Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Future of The Church

I've noticed that every blog I visit is on a Christmas theme. Certainly there's nothing wrong with that and it is a no-brainer but to expect that this time of year. But I've decided to think about other big issues during this season just to avoid another blog about the meaning of Christmas.

I think about this issue a lot. The future. I think it is tied to my own sense of mortality. It came up again most recently with the lost of Denise's father. It is only natural that when one is surrounded with the emotions of death, that death becomes paramount in one's thinking for a while.

Denise and I had this conversation soon after we got back from the funeral. She brought it up. She asked me if I thought Jesus was coming back soon. I know what she was thinking at the time. This life on earth was too painful for her at that moment and she wanted it to end.

I personally lean in the post-mil direction when it comes to eschatology. My belief in this view is so fragile that I would never promote it here (and I'm not doing that now) or argue with anyone about it. But basically (if you have forgotten what this implies) I believe that the Church will eventually prevail . . . making a major impact in rolling back all that is bad here on this earth. Not totally of course. But that the Church will be God's tool of redemption of all societies on earth. That the gospel will spread to the ends of the earth, not brining a wacky form of Evangelicalism (which would not render the "heathen" in a better position) but a good, pure gospel. Then, when this peace is established, there will be a very long "millennium" (not necessarily meaning 1000 years but a very long time) of beauty on earth, and then Christ returns here to earth to rule. The earth will be cleansed and fixed (renewed) and those living, and those of us who have died, will be brought back to enjoy this new earth forever. Eternity spent here in this fixed physical world.

So I reminded Denise of my views. So, since we are nowhere near this point, of the Church redeeming the world, I don't think Jesus is coming back within a few hundred years . . . if not a few thousand.

I do understand that most American Christians are pre-mil post-trib leaning (or dogmatic on). I respect that position as well. The truth is that none of us know. The best we can do is make some educated guesses. So, it not an essential.

So, while I sometimes struggle with depression, and frequently (okay, always) struggle with anxiety . . . I am an eternal optimist. Different form my post trib, pre mil friends, I don't believe that this world is in the process of going down the toilet. I don't think we are far worse off than we where in the 60s. When you take the world as a whole (rather than our little, ole American corner) I think you can make strong arguments that we are better off. Atrocities have always been part of the human race . . . since Cain and Abel. There are far fewer now than ever before. Thanks to world wide, instant communication . . . it is much harder to abuse people as it was in the past. Sure, we still hear about terrible things . . . but, in my opinion, it is becoming more and more difficult to hide them. Even here in the US, I think that incest is far less common now than in the darkness of the "perfect," Christian utopia of the 50s. You could say the same about a lot of other sins. Now they are just more out in the open. That's my point.

So, after this very long introduction, the question becomes . . . what will the Church look like in, say, a hundred years? What bout a thousand?

In my view, because the Church is run by people, and people are fallen . . . and messed up, it is under constant need for reformation. Of course the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages had some hideous aspects, but the protestants didn't "fix" things. They improved things, and then the Catholic Church went through its own repentance and fix some of their things internally.

Like our dear, late friend, Michael Spencer believed, I think the age of the Evangelicals is over . . . hopefully. I sense we are in this phase of transition and the dust is still settling.

In my previous church, the pastor often voiced his opinion that all the forms of the emerging church, the house church movement, and of course the Catholics and other Orthodox Churches were not the "real Church." Of course he was wrong. But I've carried this on too long already. But I have this great optimist that the next phase of church life will be much better than those forms which have come before . . . at least one can hope.

Maybe I'll be back to talk about this more . . . maybe not.

4 comments:

trevor said...

Thanks, as ever an interesting post. I'd be interested in hearing more of your take on the broader church; a big question for me as a post-evangelical is how I relate to the streams of Christianity that I'm less familiar with. I can't be satisfied with the approach that says 'the church is the body of believers in Christ, unless they happen to be Orthodox, or Catholic, or Anglican, or ...'

I'm hoping that there's an approach that acknowledges both the shortcomings and strengths of the different streams, and manages to somehow transcend the centuries of animosity that have existed between some of the different expressions of church.

Anonymous said...

Denise and I had this conversation soon after we got back from the funeral. She brought it up. She asked me if I thought Jesus was coming back soon. I know what she was thinking at the time. This life on earth was too painful for her at that moment and she wanted it to end.

In many ways, Pre-Trib Pre-Mil has become little more than the Ultimate Escape Fantasy, hard to distinguish from suicidal fixation. I saw this a LOT during the Seventies, the heyday of The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay.

In my previous church, the pastor often voiced his opinion that all the forms of the emerging church, the house church movement, and of course the Catholics and other Orthodox Churches were not the "real Church."

I assume the only Real Church (TM) was the one he was pastoring? Or those who agreed 1000% with him?

Check my story (plug) "Dyads" in Infinite Space, Infinite God II (/plug). The "True Remnant Fellowship" (a whole DOZEN strong!) is where that attitude can end up.

Headless Unicorn Guy

jmj said...

HUG, I will have to look for that story.

I wonder if we would have been better off if we never had tried to define (limit) the church beyond the Nicene Creed.

I've found, like my last church, that those who emphasize being "Biblical" are least so. Such as my last pastor said he was going to be "anal about being Biblical." That was on paper. In reality it wasn't Biblical at all. The pastor as sole dictator is not a Biblical model of church.

But I dream about what the future, good, church will look like? Maybe there will be a return the broad The Church, but far different than the dysfunctional forms of the Medieval Church.

Steve Scott said...

JMJ,

"But I have this great optimist that the next phase of church life will be much better than those forms which have come before . . . at least one can hope."

Gee, I hope so. (I clicked through from iMonk to find your blog.) I'm one who is out in that "wilderness" - haven't been to church basically since June - and I'm thinking there is some kind of old/new wineskins principle going on. I'm wondering if God isn't shaking things out to bring something better. I may be going through pains over all this in the mean time, but will things turn out much better? We'll see.