Open The Door
Last year’s “DaVinci Code” created quite a stir in the Christian community in America. Seminaries and churches offered special courses in how to refute the book or use it as an introduction to witnessing opportunities. Recently, I read a similar novel (“The Last of the Templars”) but it lacks the public relations push that “DaVinci” had.
In this novel, a story is woven about a modern-day professor who desires to “bring down” the Roman Catholic Church by recovering a document discovered by the Templars in the middle ages and hidden by them. The manuscript supposedly proved that Christ was only human and never resurrected from the dead. In the novel, the document is found, not by the professor, but by an archeologist who has become involved in the hunt.
At the end of the book the archeologist is washed ashore on a Greek island after a storm wrecks the ship that she is on. Her experiences on the island convince her to destroy this manuscript that she had discovered rather than discredit Christian belief. The thing that brings her to this decision is the simple faith of the islanders, who live as disciples of Christ with lives full of good deeds and sincere prayer.
As with the “DaVinci Code,” I place no credence in the “conspiracy theory” behind this novel. However, I was impressed by the end of this novel.
I wondered as I finished the novel if lost America sees many examples of the simple faith that this fictional archeologist saw. As I look, I see a church culture that has gotten wealthy and proud. It amazes me to read the statistics on the profits garnered by the Christian publishing concerns in America. I see “tele-pastors” whose message focuses more on money than the gospel of Christ. I think about how much money we have invested in buildings. A friend told me about his experience of visiting one of our flagship churches in a southern state. He said that the other pastors in that association refer to the building as “the palace,” a far cry from “silver and gold have I none” (Acts 3:6).
At the same time I am all too aware of other troubling statistics. The rate of new converts to Christ is not keeping up with the population growth rate. Most churches are not growing, and many are dying. Most of the churches that are growing are doing so by transfer growth from other churches.
George Barna in his book, “Revolution,” describes a trend of Christians abandoning institutional churches in favor of house churches. He believes that this movement will gain in strength over the next few decades. If Barna is right, there is cause for concern and a re-examination of what we are doing in church life.
As I finished the novel and considered what I know about today’s church, I also wondered what would happen if non-Christians daily encountered a simple Christianity lived out in the life of believers.
Mega-churches as well as plateaued and declining churches are not generally producing that kind of disciple. I like some aspects of the house-church movement, but will it be the revolution that Barna hopes it will become? Will it produce a simple Christianity that generates a winsome type of disciple?
What is the answer? My friend, Georges Boujakly, who shares this editorial page with me, has been driving at it for the last year. We must come back to Jesus in a real, vital and life-changing experience.
I have come to a place in my own walk where I really don’t believe that contemporary worship, “seeker sensitive” services, or other methods will somehow be the magic “bullet” that saves the American church. I also don’t think that returning to the patterns of the 1950s and 1960s church will save the American church of today.
Somehow, we have to rediscover the implications of the fact that the church is His not ours. We have to rediscover that we don’t have the answers; only He does. Somehow, we have to recognize that the music we sing, the clothes we wear, and the style of ministry don’t guarantee a real connection with Christ.
It seems to me that there is a very simple answer. Christ gave it to us Himself. Listen to it again, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me” Revelation 3:20 (NASB). Further, Jesus said very simply, “follow me” Luke 9:23 (NASB).
As I look at the religious landscape, I do see signs that some churches and believers are opening the door and following. Will you open the door and follow? Christ is ready to come in and restore us.
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