Monday, 1 August 2011

The Church Today?

The following is an extract from a book written by a man in his sixties as he takes a long hard look at the church. Read it with an open mind and then read the comment at the end:

“The treacherous enemy facing the church of Jesus Christ today is the dictatorship of the routine, when the routine becomes "lord" in the life of the church. Programs are organized and the prevailing conditions are accepted as normal. Anyone can predict next Sunday's service and what will happen. This seems to be the most deadly threat in the church today. When we come to the place where everything can be predicted and nobody expects anything unusual from God, we are in a rut. The routine dictates, and we can tell not only what will happen next Sunday, but what will occur next month and, if things do not improve, what will take place next year. Then we have reached the place where what has been determines what is, and what is determines what will be.

That would be perfectly all right and proper for a cemetery. Nobody expects a cemetery to do anything but conform. The greatest conformists in the world today are those who sleep out in the community cemetery. They do not bother anyone. They just lie there, and it is perfectly alright for them to do so. You can predict what everyone will do in a cemetery from the deceased right down to the people who attend a funeral there. Everyone and everything in a cemetery has accepted the routine. Nobody expects anything out of those buried in a cemetery. But the Church is not a cemetery and we should expect much from it. Because what has been should not be lord to tell us what is, and what is should not be ruler to tell us what will be. God’s people are supposed to grow. As long as there is growth, there is an air of unpredictability. Certainly we cannot predict exactly, but in many churches you just about can. Everybody knows just what will happen, and this has become our deadliest enemy. We blame the devil, the “last days” and anything else we can think of, but the greatest enemy is not outside of us. It is within—it is an attitude of accepting things as they are. We believe that what was must always determine what will be and as a result we are not growing in expectation.

The progressive stages
As soon as someone begins talking like this, the Lord’s people respond by getting busy. What I am talking about, however, is internal. It is a matter of the soul and mind that ultimately determines our conduct. Let me show you the progressive stages.

I begin with what I will call the rote. This is repetition without feeling. If someday someone would read the Scripture and believe is and would believe what is sung in the great Christian hymns, there would be a blessed spiritual revolution underway in a short time. But too many are caught up in the rote, repeating without feeling, without meaning, without wonder and without any happy surprises or expectations. In our services God cannot get in because we have it all fixed up for Him. We say, “Lord, we are going to have it this. Now kindly bless our plans.” We repeat without feeling, we sing without wonder, and we listen without surprise. That is my description of the rote.

We go one step further and come to what I will call the rut, which is bondage to the rote. When we are unable to see and sense bondage to the rote, we are in a rut. For example, a man may be sick and not even know it. The doctors may have confided in the man’s wife and said: “We don’t want to frighten your husband, but he could drop any minute. He is critically ill, so just expect it at any moment.” But the man himself does not know he is seriously ill. He goes about his business as though nothing is wrong.  He may play golf or tennis, maybe even go on a hunting trip. He is sick, and yet he does not know how sick he really is. This may in fact hasten his end. Not knowing is risky business and full of danger. Spiritually speaking, the rut is bondage to the rote, and the greatest danger lies in our inability to sense or feel this bondage.

There is a third word, and I do not particularly like to use it, but the history of the church is filled with it. The word is rot. The church is afflicted with dry rot. This is best explained when the psychology of non-expectation takes over and spiritual rigidity sets in, which is an inability to visualize anything better, a lack of desire for improvement. “

Which stage are we at in the Anglican Church today? The author of the above is A.W.Tozer writing in the late fifties. He could just as well be writing today.

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