I’m seeing others who also are quietly moving forward, with fire stirring in their spirits, to proclaim true repentance, Christ’s Lordship and the Kingdom of God rather than conformist, complacent Christianity.
These co-conspirators are being compelled by God to preach outside our churches because too many of our pastors have been unwilling, so far, to be jarred out of their desire for peace, stability and the comfort of long-standing personal relationships. For those pastors, complacency has become a hindrance to God’s progressively expanding Kingdom.
This morning, I listened to two messages by an itinerant preacher named Paul Washer and wept deeply. He is one of the most compelling co-conspirators for the Kingdom I’ve ever heard.
The first message is addressed to the American Church and her pastors. It’s not short, but it’s powerful and authentic.
The second message is directed to youth, particularly teenagers, but is applicable to all of us. He’s speaking at a huge youth missions conference. They are clapping and responding to him until he says something that stuns the audience, and from that point on you could have heard a pin drop.
I don’t normally pass along things like this, but I encourage each of you to listen to the second message. If you are in leadership, then please also listen to the first. Once you begin listening, you likely won’t be able to stop.
As I listened this morning, God drove me not only to weeping, but also to renewed repentance as I listened to Paul Washer bring God’s Word – in grace, love, power and truth– to the American Church. I was greatly encouraged as this man, who is a young yet mighty voice to the Church, demonstrates that not all of God’s people have bent their knees to the idolatries of our age and in our churches.
He preaches the Gospel of true repentance, sacrificial discipleship and transforming Lordship, which is the same Gospel I’ve been proclaiming in the jails, in my college courses, and before the nations for the last five years. It’s the Gospel that God compels me to live and teach as I mentor and prepare this new, emerging generation to take its turn at the frontiers of God’s Kingdom.
Interestingly, God largely has constrained me from teaching or even wanting to teach such a comprehensive Gospel in our churches over the last several years. Instead, he’s sent me to the jails and to other places where there are broken people who understand their own brokenness but want to be whole. I’m sent there because few churches so far have wanted to get outside their zones of comfort to experience a wild, fierce God.
Yes, our churches hold services in the jails, have their programs for other social outcasts, but they seldom engage in the messy business of getting intimately involved and personal with broken people who have real problems. Rather, broken people with messy lives too often are treated as “objects” of program-oriented and keep-them-at-a-distance “ministries” that make us feel good, but keep them at a distance.
Some may protest that I’m being too harsh. But here’s the test: Are people outside the social strata of your church — and the comfort zone of your own social conventions — being invited into your homes and to share a meal at your tables? Are they being integrated into your lives and being made a fully welcome part of your community?
In other words, have they ceased being “them”, “those” and “other” by being truly welcomed into “us”? And do we value them above our own comfort zones by making room in our communities for their own and often different perspectives and experiences — which I’ve found are rich and vibrant and sorely needed?
In his mercy, God is beginning to use new voices, and re-energize some old voices, as He calls pastors and churches back to His Lordship and to advancing His Kingdom — rather than perpetuating our own values and comfort zones. The main prerequisite to His Lordship and Kingdom, however, is true repentance.
My generation seems to have forgotten that God is not passive, but I have hope that this emerging generation will quicken the dead among us!
If I’m right, and God is starting to use this emerging generation to force our pastors to once again lead His flock into true repentance, then there is hope for our churches and for my generation. If, however, there is no repentance by my generation’s pastors or our churches, then God is going to let “church” as we know it die on the vine, prune the vine and allow new shoots to spring forth. Those new shoots will be this emerging generation as they capture the energy and the vision needed to question what “is” and hear from God on what “can be”.
I can affirm from my own experiences that the Gospel preached in these videos is true and right. As I’ve been quietly proclaiming the same themes in my own limited spheres of ministry, they have borne good fruit. While proclaiming an authentic Gospel, rather than the lethargic easy-believism that now seems to grip my generation, God has been transforming lives. Some of my prior posts to this blog give testimony to that fact.
After ministering in jail or in my college classes to hungry and earnest young people, I often have to sit after-wards for ten or so minutes in my pick-up truck while the power and anointing subsides enough to once again navigate home. God is stirring, moving and transforming, yet those in our churches and our pastorates are largely disengaged from real ministry, uninvolved in what God is doing, and woefully unaware!
I don’t know Paul Washer, and never even heard of him before, but I can affirm that he has touched God’s heart and is speaking God’s words to the American Church as it exists today.
Too many of our leaders seek peace, familiarity and relationships above all else. These are good in the right context, but they must never be made more important than God’s will – which, if you get right down to it, is what lies at the core of God’s Kingdom and His Lordship.
God is beginning to unleash his Word among this emerging generation, and they are beginning to call our pastors (and through them hopefully my generation’s believers) to choose: peace and comfort or change and vision?
I believe the authentic Gospel is beginning to move out from our jails and those places where desperate people want, and are finding, all of God and his Kingdom. It is spreading from our missions and extra-church ministries and back into the heart of our churches – starting first with those who hold positions of leadership but for whatever reason stopped leading years ago. I pray that we hear what God is calling forth within this emerging generation and now bringing into our churches, so that all of us can be challenged to become part of what God is doing today.
The days of introspectively focused churches, or conversely performance and program-oriented churches, are coming to an end. Soon, we no longer will have the luxury of being little more than good theater on Sunday mornings, or on the other hand mere hospitals for hurting people who gather each week to sooth their mutual pains and weariness among the security of familiar faces.
We have been tempted too long by too many seductive things (the appeal of snazzy worship and ear-tickling sermons, the comfort of unchallenged relationships, the destructive mercy that demands nothing, or the cheap grace that costs nothing), having placed them above the need to embrace growth, struggle, overcoming, maturing and life as ambassadors of God’s redemptive will in all spheres of human endeavor!
Those idolatries in our churches also include easy-believism and the stagnation of complacency. As a result, our churches have had far too little to offer an emerging generation that wants significance for their lives and to sacrifice their lives for that which is bigger than themselves.
Some in my generation mistakenly see only the prevailing narcissism of the emerging generation, but that’s the very thing that’s challenging them to begin asking questions and to begin truly seeking Christ’s Lordship and His Kingdom.
My heart has been breaking for many years as I surveyed the state of Christ’s bride and saw, by and large, the extremes of either program/performance driven churches or else complacent/stagnant local congregations. Through the stirrings of this new generation, God is giving our churches a renewed chance to be part of his Kingdom – first by shaking and testing those who’ve held positions as shepherds over His flock, then seeing who among us can once again lead His people and wisely mentor those same young men and women.
I’m not sure that my generation’s pastors are going to be able to make this transition. It is hard to break out of long established comfort zones. Some will make it, but many won’t. Those who can’t make the transition need to be honest and gracefully step down, while considering how else they may serve God. Regardless, God’s new move is being instigated by young men and women who can’t help but challenge the lethargy and intra-church idolatries of my generation. This will be good, but also discomforting for many.
My heart stirs as I desire to be part of what God wants to do today. He is using this emerging generation to question much that my generation has clinged to in our complacencies. My generation will either listen and adapt, or the emerging generation will leave us behind as they zing forward as arrows seeking Christ’s Lordship and His Kingdom.
Come oh God, let it be so! Cut out what is of us and our desires, and build what is of you and your will!
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