3 Reforms Needed in the Church

2944813f856f876da02e15e0a5f5083bIn these tumultuous days in which we live, it seems the importance of having good character is becoming a thing of the past. Character is defined as, “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing; qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity.” Integrity adds another nuance to character: “the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.” Perhaps the reason character seems to be lacking is because there are fewer people who are whole. It’s pretty obvious that our culture is broken in many ways; families and relationships are broken because people are broken. Brokenness is the result of sin in our lives.

Those of us who are Jesus followers should be the most whole people on the planet. After all, the unblemished, unbroken One lives within us. But even within the Church, many are broken as well. Something is missing. After over 2,000 years of Church history, we aren’t really much different from the rest of the world. There’s too many things to list in this short article that are still rampant in the Church. Sexual immorality, addictions, deception, abuse, divorce, rebellion, depression are just the tip of the iceberg. Why is this? What are we doing wrong? Undoubtedly, books could be written on this topic, but a few things seem obvious.

  1. Wounded leaders produce wounded followers. This is a big one. You reproduce what’s inside you. Too many leaders have unhealed issues and are ministering out of their woundedness. Education and training are not enough to lead God’s people well. Leaders must be committed to wholeness, first in themselves. Then they can minister more effectively to their congregations, leading them into wholeness.
  2. Church structure is unbiblical. Another big one. When one or two people are the main leaders everyone suffers. The leaders burn out; the leaders and people become codependent. Immaturity is fostered in the body. People are not taught, equipped or challenged to grow up apart from a balanced leadership team of five-fold ministers. Leaders should be raised up continually so the body expands, matures, and unifies, to further spread the kingdom, not the Church. This means going out into the culture to reform it according to kingdom principles. Many churches focus on their own needs, their own issues and ministering continually to one another. This is not what Jesus taught or modeled with His disciples.
  3. Incomplete theology. I would venture to say that the majority of teaching in the Church is based on head knowledge, not experiential knowledge. Those who have been taught “about God” rather than led into experiencing Him personally, are easily dissuaded when faced with objections, opposition, or persecution. By contrast, those who have had genuine God encounters will generally stand firm and immovable in their faith when shakings occur. Rather than learning the art and discipline of meditating in the Word, wrestling in prayer, and waiting on God, most believers are spoon fed each week, relying on their pastors to “hear from God.” Instead of persevering in prayer, many give up and decide it must not have been “God’s will,” or that God has abandoned or is angry with them. In our instantaneous gratification society, we often take matters into our own hands rather than waiting for God to move.

There are undoubtedly many other reasons for our current condition. But these three keys, I believe, are vital to reforming the Church so that we can do what Jesus commanded us – to make disciples of all nations. (Matt. 28:19-20) It is time for a new wineskin, a new perspective. The old ways have not and are not working. It is time for the body to become whole; to reflect the true nature and character of Christ. It is time to be the salt and light, transformational elements in our culture. This is what it truly means when we pray, “…on earth, as it is in heaven.”

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What Does Unity Look Like?

There has been much written, preached and taught on the subject of unity in the Church in recent years. Much of it is based upon Jesus’ prayer in John 17, specifically, verses 20-23: “My prayer is not for them alone… that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me… May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”  Most of the teaching that I have heard or read has emphasized unity as some sort of agreement among the brethren. As in, let’s focus on the things we agree on and build unity upon these essential doctrines of the faith.

Though there’s nothing inherently wrong with that understanding, somehow I think we have missed the point of what Jesus was praying. Without going into a long exegetical explanation of this passage, I want to share some thoughts I’ve pondered after years of prayer and meditation on this particular topic. First of all, Jesus never taught anything on what we generally refer to as doctrine, so I seriously doubt unity on the basis of doctrine was what He had in mind.

As the basis of this prayer, He uses the union between He and the Father. Jesus and the Father are in perfect union because they are one in every sense of the word – one in heart, mind, and spirit. There is no discord or division whatsoever between them. They are one in the sense of fullness, completeness, and wholeness. Fullness, because there is nothing lacking within or between them; completeness in that each of them is complete in and of themselves; and wholeness meaning that they are without any flaw in their character or nature.

Jesus prayed that we would be one in the same way He and the Father are one. The phrase “complete unity” in John 17:23 literally means, “perfection; to complete; accomplish; consummate (in character);” not exactly the unity of agreement on issues of doctrine. Another reference to unity found in Ephesians 4:13 gives greater clarity: “…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  This is the goal He is after in all of us, becoming complete and mature in our faith and in our knowledge of His Son so that we can be as He is in this world. (1 John 3:2)

In essence, I believe Jesus is praying that our union which comes through intimacy with Him, would be such that we would become whole, complete, mature, and perfect in Him (Matt 5:48). As a result, we would take on the fullness of His nature and character, first as individuals and then as a corporate body. Then, and only then, will the world see Him exhibited in and through us, and believe that He is who He said He is, the Son of God, sent by the Father to save all who come to Him in faith. This prayer is one we can rest assured, will be answered.

What does it mean to you to be one with Him, as He and the Father are one?