God in the Pandemic and Beyond: “Church, Don’t Go Back to Status Quo!”
The modern church is on a sandy foundation. Three current realities need to change for God’s people to make disciples that impact and influence every part of culture:
- Cultural relevance has trumped relationship.
- Evangelism and conversion equals discipleship.
- Programs can replace the brokenness of relationships.
I believe most church leaders and attendees desire to follow Christ. The problem? We’ve so compromised what it means for Christ to be Lord and us to be His disciples that our good hearts and best intentions fall woefully short in making disciples with very little of Christ carried into our workplace and culture…we’ve capitulated to the world!
This is at the heart of the relationships and command that Jesus gave all of His disciples (including us). He paid the ultimate sacrifice for us to be in a relationship with Him in which He is Lord and we must be His disciples (Luke 14:25-34)!
Everything is based on our relationship as His disciples and to Him as Lord…or the lack thereof. The way we worship/love God…how we love self…how we serve and love others; how we handle money and things entrusted to us (especially the lives of others); how we respond to trials and crisis (including pandemics)…everything in your life and relationships is impacted by whether Christ is truly Lord of your life and you are His disciple.
Teaching this without accountability to faithful and loving obedience, inevitably leads to compromise. That’s human nature. The Lord has continually put this question before me in this pandemic…“Will My Church return to status quo? Or will they come to me as disciples willing to surrender all to make disciples?”
Let’s examine the 3 realities and their impact on our churches and culture…
1. Cultural relevance has trumped relationship. Recent church history is filled with “distance” serving of communities with very little relationship building and gathering in fellowships, classes and small groups to share Scripture and make light conversation. The relationships in the former are nearly non-existent and in the latter are mostly superficial with none, or very little accountability of obedience to Christ’s commands. Compromise is rampant in marriages, families, sexual relationships, what we view, what we do, and so much more. “But we can’t reach them if we’re not engaged in the things of the culture,” is the mantra I hear in some form or another. The results? Those in our churches act much more like the world than those in the world coming to know and act like Christ! Only in loving, accountable relationships can we live out His commands as His disciples and make disciples of those we do life and engage with.
We have mastered the art of loving and leading “from afar” in community, corporate or governing settings (including the church) while struggling to obey God’s Word to make disciples in loving relationships!
C.S. Lewis said it this way; writing to his nephew and understudy, veteran tempter Screwtape reveals a little secret about human beings: we are incurably idealistic. “Do what you will,” he warns, “there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.” (The Screwtape Letters)
Let’s quit following the idealism of our own nature, repent and get through and beyond this pandemic as His Church, building deep, loving (even difficult) relationships as we make disciples that make disciples! It won’t be easy and it won’t look like the world but it is what He has always called us to do. No more status quo!
2. Evangelism and conversion equals discipleship. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been asked if any of the following constitutes discipleship: Preaching, teaching, small groups and discussions, etc.? My answer is two-fold: First, is there obedience and accountability stemming from the relationships formed in the “discipleship?” Second, what is the Kingdom/Spirit fruit in those being taught? Inevitably relationships for the most part are shallow and accountability to obedience is nearly non-existent as that is how the world does teaching and accountability. But we’re not the one’s asking or commanding…Jesus is! Preaching, teaching, classes, small groups needed? Absolutely! Is that discipleship? Only in the most shallow sense…not really!
3. Programs can replace the brokenness of relationships. This is particularly prevalent in the way we handle marriage and family issues. It is much easier to have a program that addresses the issues of brokenness than to actually build relationships to help repair it! As one pastor said when we were discussing the churches’ struggle to focus on and follow through with the building of loving relationships and relational servant-leaders, “Man, Greg, you’re talking about messy, nasty stuff when it comes to relationships.” You see why we have compromised and opted for programs that feign success with attendance and an occasional victory, rather than actually working to build relationships that help strengthen other relationships. My response to the pastor was simply, “Which part of the “messy, nasty stuff” compromises God’s Truth and what He has called us to be? Crickets
When we do the difficult but rewarding work to touch broken hearts, pointing them to the Only One who repairs and reconciles lives and relationships, then we are His Church and show the world His love. It’s quite different than what is seen in culture!
Whatever we do as we walk through and emerge from this pandemic, I pray that we will not return to the status quo. Buildings mean very little if we’re not doing the difficult, but Kingdom-building work, of developing loving relationships and making faithful disciples.
“Knowledge based learning” is not discipleship. Discipleship is loving obedience and relationships that He has called us to live out and share! Let’s take the challenge, in His strength and authority and work to build relationships and make disciples that reflect His Love and Lordship for His Kingdom and Glory!