From: Highland Christian News URL: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/church-news Date: 10 November 2003 "The State of the Church" -by Colin Wilson. For a period of over 5 years or so I have been increasingly bumping into committed Christians who are unsettled. They often find difficulty in articulating how they feel, but the general drift is a dissatisfaction with the level of Christian living in their own lives and in their churches. In the past, a common reponse in these situations has been to move church (and I should stress that the folk I am referring to are not immature church-hoppers looking for the ideal church) but part of the perplexity that they are sensing is rooted in the fact that surveying a cosmopolitan church scene (everything from strict Calvinist to chandelier-swinging) they do not see evidence in any of the churches of whatever it is that is eluding them. This may sound a bit complicated, and it is. The best way of summarising is to say that folk (maybe not thousands but signficant numbers) are unhappy with their own situation (personal and church), are not sure what they are looking for, and do not see any promise in the churchscape around them. I might describe it as a God-given unsettledness, a holy dissatisfaction, a hunger and thirst for reality. The "disconnect" which they seem to feel is the disparity between what they read in the Bible (typically the book of Acts) and what they are experiencing in their own situations. Many are puzzled and insecure - feeling "out of step" with others who seem to be quite comfortable with the general scene (apart that is from being concerned about falling numbers in churches). Meanwhile, society in general is MUCH less inclined just to offer unthinking allegiance to organisations and institutions. Indeed there is a growing disillusionment with structures. Folk are prepared to get behind specific initiatives, projects or people with whom they can identify, but they are no longer inclined just to automatically support historic ties. This dynamic is also in evidence in the church. One result of this is declining attendance and financial support (especially at the younger end of the age spectrum). Although there are perhaps several different views concerning what exactly will be the shape of the church into the 21st century, there seems to be a consistent view that it will be different; and what we are currently experiencing is the transition in process. The words I hear are "liquid church, emerging church, unstructured church". We have also heard the term "cell church". My concern is that the latter is often described in the context of cells/super cells/mega cells with an "apostle" sitting atop the pile. The other concern that I have is that we will succumb to the seemingly-inate urge to "organise" everything in new "structures". SHAKING Structures which have stood for hundreds of years are in imminent danger of toppling. And those who derive their status, income, ministry base from organised religion are most at risk. I do not discount the notion that God might be behind all of this; indeed I believe that He is. And in that sense the general situation could turn around tomorrow. However my sense is that there is a winnowing, shaking, refining, purifying, purging going on. I do not believe that God is going to send revival into the churches in their current situation. And to that extent, I feel that the shaking etc. will intensify. REFINING Over the last decade (as it seems to me) personal lives, local churches and denominations have been shaken to the core by "covered-over sin". Minor issues which would normally be easily dealt with have been causing much deeper and more serious problems to be forced into the open, as great eruptions. The latter have often been suppressed (pushed into the basement) over a period of years. Ezek 13:9-10: "My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD. 'Because they lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no peace...'" KINGDOM BUILDING versus EMPIRE BUILDING I believe what God is looking for is a chosen people who will give over their hearts, their lives, their all to the will of the Father. Names and reputations and religious machinery that have been built on man's value system will be shown for what they are. Pride has been the driving force behind so much of what we do. COMMITMENT Western Christianity has succumbed to the values of our age. Our lives are governed by the same aspirations, values, lifestyles, choices as the secular world around us. In the matter of "giving" God doesn't want a tithe. He wants our all.