So this evening I've been re-reading old blog posts for an un-related reason, but have found a continual and recurring theme, looking for authenticity of God at work - for it to be real and truthful and genuine in a physical sense that can be touched and demonstrated, rather than carefully explained away. It's partly a frustration in this area that is more and more making me wonder if the whole thing is just emotions and careful organisation with some carefully crafted explanations thrown in.
But also, I've noticed this thing of 'God helps those who help themselves'. I don't mean what it could be understood to be that God's not real and it's just clever powerful people who create opportunities for themselves, yet at the same time I DO wonder if that's how things are supposed to work, at least somewhat.
So I look at churches and church leaders. So many churches make it if they have the right leader/fail if they have merely good leaders. I look at the residue left by CH Spurgeon, that of the Wesleys. Now that guys like Barney Coombes, Terry Virgo and Arthur Wallace, will the churches of Harvestime, New Frontiers and Salt & Light descend further and further into mediocrity and decreasing meaningfulness as the movements of previous generations of Christians - all of whom were on fire for God in their time - have done?
It's not just an annointing, and it's not a case of training to do the same things, so much as specific and key individuals leading willing groups of people, who built those groups of churches. Yes, there did seem to be the Holy Spirit at work, but if that was the case for the original leader, surely it should be much more so in the people he personally trained and equipped to take the work on when he stepped down. Yet this is CLEARLY not the case for the group of churches of which we're part - they just seem like any other church doing the usual things that those kind of churches do, running out of money as everyone goes somewhere else.
But not all of them are dying this slow death.
I know of at least one Baptist church that, with the right man at the helm for just a couple of years, has gone to needing 2 meetings on a Sunday morning in order to get everyone in. I'm not aware that they're doing anything strikingly different, but I am coming to suspect that just a small number of key individuals are able to draw people - with or without God being overtly present - and if you don't have one of them then you're just pushing water up hills of varying steepness depending how slick your product is. .
This is dumb.
It doesn't in the least resemble new-testament Christianity as described in Acts & the various letters, and only vaguely looks like the Christian church of the first 2 centuries as described by Eusebius. There is a superficial similarity, in that key people like Peter and Paul could draw large crowds and speak effectively, but particulrly there's never any tangible proof of God turning up. When people experience 'great worship' it seems to have resulted from their internal responses to songs with emotionally charged and often self-absorbed lyrics hung on tunes which are designed to provoke those feelings. Singing about a 'peace so deep I can hardly think'. I'm starting to loathe the song that line comes from.
I also heard on Friday night of another really quite 'successful' church going
down the crapper because they bought into missional communities &
3DM ministries, with the system basically forgetting about all the
ordinary people when the focus changed. That's pretty much what I'd have expected,
and I'd say that Oxfordshire Community Churches had a narrow but lucky
escape by not getting sucked in.
Where is the reality?
I talked with someone I respect a couple of years ago about praying for resurrection of the dead, and got the reply that if I'd been in Africa then God would have done it because they are desperate over there and don't have modern medicine. My reply, that the situation could have not been more desperate regardless of where I was, did not produce any discernable wisdom or helpful theology, though it did get an apology for thoughtlessness. Yes, we hear amazing stories coming from Africa, but that's what they tend to remain.
Frankly I'm sick to the back teeth of excuses and running a good show. If that's all there is then please let me know and I'll just step back and let the church carry on it's own way while I stop bothering and reclaim my Sunday morning. Having said that, it's still quite nice to play guitar there sometimes, so maybe I shouldn't rock the boat.
Roll into this mix frustrations with reading bits of the bible that make one question veracity.
An example. Moses actions are described in early parts of Exodus in a particular way, yet the chronology given in exodus 7 conflicts. His rash behaviour in killing the Egyptian is not the action of a 40 year old with experience. On the way back to Egypt the now almost 80 years old Moses nearly dies and yet Zipporah is able to save him by circumcising their (young? Infant?) son and touching Moses feet with the foreskin. Sure, these bits were likely added to line up with Jewish mythology or some kind of numerology at some stage, but then if they were added, what else was?
Paul would sometimes pick out bits of the old testament and mis-use them in his letters to prove whatever his point was in a way that would hopefully get most bible teachers laughed out of church today.
10 years ago 'faith' would let me ignore stuff like this - it's not important, it doesn't affect the core truth of salvation, I still 'feel' God at work so it doesn't need answering. Now my pursuit of wanting to know the truth won't let me leave it alone any more. Chris has long found more questions than answers when reading the bible, and now it seems to be both of us. I don't want to put my fingers into nail holes - I DO want that stuff about healing and God at work to be real in something more substantial than getting a convenient parking space or even a cash donation.