Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Church Reset

Many people who are widely recognised as prophets (Lana Vawser, DC Lake, Anita Alexander, Kris Vallotton) are saying that God is calling a “Reset” for the church. I witness with this call, but I am worried that none of them are saying what they mean, or what God wants to change.

When I think of the word “reset”, I think of a factory reset of my smartphone. It is a drastic action, because it solves problems, but you end up losing a lot of stuff that was precious. I have only done it once when I was really desperate. Therefore, I presume that a reset will mean radical change for the church, and that much of what seems important to us will have to be let go.

The prophetic people are talking about a change in governmental authority, but they are not very clear about what that means. Maybe they do not know what it means themselves, but it often seems like a different group of people controlling the church. Or Christians leaders controlling civil governments.

The prophetic people are saying that God is giving new blueprints, but I do not see the new blueprints anywhere. Maybe they do not have them yet, but it is confusing, because a call for change needs to tell people how they should change.

I sense that despite the call for a reset, most Christian leaders are only interested in tweaking the existing church model. I do not detect an appetite for serious change, even amongst followers who “like” prophetic posts. No one is willing to give up the pastor-executive model of leadership, driving to church on a Sunday, sermon-centric discipling, which make the modern church what it is and move to a relationship-based way of following Jesus. Despite all the talk about the Kingdom of God, I sense that no one really believes that the Kingdom of God can come in fulness in our time, or how that would happen.

I seem to be on a different planet. Forty years ago, when I started as an enthusiastic young pastor, the word I received from the Lord was Hebrews 8:5.

See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.
Two or three years on, and frustrated that things were not happening as I had hoped, I realised that I was just doing what other churches and pastors were doing. I had not bothered waiting to get the pattern/blueprint from God on the mountain.

So, I put everything aside, and began seeking God and studying the New Testament to see how the church was meant to function. What I discovered was radically different and utterly challenging, but I got a strong sense of what Jesus wanted the church to be. It cost me my job and my house, because I could not continue in a role which was not part of Jesus plan.

I published my insights in a little booklet called the Bride of Christ in the early 1980s. It had a great reception, mostly by word of mouth (because this was before the time of the internet). In a short time, the 2000 copies that I had printed were sold out. But nothing really changed. I then realised that readers had enjoyed my critique of the church, but had not understood the alternative blueprint that I was describing. So I rewrote the book to make the pattern much clearer and called it Being Church Where We Live. The Lord told me to leave out everything critical of the existing church and focus on sharing the vision, which I did.

The response has been interesting. The book is radical, so I expected criticism. Yet not one person has come to me and said, “What you have written is not consistent with the scriptures”. I do not expect to be right on everything I write, but not one person has said, “I agree with a lot of what you wrote, but I think you have got that bit wrong, or missed this thing which is important”. No one has even said, “I believe that God is saying something different” or even “What you describe will not work”. Instead, the response has been almost total disinterest.

So I have to conclude that most Christian leaders and their followers are not really interested in making serious changes to the way that they do church. They prefer to stick with the pastor/executive model and going to church on Sundays. I presume this is why the blueprints for the reset are missing.

I realise from working on numerous IT projects over the years, that most people just want the new system to do what the old system did. They can’t visualise how new technology could change the way that they do things to make their work more effective and more efficient. Most IT projects fail to deliver their potential, because they get stuck on replicating what was done in the past, because people cannot visualise how things could be done differently and better.

This seems to be the situation in the church. Very few people have the ability to visualise a church different from what they know. This is where we need prophets to share a radically different vision for the church. And then we need radical leaders, who will give up the security of what they know, and are comfortable with despite it not working, and have a go at something different.

I don’t expect people to follow my way. I know that my version of the pattern on the mountain is not perfect, or complete. I would be quite happy if followers of Jesus found a different way of changing and pursued that. What I struggle with is complacency about the status quo. It is clear that what the church is currently doing is not working as it should, and is not viable through a crisis, so we urgently need a different way of being church.

I wish that there were many prophets and other people sharing their understanding of “the pattern they have received on the mountain” and different blueprints to stir up people who cannot see beyond the what they have now. And I wish that more people were willing to have a try at something really different. The future of the church depends on it.

Having to shut down church services to prevent the spread of coronavirus has been a wake-up call for the church. Paul people are talking about a new normal, but I worry that when the current crisis is finished, mortgage and salary commitments will force leaders back into the existing, but inadequate, model of church.

When I was young, I thought I was part of a radical generation. I realise now that we were probably deceiving ourselves. I hope the rising generations are truly radical and bold enough to take up the challenge to be the church that God needs to win the world for Jesus and establish his glorious Kingdom.

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