You may remember the 2006 movie where Matthew McConaughey played the thirty-something who was not ready to leave home and launch out into the responsibilities of adulthood. This is a great picture of the church in the west. We are just not ready, in many ways, to grow up and take responsibility for our own spiritual lives and the mission/purpose of being ‘church.’
It may be that our backs are not up against the wall yet.
It may be that we have lived too long on comfort foods and easy spiritual programs.
It may be that we just don’t want to grow up and take on that responsibility for our spiritual lives.
Whatever the reason, the church in the west resists walking in its true nature of every-member-a-world-changer. Apparently the alternative-- easy participation in an institutional church program (whether regularly or from time to time)—is too readily available and too easily relied upon.
In the arena of our spiritual life, we have developed a dependency mindset. Easy to do. Offerings abound of amazing teachers, inspiring conferences, and events that spark—at least temporarily—our spiritual fire. Or, there are the comfortable gatherings, of people we are familiar with, that we can stop into, enjoy, and feel assured that we have done something significant even though others have prepared the food, set up the venue, and provided the welcoming atmosphere.
It is so much easier to look to others to feed us, prop us up, care for us when we are needy, and provide a spiritual program for us to consume. But have we done ourselves a disservice by not recognizing that our comfortable reliance on provided programs and institutions are keeping us from growing into the place of living dynamically with God in such a way that our gifts are overflowing to others? If so, we are perhaps missing the greatest joy in life.
Does that mean that change will finally come when our back is up against the wall? Neil Cole posits that forms of persecution are coming sooner than we think which will, inevitably, move us in that direction:
I do not think persecution is so far off. What would it take? Not much. I believe the pieces are already on the board and being pushed into play…
Like the Russian church prior to communism, our churches are dependent upon holy buildings (remove property tax exemption) and holy men (remove parsonage allowance) that perform holy practices in those buildings (remove tax deductible donations). Our vulnerability is quite obvious. These three areas of dependence will kill us.
I firmly believe that the more we move toward an incarnational, missional and movemental expression of ecclesia the better prepared we will be. We must be aware of our vulnerabilities and shift toward a form of church that is less easily destroyed.
Maybe this is, ultimately, how God will work. I can’t say for certain. But I do know that God’s plan is for a church that is fully mature. Therefore, in His way and timing, He will get what He is aiming for.
The full launch cometh eventually, ready or not! And with it, perhaps, the church’s most powerful and joyful time.