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Date Posted: 09:14:01 03/01/05 Tue
Author: Mike K.
Subject: Why Churches look so old
I want to post some excerpts from an article written by Peter Strauch (a nondenominational German preacher, who wrote many inspiring songs, some of which found their way into the German UBF's songbook)
It may explain to some why they at first enjoyed the UBF environment as opposed to traditional mainstream denominations, but also exposes some of the things why UBF stunts spiritual growth.
Perspectives for spiritual development
I want to use the picture of an ignited candle. The wax melts and drips down and hardens. Newly melting wax will always need to find new ways but still cools down and hardens. God ignites something new, causing something to move, but it church history shows that always, it quickly cools down and hardens.
Starting in Acts 2 up til today, we can see that flourishing church life always hardens, assumes form and loses vividness. The history of recovery is always like liquid wax trying to find a new way. However, the history of the Church is always a stream of living waters that slows down and loses life and crusts up. There is no law in church history regulating this, but every couple of years, we need to start over. The life of any church is determined by her proximity to Jesus not by her age.
Recovery always starts with fervor for the Lord and His word - the Spirit of God is bringing people in motion, stirring them up. This has a lot to do with spontaneity. In the beginning, there's no big programmes or schedules, things are a matter of life. Naturally, the recovering movement will assume a shape, but nobody cares. Regulations, songs, doctrines, names do not play a role since life is the driving force and the form is only the environment in which life makes it's way.
The other extreme, oldness and crusting, hardness, comes from habit.
People start to use spritual terms habitually, they become empty. An empty tradition is used without reason. Members are unaware why they do what they do. In the moment when a recovery movement becomes old, forms become important, they replace the life. All of a sudden, the forms become a center of attention in word and practice. Life comes out of sight. But when does the misdevelopment start?
At first, it's obvious that the problems are there already when the forms become more important than life. We must be critical when shape or form play a role in the church. Usually, it's the people who have lost the freshness of spiritual life who care for the form. Fear of loss causes these people to believe that with the form, there's the life. Regardless of how much we preach recovery or how much we sing the songs, we won't turn back the wheels of time.
Preaching without Practice
When we teach things that can not be experienced, it proves: there's a lack! We use big terminology, but the question is: can these things be experienced in our church? Can we experience grace, can we experience acceptance, can we experience forgiveness? Or are these just "truths" in our head? When those terms fill the speaking, but not the acts of the members, life has been abandoned. There's a library that isn't in the head, but in life but this library is just as important as a shelf full of doctrine. People fight for doctrine, but do not live them. We need to critically ask the church: do you live what you preach?
Accomplishment and Pride
Pride is a definite sign that the recovery process has been abandoned. Grace in the sense that God gave us salvation for free and that we can add nothing to it is doctrinally clear to most. But when it comes to following the Lord, they apply the principle of accomplishment. People who preach a lot are revered, and those who just keep silent are looked down upon. The more accomplishment is in the minds of a church, the less life there is.
Sometimes, a brother or sister gets up to pray, and we already know the exact words they will say. We'd just want to say "Shutup." They use the strongest words just because. Words flow like a waterfall without content. But they still pray. This form of persevering piety has deceptive character.
Already in the Old Testament, the Lord said "You can have all the festives you want, you can sacrifice as much as you want, you can pray all you want. But I won't hear you, because your heart is far away from Me!"
One day, you sit in the meetings and realize the language is antique. People dress in an outdated fashion. A form has hardened. The young generation realizes it first and tries to do something about it. They fight for new tunes, new ways of speaking the Word, etc. This is understandible, though futile. If you want to change a hardened form, it will break. Even forms that appear to be flexible are still forms and can be quite solid and cold.
Change is possible only when the "wax" melts again. There's reason why the Bible likens God to fire occasionally.
Just remember the Lord's Word: "I came to set the world on fire, and I wish it were ablaze already" (Luke 12:49)
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