Some are content with simply going to church all the days of their lives. Others wake up and realize that Christianity must be more than what they are experiencing. They don’t know what the real thing is, what it feels or looks like, or what they ought to do; they just know something is not right. Of course, the point is that what people are missing is not found in trends like the prayer of Jabez, contemporary worship, (or even traditional worship), pietism, or getting wild at heart (we’re already wild at heart and need to be tamed by grace).
There is no doubt that some of the things we do in a lot of churches militate against authentic Christianity. But the problem is not in the outward forms per se; the problem is not in being traditional vs. being contemporary or meeting in a medieval, flying buttressed sanctuary vs. a metal building or coffee shop. The problem lies elsewhere. To borrow from Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” We’re the problem.
Now, while it can be true on many levels that we are the problem, the fact is that too many have taken a religious placebo rather than the real thing. That’s what I mean when I say we’re the problem. If all you have is a placebo, you can engage in every kind of religious activity under the sun or participate in any religious movement you like but you will never find what you’re looking for. The other side of that coin is that if you are walking with Christ, while you may lament certain things in the church that hinder genuine, biblical fellowship and mission, you are spiritually content. By that I don’t mean that you’re satisfied with your present level of sanctification. But I do mean that you don’t feel the need to look for or buy into the latest trend because you are indeed satisfied with Christ. People who are satisfied with Christ don’t have to have traditional worship nor do they have to have contemporary worship. They don’t have to be liturgists or revolutionaries; they just strive to walk in the Spirit regardless of their circumstances.
Things like sound doctrine, biblical fellowship, and active prayer, are critical to one’s spiritual growth and well-being. But don’t mistake the outward form for the real thing. Don’t mistake how this church does this or that for what’s real. Don’t mistake religion for Christ. Religion is the placebo. For a church, doing the right things the right way is important. But I’m talking about individuals who are chasing the latest trend for spiritual satisfaction. They’re actually chasing the wind. Spiritual satisfaction is found in Christ, not in religious activity. If you love God, seek to replace your sinful habit patterns with godly habit patterns, pray, exalt God in your heart and life, seek His will, do your job, live for His glory, are concerned with His kingdom, care about others and serve them, these things are enough. This is biblical Christianity, not some experience or feeling you seek (Jas. 1:27).
We don’t need a revolution of what we experience in a religious sense. We need a revolution of thinking and that is a simple matter. Paul put it this way: “. . . present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom.12:1-2).
Dr. Paul Dean invites you to discover more about yourself, God, and others . . . and develop a Christian worldview. Dr. Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. Receive a FREE commentary and learn more at http://www.trueworldview.com
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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