Casualties of Change – Part 2
God does not change. He remains the same God today as He was yesterday and for all eternity (Hebrew. 13.8). However the world that we live is constantly changing and in the process of decay (1Cor. 7.31). Furthermore the bible prophesies that there will be an end to this world and before that happens there will be some drastic changes. The second epistle to Timothy chapter three warns of some of these changes:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Although God does not change our world is changing and changing fast. During the past century we have seen more change then we have seen since the beginning of time. We would all agree that some of these changes have been wonderful and have impacted our lives in positive ways, both in the way we do things and in the quality of life that we now enjoy. However I do believe that some of these changes are adversely impacting our lives and that we are in danger of losing some important things.
In part one of the “Casualties of Change” we looked at how we have or are in the process of losing the ability to “wait” on God. We have become so focused on ourselves, “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” that we no longer have the desire to seek God and “draw near” to Him. Or perhaps we are just too busy with the pursuit of wealth and career, “lovers of money” that we do not have the time to spend lingering in the life changing presence of the almighty. Consequently we are missing out on the blessings of a deeply satisfying life “in Christ”.
Another casualty of change today is our desire to really “know people”. I believe that there is an area of intimate fellowship that is lacking in the Christian Community today. We do not take the time to really get to know people and as a result we are tricked into believing things that are not true about those who we are in fellowship with. The above scripture warns of “gullibility” when it comes to discerning those who have a form of godliness but are lacking the real depth of a transformed life. These deceivers are able to “worm” their way into people’s lives because they appear to be godly on the outside but they are actually dangerous on the inside. They are “always learning” but never allowing the truth to change their lives. We are warned to have nothing to do with such people. What a description of the time we are now living! A time when we have vast amounts of information, theories, doctrines and philosophies but little change of heart and affections.
Virtual relationships. You have probably heard stories as I have about people who have had an experience meeting someone online and thought they “knew” the person only to find out that they had been deceived. It turned out the person was not the same person in real life as they portrayed on the internet. A term that describes this type of relationship is a “virtual” relationship. I even read an article recently that encouraged church leaders to embrace “virtual” relationships as “real” relationships and if we failed to do so this would be a reason why would fail to impact our culture. The dictionary defines virtual as “very close to being something without actually being it” (Merriam Dictionary). In other words something that is virtual looks real but in essence it is not the genuine article.
Effective ministry. If we do not take the time to know people we cannot effectively minister to the real needs that are present in people’s lives. Nor can we effectively equip people to minister to the needs of those around them. In fact much of ministry today is done in the context of the large group “meeting”. We have become very good at doing meetings where we bring lots of people together for a little while and then send them home until the next meeting. This is a shallow way of how the body of Christ is to function in relation to our fellowship with one another. People long for something deeper. An example of this desire is found in the shift of many away from the traditional larger “church meeting” approach in church attendance to gathering in smaller groups or house churches as the primary way of fellowship. According to research by the Barna Group the “organic” church movement has been rapidly growing in North America for several years. The Barna Group has provided research on their web site to help people understand the dynamics of the organic church movement. Check it out here.
Small Group Ministry. My wife and I have experienced this kind of fellowship. For about three years during our time in Thompson Manitoba a “house church” was our primary source of fellowship with other believers. We met at around 5pm on a Saturday evening in our home for a meal and a time of fellowship. Eventually we would head down stairs for a more formal time of bible study and prayer. As we grew more intimate with one another two things began to happen: We began to effectively minister to the needs of each group member, and we began to experience in a deeper way the life changing presence of God in our lives. Many of us were going through challenging times and we would pour out our hearts to one other and bring our needs before God. We would pray for one another and carefully exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There were no time constraints in our meetings and sometimes we would be on our faces before God until well into the night, not wanting to leave the wonderful sense of God’s presence. On one occasion we even had a spontaneous baptismal service in our hot tub! Although the group eventually disbanded we knew that we had experienced a unique time of ministry and spiritual growth in our lives. Yes there were times when things got messy and our intimate approach to doing church led to brutal honesty and too much knowledge being shared about one another. But I would not trade this experience for anything!
Since that time my life with God has not been the same. Because of that time I have a greater desire than ever before for believers to experience a deeper fellowship with one another and a deeper life with God. I would trade a Sunday morning service any time for an opportunity to meet with believer’s in a setting that would allow for deeper relationship. I am of the opinion that the deep and lasting things happen in the “smaller” setting when we dive under the surface. Don’t get me wrong, good things happen in the corporate setting. The corporate setting is like the “icing” on the cake, we gather together as the larger body to worship the Lord and we are strengthened by the proclamation of God’s word. However the real cake comes in the form in the journey that we experience during the week with other believers when we put the things that we have learned on Sunday into practice!