I became part of the Churches of Christ for three reasons. The first was our knowledge of and devotion to Scripture. The second was that we are a “unity movement” or at least started that way. The third reason? To somehow partner with God to heal our divided congregations and world.
After almost twenty years of being a Christian, and fifteen of being in full-time ministry, I have seen a lot. I’ve been to area-wide worships, workshops on unity, and part of writing in effort to bring us closer. Many, including myself, have tried to start movements.
When I saw the theme of this month’s issue, I felt I had to write. I have not written in over a year and a half because I felt I wasn’t adding anything productive to the noise of the world. What I really needed was to spend time with Jesus. I learned to practice silence and solitude…to learn to pursue peace.
I also learned a very valuable Scripture that is blazing in my chest as I write.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:2325, NIV)
There is a deep truth embedded in the passage about the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is the lesson of the kernel of wheat. In context, we know Jesus is speaking of His death. We know the confusion it brings to the Twelve. It seems sad, but as we know, it turns out beautiful. Jesus had to die. His death produced many more seeds. We are here because of it.
My question is: How does that apply to us in American congregations? How does it apply to “capital ‘C'” Church? How does it apply to the Churches of Christ and the American Restoration Movement?
Some things have to die before they can live.
Don’t write me off as a pessimist. Don’t label me a progressive or discount me. Instead, keep with me until the end.
I love our history in the Restoration Movement. It is part of me and I am a part of it. A proud part of it. I do not think the Churches of Christ have to die or go away. Instead, certain aspects must die if we are to produce fruit. We must yield the Spirit’s lead and let Him transform us into what the world needs now.
There are many good books on leadership and church growth out there. I have read many of them. That’s not a bad thing. They have helped me grow in good ways. But, none of them have helped me grow in God ways. Why? By reading them, i began to look to them for results instead of pleading with God for revival. I began trying to manufacture a New Testament Christianity that I thought worked. I began to be arrogant.
We have arrived at our “kernel of wheat” moment, church.
It is time to bury the things that fracture and divide us. This is the time we fall to our knees in repentance..where we finally surrender. It is the time to fall to the ground and die to ourselves. Make no mistake: this will not kill the churches of Christ. This will revive us into what God needs us to be in this moment right now.
We must die that we can jettison all the toxic things, sins, and beliefs that are poisoning us. We must step forward in faith at the leading of the Spirit into what is next. The question is, then, how do we do that?
Movements of the Spirit start with one individual. There is deep repentance and fervent prayer. Revival and unity are the goal. God then spreads that to another. Then another. Then another. It multiplies until it becomes a movement of God. By this point thousands join. It is undeniable that God is doing something new.
We read about that in Acts. I read chapter four and am quite envious of that kind of congregation. The world ran to the church. The church became known for Who it was for, not what it was against. What makes it different? First, it was Spirit led. It had to be. The first Christians relied on the Spirit for every decision and how to live out the Jesus life.
Second, they were not trying to defend an institution based on traditions. Sure, there were cultural tiffs between Jew and Gentile. WE have those still. But these were nothing that couldn’t be overcome by love (Rom. 13:8).
It is so easy to think we have somehow “arrived” at the perfect understanding of “church.” We are wise in our own eyes and our sophistry is our undoing. That’s where we went off the rails. In the 1950’s we thought we finally “restored” New Testament Christianity. We were growing No. We were thriving.
The problem is, that we relied on patternistic methods to keep those results going. We stopped relying on the Spirit and started making our own plans. It can’t work that way. That is why we find ourselves in one of the fastest declining parts of Christianity. We refuse to surrender to Jesus and insist on figuring it all out.
We must fall to the ground and die to recapture and further God’s mission. What is that? Love God, Love others (even non-Christians), and disciple as many people as we can! If we are not doing that, call us anything, but you cannot call us the Church.
I know this is possible. I have prayed and I have seen it in other countries. Many more of you have, too. We must repent of our pride and yield control of the Bride back to the Bridegroom. We must let Him lay us down in the dirt, that we may die and transform into something better. I know this can happen because Jesus said it would. He prayed that it would (John 17). The question is, will you and I be the answer to Jesus prayer, or will we be a hindrance?