New 21st Century Wineskins for American Christianity (Part 2)

         Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert… I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people. [Isaiah 43:18-20] [1]

         There is a recent article on the Barna Group website about the new book by George Barna, Futurecast. One of the bullet points regarding future American Christianity follows:

         Various measures indicate that Americans remain deeply interested in connecting with God, but fewer and fewer retain enthusiasm about doing so in a conventional church setting or through long-standing religious institutions. Millions of Americans are currently marking time until new, more appealing avenues of faith expression and experience are developed and accessible. [2]

         What this means is that stodgy traditional Christianity is getting in the way, and far too many believers are living in the past. The people have already decided they are done with the usual church formats and methods and have generally shoved off for new frontiers, but those new frontiers do not yet exist as they should. God has been working overtime to prepare the way but traditionalists continue with methods they are familiar with. There is hope in that many new forms are making inroads within churches and leadership is generally bending. Many of those who refuse to bend or recognize the new move of God are losing their buildings and locking their doors. Certain mainline churches continue largely because the people never expect much anyway and consider church to be what it is and want no changes. Many have left such churches, however.

         In America, most people remain unchurched. There is no possible way they will ever be reached by traditional means since such means are slowly fading out. Vibrant new formats are taking their place. Some of these are simple, and some artificial. Most mega churches usually attract those who are looking to be a part of the most popular movements and desire celebrity preachers, but such churches often have high turnover rates.

         What would Christians do without a building? One might ask the Lord Jesus, the original apostles, and the believers of the first three centuries of the modern era. They had no buildings and turned the Roman Empire on its left ear. They also had no New Testament, though various gospels and letters made the rounds. What they did have was reality. They had the personal presence of the Lord Jesus and the power of His Holy Spirit. They maintained the love and unity He taught them, and the world listened. They paid a huge price, though. Their discipleship cost them everything.

         Real disciples of the present are discovering the same fact. When one gives up everything and surrenders all, the power and love of the Lord is much more able to reach a hurting world through them. Most Christians in America are mere cultural Christians and have certainly not had the born again experience the Lord speaks of. Thus, they are comfortable with “church as usual” and content to let the Lord pass them by. This is why so many Americans want God but don’t want the rigamarole associated with many church groups.

         The home church movement began gaining initial steam approximately twenty years ago, and has served as an excellent format for both bringing in new converts and allowing believers a much better chance at spiritual development. Such free formats are what many crave, and home churches are serving as the bulwark of the coming Great Awakening.

         People go to church for years on end and never develop as real disciples of the Lord. Those that do are often forced to grow at the speed of wood. Imagine a classroom with one teacher and twelve students and how well such students learn. Then imagine a classroom with one teacher and five hundred students. Or a thousand. Or ten thousand. It doesn’t take Albert Einstein to figure out why the Lord’s model worked, and that our models since constructed largely do not.

         Hence, there is big change in the works. Within two decades there will be more real Christians in this country outside of traditional church formats than within. Church buildings will continue closing their doors. The institutional clergy will find fewer and fewer jobs. Though some traditional formats will remain, they will be the exception rather than the rule. Believers must continue praying, listening to the Lord, and changing their lifestyles to keep up. We must be willing to change and obey God. If not, Christianity in America will continue going south.

         The Barna Group has this to say about the “leaders” of the future, though such is merely a term denoting those Christians who are more spiritually mature and not in the mold of the traditional clergy:

         George Barna encourages leaders to remain aware of the trends so that they and the people they lead do not become victims of those patterns. “Leaders define reality for people. You cannot effectively define your slice of the world if you’re always a step behind, trying to undo what has already been done. True leaders are compelled by a vision of a superior tomorrow to create that world. You have to grasp the current state of things and the direction things are moving in order to effectively direct the flow of energy and resources. Leadership never happens in an information vacuum; it always builds on trend awareness and cultural potential.” [3]

         The heart of true leadership is optimism. One must possess a sincere optimistic attitude toward the work they are called to do. Sadly, the majority will not listen and have never listened. The Lord is currently creating a brand new Wineskin and whoever will follow Him must get on board and pay attention. So much that has been done in His Name has been done without Him, and this continues.

         Ralph Neighbor, author and founder of Touch Outreach Ministries, wrote a book about those who decline to change for the better. He based it on years of personal experience, the New Testament record, and the failure of many traditional methods. The title of the book, The Seven Last Words of the Church, is based on the last words of people in churches (before they crater) who refuse a new move of God.

         And what are those last seven words? “We’ve never done it that way before!”

         © 2011 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

[2] “Americans Are Creating the New American Dream.” © 6.28.2011 by The Barna Group www.barna.org. Used by permission.

[3] “Americans Are Creating the New American Dream.” © 6.28.2011 by The Barna Group www.barna.org. Used by permission.

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Posted on August 6, 2011, in Current Events and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Wish I could think of something superlative to say, but it appears that you have already said it! Another winner here.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes. Like “manoahswife”, I feel you have really communicated this so well that there’s not much to add… Thank you, RJ.

    Like

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