Monday, 25 April 2016

Have we lost the plot?

As I engage in debate with other Christians and theologians and church ministers, I keep wondering "have we lost the plot?" Are we spending so much time dealing with these apparently important questions and cultural skews on the gospel message that we are truly loosing the plot when it comes to Christianity? Have we lost the simplicity of the message?

We discuss all sorts of aspects of theology or things like being the best at music, inclusion, having welcoming premises, giving an attractive message or a challenging message, using the latest techno wizardry even whether we should hand out decent coffee or instant coffee before or after church activities. But how do they fit with the message we have been charged to give? Aren't all of these ancillary to the message we are called to give, the message that still seems to hit the spot for many who hear it? And are they any substitute for giving our best to giving out that message?

Jesus seems not to have had food to feed the 5000 or the 4000 let alone coffee, and yet they all ate and were satisfied, men, women and children. The sick and possessed came to him and found healing, the sinful found release and recovery through him. In Jesus the religious (and anyone else who wanted it) found a new track to follow that gave them truth and freedom and hope. He is our example.

Over the centuries theologians and other clever folks have written countless pages on their interpretation of scripture but it seems to me that understanding of scripture is open to all not a reserve for the educated. It is open to all through the work and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus said ...

John 14:26  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 

Joh 16:13  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 

I struggle at times to understand why if we are, as Christians, filled with the Spirit of God, the Spirit of unity, we cannot agree on so many areas of scripture and its interpretation.

Eph 4:2  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Eph 4:3  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Eph 4:4  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;

Jesus' prayer for the church includes this ...
Joh 17:23  I in them and you in me--so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (my emphasis)

Perhaps our biggest issue is that our learning and reading and disputing, sometimes driven by our pride in what we "learn" and apparently understand, gain greater importance than relying on the God of the universe to lead us in all truth and righteousness. My right is better than your right can be the cry."Be still and know that I am God" comes to mind.

I am not trying to offend theologians and those with higher education (after all I have what is considered higher education) but to challenge the way we seem to do things. I struggle with the way in which it seems that God can lead one group to believe that his truth means one thing while leading another to believe the exact opposite? Doesn't this suggest that we simply have not got it yet? Can we not accept that? Must we be right in our understanding to the exclusion of all other interpretations? Are we in danger of and have we (the Church) been in danger of, fitting our understanding to our desires and aspirations (and I include myself in this) or of shaping our understanding to fit the situation or our latest piece of learning?

Some of the most able preachers of the gospel and effective evangelists that I have come across in recent history seem to have been relatively uneducated and yet were greatly used by God (Tozer, Wigglesworth, Hudson Taylor are just some I recall). Often, it seems to me, the simplicity of their approach worked well.

 Have we or are we loosing the simplicity of the message we are called to proclaim by being so polarized in our views?