Is your experience of the Christian life expanding or retreating?
Retreat would be the honest answer, for we’ve lost the culture, attendance is in decline, small churches are closing their doors – giving illusion to mega-church spirituality, counseling has mushroomed while meaningful preaching has nose-dived, addictive behaviors among members are epidemic, and though our marriages are better than the world’s – they’re not substantively so.
No, retreat is the church’s worldly experience, for we’re more carnal than spiritual.
We look like the world.
So, what’s missing?
If you imagined Jesus immersed in your church and in your life, would you think retreat would still identify you and your church?
Your answer here should be, “No, it wouldn’t be retreating, for retreat is impossible in and with Him.”
Then, there’s your answer.
Jesus isn’t at your church and in your life to any degree, so at best, it’s luke-warm, blind, deaf, salt-less, light-less, on life-support and nearly flat-lining.
You can tell He’s not really at your church when the services are predominantly human performances and auditions [a lot of lights for camera/video action], not love affairs displaying The Father, Jesus The Son, and The Holy Spirit as The Great Lovers of our souls. And purported passion is just that, for you readily recognize when somebody is hotly in love with Jesus, and the leadership just isn’t.
God has changed things through Him, Who Is life from the dead.
The church’s lack of change is indicative of Him being Left Behind.
No, church is more butts (attendance), budgets (“You need to tithe!”), and buildings (“The true measure of worldly success is to build up your campus(es), not to send out God lovers.”)
Church is big business.
And don’t forget programs, for if you leave out Jesus, you’ve got to replace Him with something. Keep them coming and keep them busy with programs. Retention must happen, else the butts, budgets, and buildings never will.
It’s an issue of church doing versus God’s being.
Church preaching and teaching is universally focused on the first – doing, at the absence of the second – being.
Plugging in the new convert enthusiasm into church doing is and has been the church’s answer.
The problem is entropy. Unless these new believers are truly connected with God, their hot enthusiasm must wear off, to be replaced by new calls for first-timers (“Welcome our first-time attenders [whom we can hopefully get into the pipe-line of budgets and buildings!”] The 98% regular attenders are overlooked and taken for granted.) Mega churches are pretty much the only acts in town, and they’re run by CEOs who hire church planters and strategists, experts who tell them how to grow. How is always doing. And doing is Law things, not Christ Who is Grace embodied.
Overwhelmingly, churches of all stripes are dead.
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things says He Who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know your works, that you have a name that you live, but you are dead.” Revelation 3:1
They’re not holding fast to The Head.
“ And you are complete in Him, Who is the Head of all principality and power: … [They’re] not holding the Head, from Whom all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increases with the increase of God.” Colossians 2:19
Any other self-important butts, budgets, buildings, and programs are poor insulting substitute “shadows of things to come, but the Substance Is of Christ.” Colossians 2:17
So, what can you, and then the next Christian, and the next, and the next do?
First off, examine yourself.
Does He say He knows you?
“(21) Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, only he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your Name? And in Your Name cast out devils? And in Your Name done many wonderful miracles? (23) And then I will profess to them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you who work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23
Now, you and I might tell Jesus He’s wrong. “Now, wait a minute, Lord. These people were doing things in Your name, and apparently getting results. They’re very religious. What do you mean, You don’t know them? They look too much like me … am I saved?”
Baptists have a question, “Are you assured of your salvation?” But it’s the wrong question! It effectively makes you God, the determiner of your own salvation. Pull petals off a flower, “Yes, I’m saved. No, I’m not. Yes, I am, ….”
No, does He say He knows you?
If you don’t know His answer, then you must wrestle it out with Him.
You must find out where you stand with Him.
Don’t assume anything, including a flimsy and nonsensical One Saved, Always Saved false doctrine.
You must know what He says about you.
Does He say you belong to Him?
Do you know the will of His Father, and do it?
Otherwise, you have no assurance of being His.
How do you know the will of anyone?
By having a real relationship with that one and finding out what that one wants.
You’re a person made in the image of The Person, so you’re to have the most intimate, consummate relationship with Him above all others.
Knowing His will is not general will, some new list of things of which He approves or disapproves. That is still the old Law, not a vibrant relationship with an expressive God.
If you now have it settled with Him, that He knows you, and that subsequently you also know Him, then do you know the depth of the relationship He wants with you?
You probably don’t, else the church leadership would have taught you. For once you know this relationship, you see He changes everything, and you cannot stop telling others about Him. The absence of hearing of this relationship means it is not known by the church leadership. You cannot teach Whom you do not know. And, if you truly know Him, you will never keep Him to yourself and exclude Him from others.
You will shout Him from the mountain tops!
This is what separates those who know they’re supposed to love God and who tell you endlessly about Him, from those who do love Him and who show Him to you.
Yes, this is the gushing love affair.
This is the fascination others have with someone who loves God – it’s obvious – it’s convincing – it’s contagious – it’s all about Him Him Him! And they want Him.
You are a new creation in and with Him.
No other person can be this intimate with you, for you were designed for Him above all others.
And until you deeply know Him, you’re pretty useless for everyone and everything, for you cannot possibly realize His plan in and with you, while effectively believing you’re separate from Him.
No, He’s right there in and with you, in your spirit.
The Creator and Sustainer of all life lives in you.
He so desperately wanted to be with you that a cross was nothing to Him.
You were lost in the wilderness, and He conquered all hell to rescue you, so He could lavish His love on you forever.
See Also: Expanding or Retreating? Part 2