Friday, October 14, 2011

Christian Heritage... What Is It Really? (Part 2)

(Read Part 1)

Sadly, scores of seemingly religious folks go through the church motions their entire lives yet never experience spiritual regeneration. Church pews all across this land are emptying in their greatest numbers to date. A mass exodus from the traditional church is in full swing. Why is this? I personally believe that generation after generation have grown weary of carrying on empty traditions and impersonal religious activities. Let’s be honest, they just don’t have much spiritual implications really. Surface-level relationships and messages that we’ve all heard fifty times over just don’t cut it. Not to mention that unless they’re “clergy”, they’re just deemed “laymen” whose responsibility is to show up at services and serve. It’s no wonder why this repetitious program is finally coming to a close for many. I don’t fault the religious masses so much anymore. Like any other popular culture, they just follow the crowd.

But a realization must be made that Christ didn’t come to make good, moral, American citizens.

That thinking is so ridiculously narrow and selfish. He came that we, the entire human race could be redeemed and be holy as God Himself is holy. There are scores of good, moral people that have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. Therefore we must see that this goal alone is entirely insufficient. Salvation isn’t some Christian-American possession either, as Christianity is often deemed. You would think that American Christians somehow derived a patent on the Gospel and have license to peddle it to the world as their own. Erect buildings like us, install pastoral pyramids like us, collect offerings like us. Is this really what Christianity is all about? It is not a “thing” to be owned or controlled by this nation or any other, ever.

About ten years ago, my wife and I moved out of metro Atlanta into the North Georgia foothills country. I joined a small staff at a small country church and jumped headlong into an environment that my Spencer lineage would have felt right at home in. The family matriarch of the church was still in attendance and lived next door. Kristin and I lived in the parsonage on the other side of the church building. There was (and still is) a deep, deep heritage within the confines of this little country church assembly. The people there were some of the sweetest, kindest people I’ve ever met to this day. Most all of them welcomed us in and made us feel like part of their extended family immediately. Interestingly though, I have to strain to remember any memorable spiritual occasions there. Yes we had fantastic “fellowship”, meals teeming with some of the best country cooking anyone will ever taste and predictable gatherings over and over again. The social end of it was fantastic, if you’re into simple, country living. Sadly, the few that I have contact with today explain that the current generation just want little to do with the church. They’ve grown up, started families of their own but it’s just irrelevant to their lives today. (Having rock-style worship music and dressing hip isn’t the answer either but that’s for another day.)

I feel it’s imperative that those who desire to sit clench-fisted in pews across this nation grasp that a lot of Christian traditions, although enjoyable and highly valued for many, will not sustain The Church (please notice the capital letters here). The Body of Christ was never meant to be programmed, boxed and repeated like clockwork throughout generations. If the younger generation is disinterested in religious activities, perhaps it’s not God that they abhor but the traditions themselves that claim to be how we tell them of Him. I’ve said time and time again that if people truly knew Who God is, aside from the demands of religion, they’d actually be interested. God’s awesome salvation design is fueled by spontaneity and is remarkably experiential. Many a religious one would quote, with great persuasion, Proverbs 22:6 which of course states, Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. A deeper study of this popular Scripture that’s used to defend dragging children and youth to church services reveals that there’s more to it than what we’ve been told. “Train up” references dedicating them to the Lord on a journey. This journey, this “way that they should go”, I believe, is one that leads them to set out to discover who Jesus, The Christ is for themselves, led by our example because we too are on the same journey. It’s a lifetime journey that leads them to a personal revelation of The Christ. Too many throughout the generations only know the God of their fathers, through what their fathers knew as truth. What they need is to lay their own spiritual eyes upon His beautiful face and see His awesome love for them individually. We’ve errantly been taught to just blindly submit to those “over” us within the Christian order of position. Questioning why someone believes what they do or verbalizing that you disagree with them (gasp) is just rebellious, right? Those who follow us absolutely must be allowed to question what we believe and why. There’s no reason whatsoever why this should offend us, unless our spiritual egos are so inflated that we somehow think we’re above such actions.

The passing down of a strong Christian heritage is of no eternal use except when it leads to personal, spiritual rebirth throughout the generations. It, on its own, primarily fixated on external rituals and activities, has absolutely no salvation power – zero!


Tim Harman said...

It's been some time now since I've checked in on your blog man. Congrats on baby Noah Daniel! Psalm 127:3

Enjoyed reading this. I'd be interested to know what kinds of churches you've been a part of in the past (other than southern baptist). I'm in no way saying it ultimately matters. This is Joel I'm asking in the first place. :) Just curious. Maybe you've addressed the topic in past posts and I just haven't read it. I'm not wanting your opinion on a particular denomination, but rather your description of how open churches you've been to are to individuals asking questions and not agreeing with everything. Have you been to a church that is ok with asking questions? Guess the answer could be a lengthy one, so don't feel like you need to write a book. Again, this isn't regarding any denomination.

I'd also be really interested to know where you stand on God's sovereignty in salvation. Ephesians chapter 1 for example (among many others).

Joel Spencer said...

Tim: What kinds of churches? *sigh* Let's see... Baptist of all variances, Vineyard, Church Of God, Alliance, Assembly Of God, Four Square Gospel, "non-denominationals" of all kinds (like NorthPoint, Free Chapel, etc.). That ought to cover the ones that I can remember.

I can only remember one church really where open discussion would be allowed and perhaps even welcomed (at the proper time, aside from the service of course). The pastor didn't have an ego issue and was a down to earth guy (naturally, not because he was striving to be "relevant"). The thing is, the favored service structure simply doesn't lend itself to any open discussion. One speaks what God is saying, the rest listen. It's just so limiting and completely lacking interaction. Open discussion and horizontal teaching/sharing/admonishing should not be limited to Bible studies in the home when everyone can supposedly just be themselves (why could you not be yourself in service?). In gatherings where the Lord is the Teacher and we're all being equal members of the Body, free from the motions of services, positions and titles, the Body of Christ springs to life and sees Who She really is meant to be! Transparency, spontaneity, shared life that can only be found at the feet of Christ, unilaterally!!!!

OK, is all the time I have for now. Will return ASAP to respond to your Eph 1 question. Thanks for the dialogue and congrats regarding Noah. Fatherhood is changing my everything.

peacehopetrees said...

I love this.