Well it has, and it's not good news for many churches who have been left behind. They have been playing safe with the devil.. and he's winning the war.
The shift means that there are certain things that many church growth books touted that simply are no longer keys to building fellowships. When I think about the "tools" for church growth there are several which no longer work. The shift has taken place and too many are using a pipe wrench when a screwdriver is required (metaphorically).
Once upon a time if you wanted to grow a church you brought a loaf of bread. Or cookies. Certainly coffee after service. You preached a series of sermons designed to get people back next week. You sent out "glad you came" letters. You did mailers. You did badly disguised "Surveys" to solicit potential members. You tried to make your in house band the best at covering whatever K-Love was playing this week. The pastor did his best to become best friends with100 people. Of course there was the requisite visitor table, greeters and such to make sure no one escaped alive.
You can add a hundred other things. The church growth books are full of them.
Not all they touted were wrong. Children and teenage ministry is essential. Well taught leadership was urgent. You can't spend too much time on that.
The one thing that churches did to promote growth was sensational special events. Sometimes a band, sometimes a special teaching on prayer, leadership, wealth building or a worship conference. All good things, safe things.
The problem is the shift; no one any longer responds to safe. There is too much competition. TV, Movies, Shopping and other things that make "safety" ineffective. Sure there are a few ministries like Joel Osteen who has hit a formula for success that is more Tony Robbins Dale Carnegie than Jesus (eat my flesh drink my blood). So in order to try to draw a crowd (read that increase offerings) people are replicating the safe they think works elsewhere and does...for a while.
Here's the issue, we don't serve a safe God. In fact He is a God of infinite power and might. Creator of heaven and earth. Mighty in exploits. He isn't looking for safe, He is looking for overcomers. Overcoming takes more than being safe.
In his book "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" CS Lewis has this exchange between Mr Beaver who is taking care of Peter, Susan and Lucy. Lucy asks about ASLAN (Jesus), "IS HE SAFE?"
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”Yet in today's representation of Aslan on earth (Jesus) we have degraded him to a Safe God. The world no longer wants what has become a lukewarm activity based Christianity. We are not reaching them any more. I have watched this in my 40 years as a Christian. The drift. Well the drift has stopped and now the real hunger is for something less safe.
I was part of the IHOP movement for many years. Was there the day Mike Bickle turned the key in the door in May of 1999. It was a heady time. I still stop in from time to time when I am in KC. Yet.. things have even moved from there. Prayer and worship are safe. No one is particularly stretched or threatened by them. No risk Christianity. If you mess up praying or sing badly God won't strike you dead deaf or dumb.
I have nothing against worship conferences, I enjoy them. But I'm an insider. I have nothing against prayer conferences, people need to be encouraged to pray.
They have a familiar pattern. A speaker or leader is brought in. They most likely have have book or CD series to sell on Prayer or Worship. They speak on it. They demonstrate it. They encourage it. They may even lay hands on people to release them in the gift. It's all good.
Yet when in a post from a day or two ago I suggested that we need to do the same in releasing all of the spiritual gifts in the Body of Christ, there was push-back. People objected to the idea. Some actually said so. There has been lots of goofiness. There has been abuse, but if functionally Prayer and Worship are part of what should happen in a fellowship of believers, isn't there more?
I have a big black book. BIBLE it says on the cover. I note that there are several things that those mentioned in Ephesians 4 are supposed to equip the Saints in the work of the ministry to accomplish what God wants to accomplish as detailed in 1 Corinthians 12.
If we are going to get out of the boat and start to walk on water as Jesus calls, it will take risk. It won't be safe. But it will be GOOD.
Normative Christianity was supposed to have risk. Prophecy (what if you get it wrong?), Healing (what if someone doesn't get healed?), Word of Knowledge (What if they miss it?), Word of Wisdom (what if it's not always really wise), Discerning of Spirits (What if someone starts seeing spooks everywhere), Miracles (Don't get people's hopes up, it might not happen and they will leave), Faith (Oh boy, we know what happens when hyper faith is ginned up) and for goodness sake, Tongues and interpretations of Tongues, If you want to go there.. OK.. but it's pretty risky. Some people don't believe in tongues. We sure don't want to run anyone off by emphasizing something that might not get our virtual set of encyclopedias sold now do we? They need to keep coming back till we have unveiled every chapter preaching to them starting with A and ending with Z.
So none of these are taught. None of these are focused on in teaching. None of these have a special speaker come in and testify what happens. This means we are trying to foist a safe Christianity on people who simply aren't interested.
What if people ARE HEALED, ARE BUILT UP IN FAITH, FOR MIRACLES, BEGIN TO DISCERN SPIRITS WELL, PROPHESY, BRING WORDS OF KNOWLEDGE AND SUPERNATURAL WISDOM. What if according to 1 Corinthians 14 we began to act less safe.. wouldn't this happen?
Will prayer conferences and worship meetings alone bring unbelievers under conviction? Again I have nothing against them, It's just that we must get out of the metaphorical boat.
12 Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.
22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
There is a dying world. The battle requires arrows of truth that transforms people. We are poking at the enemy with a wet noodle. It's not working.
Let's start doing the stuff. Let's start preparing our people to do all the stuff. YOU ARE A PART OF THE ANSWER TO EVERY PRAYER YOU PRAY. So if you are going to pray, then you must prophesy, build faith, speak of God's miracles, discern what spirits are abroad, offer words of knowledge, give encouragement with wisdom -- in other words be more than a prayer. Minister to them. Pray in tongues over them. Be sensitive to what the Spirit of God would have you do, then be BOLD be STRONG. Shed the timidity that causes you to hold back and be safe. Be Bold Be Strong, for the Lord Thy GOD is with THEE..
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
1 Timothy 1:7Now GO! Take off the safety. You can't hit any mark as long as the safety is on. Ready Fire Aim...