We ended last week with a question about the Church. More specifically, a question about the Church adapting its message about Jesus Christ to suit the culture of the day.
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
Well…that depends. It depends on the Churches understanding of its mission. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The “Great Commission” is Jesus’ final imparting of direction to the Church, the universal Church, all of us individually and all of us corporately. To make disciples is to make “followers of Christ.” On this point is where I want to zero in. To make a “follower of Christ” is to present the truth of Christ wrapped in love. This manner of teaching, or mentoring, puts the Holy Spirit in play. It is less academic instruction and more relational modeling of how to live. The method, or application, of discipling will change as the culture changes because the exterior influences of society change. Now…evil is still evil, sin is still sin, but it always comes cloaked in the sheep’s clothing of the present culture.
As the culture changes, so do the “facts” we take for granted. For instance, most of you reading this devotional have been influenced by a culture that places a lot of faith in scientific fact. If it can be seen, measured, dissected, and analyzed then the truth can be known about that particular thing…whatever it may be. These empirical pieces of data lead us into logic and rational thought. Culturally speaking (and I’ll make this brief), in the 16th and 17th centuries, the world experienced a huge cultural shift. The Reformation period of the Church, the Age of Enlightenment, and the Scientific Revolution gave rise to a more educated society which was taught to think for themselves and to find proof for their beliefs. While it encouraged “Christ followers” to read, and interpret, Scripture for themselves, it also taught society to question things which cannot be proved without a shadow of a doubt. Spiritually, the age of “skepticism” was born. The Church, now fragmented because of the Reformation, was still battling internally and externally, over differing theologies and understandings of doctrine. The schism between the Protestants and Catholics began to widen as the culture, at large, moved toward science as a method to answer life’s greater questions.
Eventually, the Church responded by discipling in a point-counterpoint method. Our methods were reactionary to the direction of the culture. We created theologies which refuted science and sought to win souls for Jesus through evidence. We became the “Evidence that demands a Verdict” Church. As I said earlier, most of us, our products from this type of evangelism and disciple making. This method, however, was necessary because of the culture in which we lived. The “We don’t need God” attitude of that society was permeating our schools, our governments, and our families. As evidence to the effectiveness of the Churches efforts, I give you us. We are here…! The Church is still here…! We are still “followers of Christ” an answering the call of the “Great Commission.” Even though we are still here, that doesn’t make point-counterpoint discipling the end all method to teach others about Jesus. In other words, it doesn’t make it TRUTH. It only makes it true for the particular culture it was designed to reach.
As long as the Church understands its role, as the “gateway” to His Holy Presence, as opposed to a “destination” of His Holy Presence, we can continue to adapt the methods of discipling in a changing culture to continually put the Holy Spirit in play. Putting the Holy Spirit in play is always the key ingredient to any discipling relationship. Jesus says it best (this is always the case, by the way) in John 14:16-17, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” The Helper, will be with us forever and will lead us into all truth. This is where we need to sit back and let those words really sink in. The Helper will lead us into all truth, in fact, Jesus says that specifically in John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth…” As that settles a bit into our minds…let me toss out this curve ball.
“Is there more than one truth? I mean…the Church seems fragmented through multiple denominations and Catholics and Orthodox all seeming to point fingers at each other constantly. It seems like the ancient pathways to the wilderness are hidden by the “man tracks” of glass, brick, stone, and differing theologies. Is the Spirit of truth leading us into different truths…?”
The Spirit of truth is leading us to the TRUTH. The TRUTH isn’t an idea, or a theology, or a building…the TRUTH is Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, when put in play, leads the faithful into the wilderness where His Holy Presence may be found. Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul, “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written,
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” 1 Corinthians 2:6-13
Remember, the role of the Church is to ready the faithful to journey into the wilderness of His Holy Presence, guided by the Holy Spirit. The wisdom needed to ready the faithful is by the guiding of the Spirit of God. Although this guiding is universal, it will look inherently different based on culture and generation. In other words, the expounding of truth will be tailored to suit the present culture or generation. That expounding of truth, may look wrong to those of a different culture or generation…and that’s OK…because the Holy Spirit is the One guiding it. We should not judge other bodies of believers who employ different faith practices or adhere to differing theologies if they are indeed, readying the faithful to journey. That would be a judgement against the the Spirit of truth.
“OK…I get that, but is journeying into the wilderness really necessary to my faith? ”
“Ah…good question. See ya next week.”