“We’re the middle children of history, No purpose or place; we have no Great War, no Great Depression, our Great War is a spiritual war, our Great Depression is our lives.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Today we live in strange times; our society has lost its way. Consumerism has become the new religion and shopping centres the new Church. Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays was the father of modern consumerism, starting a change in western culture through targeted advertising pushing us into a world where we no longer just buy what we need, but buy things we merely want as a push to gain the status we feel we deserve. I have news for you; you are not the car you drive, the job you hold, the home you live in or the contents of your wallet. We were created to not only reflect God but for worship. In fact, we were created worshiping, intended for outpouring through all I am, all I can do and all I can be.
Worshiping was not limited to a building or a specific time or particular way, but through all we did while reflecting God. Part of our identity is a worshiper, today we still worship - but what are we worshiping? We have replaced God with Church leaders, our egos, our perceptions, and what we can accumulate. We have come to a time when civilization appears more concerned with whose name is printed across our underwear than with genocide in some foreign land. We spend time and money on things we don’t need to impress people we don’t know. The things we own now own us. In summary, we need to worship the Creator, not the Created.
It would be easy to blame the wasteful and ego-driven culture on Edward Bernays, but we have all paid our part in getting to where we are.
Some of the happiest and most community-driven people in the world live in places like the slums of Mumbai. Here is a thriving shanty town where multiple generations live together in the one small, falling apart home, often with the one room.
A shanty town with no running water or sewerage - through the western eye it is what we would not wish on our worst enemies. Some of the people are born in a tip - a literal garbage dump - are raised in the tip, work in the tip and yes, even die in the tip.
Compare that to your home and your life. So ponder this here in Australia we have 20% of Australians aged between 16 – 85 suffering from depression and or anxiety and according to the Black Dog Institute only 54% of people who are suffering seek help.
Let's put that into more context we are the most blessed people who have ever lived. We live longer, are more educated, have better healthcare, most of us carry a computer around in our back pocket and can speak to anyone in the world at any time and do not think twice about it.
Many of the homeless people in our city have it much better than people 150 years ago. Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy we have it better than anyone who has ever walked the Earth and are we happy? No, we are the saddest and most depressed people who have ever walked the Earth.
Is it possible that we have lost our identity and are trying to fill the gap with stuff unsuccessfully?
Maybe if we could find our one true identity, it would change everything stop filling the gap with drugs, material possessions, sex, violence and just maybe we could stop hurtling down the path which leads to self-destruction.
1 Corinthians 15:22 (NASB)
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
You are not what has been done to you.
You are what Jesus has done for you.
You are not what you do.
You are what Jesus will do through you.
I believe that only once we see ourselves in a biblical sense, we start to change. We are ( Imago Dei ) The image of God nothing else has been made in this way, so we are meant to reflect God and bring glory to him and reflect God to those around us and indeed to all of creation.
As God reflected through us, we are meant to Love people, be humble, grieve for our sins, hate injustice and oppression and rejoice in redemption.
We are intended to serve others with our hands and hearts grow community and friendship. We should look to God to find our true self - by not doing this we will always sell ourselves short.
When reflecting on what our way of life has become is an echo of Prometheus from Greek mythology. Prometheus created man from clay to defy God and gave Man the power to rule over himself. In the Western classical tradition, Prometheus became a figure who represented human striving, particularly the quest for scientific knowledge, and the risk of overreaching or unintended consequences. In particular, he was regarded in the Romantic era as embodying the lone genius whose efforts to improve human existence could also result in tragedy: Mary Shelley, for instance, gave The Modern Prometheus as the subtitle to her novel Frankenstein (1818).
In the modern Church, if you are honest, is this not what we are becoming? We seem to be taking God and the traditional ideas of Church out of the equation to find comfort in the delusion that we are in control.
The focus becomes on getting bums on seats and making a decision to accept Jesus into your life.
I would like to suggest an alternative: what would it look like if instead of a decision, we accepted that Jesus is Lord and not us, we give him control of our lives?
What if we take our hands off the wheel and just let go and truly have faith in God to be God and have control over our lives?
What does it look like to live a life out of control and honestly have Jesus at the helm of our lives?
We are told to die for ourselves to die to our true nature and reflect God to the world around us.
I do not believe it is possible for a Christian to do this and remain in control of his own life. By holding onto our consumer-driven culture and refusing to let go of the delusion that you are in control of anything, and being a Christian you will continue to find yourself living in a Frankenstein state.
