The following is a short chapter from my book, “And No Religion, Too” from 2008. ANRT did not have the reach, or a fraction of the popularity, of “Sincerely, Jesus,” but those who did take the chance on it reported some awesome testimonies of how it helped them reevaluate their perspective on, what we coined as, the Spectator Church. I get occasional notes to this day from someone who found a copy on a friends bookshelf or Half Price Books.
I’m sharing this today because we’ll be revising and expanding ANRT in early 2020, so the original version will just be available for a couple more months. There may be a few folks who would like to have an original, personally, I think I’ll order a few for nostalgia, I think it’s a pretty good little book.
Anyway, without further explanation, here is Progeny, chapter 10 of And No Religion, Too. My prayer is that what may have offended in 2008 will be embraced in 2019. God bless you, dear one – Ed
We have three girls. Like their mother, all of our girls grew up knowing Jesus. If anyone thinks I’m at all radical they should see my kids. These youngsters actually believe God can do anything. They have the audacity to believe that the incarnation of Christ meant that the world could be made whole. Sheesh, kids these days. Guess what, we all believed the same thing when we were young. Over the course of time we grow older, wiser, and sometimes a little jaded by the ugliness of the world. Our belief in global wholeness becomes intellectually balanced with the realities of life. People get sick, they die, tragedies happen, bridges collapse, friends get divorced, and unwanted children are orphaned and starve. Life happens to all of us and has a way of sucking the hope out of all but the heartiest. So we settle into our churches and ourselves and try to do as little harm as possible hoping that maybe our kids will be able to make a difference in the places where we fell short. Unfortunately, I think our parents, and theirs and the ones before them, hoped for the same thing.
By now you may understand that my personal belief is that the reason we’re not moving the banner further up the hill, truly bringing wholeness to the planet for whom Christ died, is because the religious system, passed to us like a scepter from the fourth century, has inherent flaws that prohibit the church from truly accomplishing the great commission. I don’t think an objective look at the wealthy Western church in relation to the state of affairs in the world at large could possibly reach a different conclusion. Christ has overcome the world. He has made His body more than conquerors through Himself. The church seems happily content, rather than uncomfortably conquering—more interested in entertaining ourselves than healing the world (follow the money). It doesn’t have to be that way. We can begin to take steps to recapture the heart of our commission. We can pass a different baton to our progeny. They don’t have to inherit a flawed system that forces them to contort and conform to it, even though it doesn’t fit them. If they just assume the current church model they’ll end up in the same frustrated place at the end of their journey. How do I know that for sure? Because of the example of history, seventeen hundred years of it.
I was excited to learn of a group of young people who were planning to launch a fresh expression of Christ life among the people of their age group. What an opportunity! I envisioned how free they would be to listen to the Lord and create a community unlike any I had ever imagined. How I longed to hear what God was saying to them that would prove truly revolutionary and change their world. It turned out that the group aspired only to create a younger version of what they were all familiar with, which is exactly what they did. So they rented a little building and had someone put together a band and arranged for someone to preach and mind the children and the whole nine, typical, yards. How disheartening it was to see them retreat into a little box like the rest of the church world. But it wasn’t their fault; it was ours. We aren’t modeling anything different so how should young people know that they are free to dream differently. I believe God is trying to get our attention. He is still Creator God even if the church is stuck in a mire of imitation.
It’s impossible for me to describe how badly I want for my children and grandchildren to experience an authentic expression of church life. If, in forty or fifty years they have become content to assume a role in the old spectator model of church, content to fuss about apathy and content to see a person healed or saved once in a blue moon while the world continues to spin broken, it will totally break my heart — because in their hearts they know better. At least they do right now while they can still hear God challenging them to do something new. What those of us with a few more miles should begin to do is encourage their radical side. We should begin to challenge them to take the Bible at face value, and present their lives as holy, living sacrifices to God’s service, even when they sense our generation edging away from the altar.