The 21st Century Retooling of the Church – Part LIV
It has been a whole week since I last wrote a blog, and sometimes I need just to be quiet. I love to be in a worship experience and just “listen”. That occurred last night when Kent Henry came to our church. I have been in and out of Ken Henry events over the last three decades, and have learned to respect him for his ability to listen to the Holy Spirit and change with times. I have watched him physically grow from a dark haired “cool dude” appealing to youth to a grey hair of wisdom. Kent is still Kent; still digging deep for Jesus.
Now you have to understand, Kent Henry concerts are not quiet, band jamming, bass driving, drummer letting loose, background singers singing with all their might, and Kent doing his thing. In the past I would have been engulfed by it all and just join into the activity, but last night the Holy Spirit drew me in, being aware of my surroundings, but just focusing on Jesus and “listening” to the still small voice as the decibel level increased in the sanctuary.
When Kent read from the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah cried out the doom that Israel was about to face, a woeful song, as Kent actually began to sing the scripture as a Jewish cantor. That is when the Lord again beckoned me again about this “shaking”, reinforcing that in American “institutions” are and will continue to be shaken. We have seen the financial institutions shaken over the last four years, almost bringing America to its knees. People learn to “trust” in the stock market, forgetting that it rises and falls, and many financial plans collapsed with the shaking. Now educational “institutions” are being shaken, not only at the public school level, but also at the higher educational levels. The family as an “institution” has been attacked and badly battered over the last two decades as what use to be abnormal and dysfunctional is trying to be recognized as the new normal and status quo.
Then the zinger: I heard, “Why would the Church be exempt, particularly when it has become an “institution” too?” Ouch!
I have struggled for years over the questions of how do we allow the Church as an “organism” to become an “institution”, or what is the process needed to free the “institution” to go back into an “organism”. “Organisms” have life: “institutions” have structure. How do we put life into our structures? How do we structure life in our churches so that they don’t become institutionalized (program driven, staff driven, numbers driven, budget driven)? When we get stuck in a path, sometimes it takes “a whole lot of shaking” to release us from the rut in which we have entrenched ourselves.
Sometimes the very structures that we built that gave form to a movement become the very barriers that prohibit the continual movement of the Holy Spirit. I have done an in depth study on the “blue print” of Herod’s Temple, the temple at the time of Christ, which vividly displays the “barriers” that structure has produced, prohibiting one from entering the Holy of Holies, the very Presence of God. Barriers dividing Jew from Gentile, male from female, priest from laity, serving priests from passive priests, and everyone from the High Priest who only once a year had the privilege to enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. By the time Jesus arrived, “structure” was in placed; Jesus always challenged the “structures” of his time. He did a whole lot of shaking, eventually causing an earthquake at his crucifixion, and the freeing of himself from the structures of a sealed tomb at his resurrection. Jesus knows how to challenge an institution to produce life, an organism. He sent the Holy Spirit to orchestrate the transformation of institutions back to organisms.
So what does the Church have to do? It’s first inclination is to “RE-structure” itself, with “new” programs, “new” staff, “new” personnel. That is where the Church is missing the mark. The Holy Spirit is not about “RE-structuring” but “renewing”. Dumping the old is part of the gospel message, for in Christ Jesus “all things are new”. Renewal, rebirth, being “born again” is the heart of the evangelistic message, a message that Church better be prepared to hear or it will hear the song of Jeremiah to this generation, the song of lamentations. The evangelistic message is for the “lost”, and as a Church sometimes we must admit that we have “lost” our way, always in need of a Savior, always open to renewal, change, regeneration, rebirth.