I have lived long enough to see a few trends develop in the
Church. Some of the trends were healthy
and others have caused me a bit of concern.
As a young boy my religious heritage included time in the
Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist traditions.
I got saved in a wonderful Baptist Church at the age of eight. While my name was written on the roll of
heaven at that time, it was not until I was 29 years old that I had what I
would call an encounter with God. Encounters are those undeniable moments when
God breaks into our lives in a notable and tangible way and changes everything.
The Book of Acts could be accurately called, The Book of
Encounters. It was at the frontier of
these God-encounters in Acts that the direction of the Church changed and new passion
was instilled. Most of the early pioneers had very little figured out. They lived in the moment and yet they changed
the world. What they did have in their midst and in their daily language, was
an encounter vocabulary about God. Their language included the anticipation of
those wonderful in-your-face-messy-beautiful works of God that disrupted the best-laid
plans of man.
Without these God-encounters the Church has a tendency to lose
her way and begin to do a lot of good things and eventually begins to think the
good things give us life. That is a
trend that will lead us to a dry and empty form of life contrary to what I
think God intended for His people to experience.
The trend I am noticing – at least in some of our historic
Pentecostal and Charismatic movements – is the lack of the word “encounter”
when we talk of God and the gatherings we do in His name. I am not saying God is not present in our
gatherings. He is always present when we
gather, but it seems the pursuit of His presence and the resulting God-encounter
language is becoming less and less present in the conversations I hear.
Some pastors are afraid their meetings will get high
jacked. The managers in our midst worry
about getting the corporate agenda items completed on schedule. Others are
afraid they might be aligned with some of those wonderfully wild and crazy people
of God they disagree with. These fears
are leadership, gifting and faith problems that if allowed to rule in our midst
can rob us of the supernatural encounters God has planned that will lead us
into His preferred future for the Church.
I have been in leadership meetings where the only prayer offered
was at the end of our packed agenda where we asked God to take our decisions
and do something with them and then protect us on the drive home. We got some
good things decided, but there was no encounter. Without the encounter, a lot of what we do
will require a do-over because our decisions were breathed by the wisdom of
man, not by an encounter with the Spirit of God.
Trends take us somewhere.
Trends not evaluated and redirected can have us speaking a language
foreign to our original calling and have us docking at ports of call not listed
on our original Spirit-filled itinerary.