The Repentance of the Church: A Beginning

Something had been scratching inside for a long time. For probably two years now, this nagging feeling like we were missing out on something was growing and spilling out into my teaching and my work with the youth group. Lessons revolved around the sliver of the gospel that seemed to be all we ever talked about. Like light pouring through a keyhole into a dark room I felt we were stuck in the dim light of a tiny-gospel and I wanted to bust down the door and see what more could be known.

My studies led me into the pages of Revelation and the teachings of N.T. Wright, Scot McKnight and Bruxy Cavey among others. As dreams of a larger, further reaching understanding of the gospel, one in which Jesus stands at the prominent center of all of history as the person who has altered all of reality forever, my attention turned toward the ministry of the youth group.

Something seemed to be wrong. Something in our relationship with the church, something in the random nature of the on-going faith of our students, something seemed to be missing the mark.

Conversations began about changing the youth group in our church as this summer began, and now as school’s starting many of us in our church are beginning to feel as though the conversation needs to involve the church as a whole. Perhaps the most amazing thing to come out of this so far has been the realization that we’re not alone. The Spirit is moving among many Christians who are asking serious questions about the church’s self-identity, her mission, and her message. God is certainly up to something.

Like a person coming out of the fog of anesthetic, we’re all beginning to look around at the church and ask, “What’s been going on here anyway?”

For some, the problem has been that we’ve taken our cues from the secular world as to  how we’ve structured church and ignored the clear teaching of the bible. While others don’t go quite that far, they still see the segregation of the church by age and stage of life as something to be addressed in order to continue to disciple people into a faithful life in Jesus. The very message of the church is being questioned, as is our understanding of the relationship that Jesus offers between believer and God. In all these fascinating ways, people are turning around, looking at the church and asking, “Where have we missed it?”

Personally, I have a hunch the answers “all of the above and more.” We’ve only just begun the conversation in our church and already we’ve asked all of these questions in more ways than one. This Sunday we informed the church that this conversation is going on and that it’s not a secret, so I feel more free than I have to talk about that here. I want to share our experience, our conversation, out loud and with people from other places and stages in the discussion. I hope that will lead to a greater understanding as to how we move forward.

I believe God is moving among his people, there’s no question about it. If we will listen, his Kingdom might be known more fully in this world and he may teach us how to live out the answer to our prayer, “May your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

How do you think the church has missed the mark in our understanding of who God is, what he’s done in Jesus, and what that means for the church? How have you seen God moving in the church to address these issues?

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