That is, trying to keep a foot in both camps telling ourselves that we are a devoted Christian as long as it does not impact on my status, my car, my dreams, my job, social life or the image I have created to hold up to the world on Facebook.
So many people are bored in the Church today, and having a nagging feeling that we should be doing something. The Church may let you pass around the collection plate or stand at the door, and welcome people or even make coffee for everyone after the service, and we are surprised by the declining numbers in attendance.
Our Churches are fighting for a more significant share of the same flock instead of attracting non-Christians. Ask yourself this question what is in your Church that will attract the non-Churched?
A funny pastor who has a lot of great one-liners, a rocking band, smoke machines and great lighting, a good coffee shop, impressive architecture?
None of these approaches will get anyone who does not know God to enter your Church. It is critical to the future of the Church that we reevaluate what Church was meant to be and what our role is.
LifeWay Research recently did a study in America which is more known for outwardly talking about Jesus where only 1% of all Church growth was through reaching the lost.
All other Church growth was from Church to Church are we just moving the chairs on the Titanic or are we trying to grow the kingdom of God? A lot of Church-going Christians are tired and bored. They know that there is more to Christianity, and they should be doing something, but just do not know what or how to start. Close friends of mine have even told me that they would love to do something and get involved in the community, but their Church has stopped them in fear of the Church not being able to control what the individual is doing, or the mission they find themselves on. It is a sad day when I hear stories like this
Which are becoming more and more common. This is a perfect example of the Frankenstine Church where the leaders of the Church are so concerned about losing their members or tarnishing their good name that they try to take on God’s role as the head of the Church. We as church leaders need a yes mentality sometimes just saying ok what would that look go for it is all that is holding back our church family from becoming disciples of Jesus.
If I went into any church and said, I have a foolproof plan to add 100 members to your church this year they would pay attention. If I said I know how to make one missional disciple out of your congregation this year, they would probably be shut down, and they would stop listening. But let's do the math if we made an empowered disciple amount out of our congregation and they made another, and they did the same you would have exponential growth in the kingdom of God. After 15 years are growing 100 a year, you would have 1500 new members of your church. One disciple allowed and encouraged to help someone else to become a disciple in a year in 15 years that would grow to 65,536 disciples.
Over 40 times in the New Testament Jesus states “As the father sent me I am sending you.” Or Matthew 28:19 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
I do not think I can put it better than Dietrich Bonhoeffer did in his autobiography:
“I have heard the call of Christ bidding me to come to Him throughout my life. It began when I was a small child, and grew as I did. By the time I got to college, I knew it well, but many other calls had joined it: the call of success, the call of control, and the call of self-sufficiency all rang loud in my ears. As my life unraveled under the weight of these other things I hoped would set me free, the call of Christ rose above the din. He called me to come, to rest in His presence, to be with Him, but when I arrived, I heard another call: the call to die.
He was right. These other things I held so tightly to myself, that I crammed inside of me, the choices I wanted to make, and the pride I used to protect myself; all of these things had to die if there was going to be room for new life. This is why I had avoided the call to come. I knew He did not simply want one small part of me. He would demand everything. It was more than I wanted to give.”
What a powerful statement something which we need in this modern age of consumerism. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.’ You need to surrender all control to Christ especially the Church leaders as only God is the intended leader of the Church our white-knuckling the wheel for control is going to get in the way and prevent us from growing in our faith.
Our true focus as a Church I believe is to send people and to support and inspire our Church community to be an active missional community. I am not suggesting that everyone leaves their work give up all the possessions and travel overseas as a missionary. Just become more comfortable in being out of control. God does not need to save through our success, but he saves through our sacrifice.
It is a big shift, but it is vital that we do change when most of the Church-going Christians do not share their faith outside of their Church community. We need to stop measuring a Church’s success by how many people we have come to us on a Sunday morning, but on how many we have inspired, empowered and sent to use the gifts they have been given to do the work God is calling us to.
To die to ourselves and be born anew into a life of discipleship. As the Church, we need to be making disciples willing to make a personal sacrifice when God calls and willing to be out of control for God.
If we just let go and put God back in control, we will see a big change in the church and in our world.
What are you prepared to do to let go over is Christ your lord or are you trying to be his?
02 May, 2022