Francis Chan starts chapter 8 in Letters to the Church with the illustration of a zoo. Wild, powerful animals in comfortable cages. Food is brought to them. They aren’t exactly tame but they also aren’t living the life they were meant to live.
This is Chan’s illustration for church – something so powerful put in a pew. On page 152 he writes this, “I wonder whether you’ve felt like the zebra. You’ve been a faithful member of your church, but you keep feeling like you were made for something more.”
This is a good illustration for some of what is happening. We were made to be church but I cannot say that what we call church is precisely what we were made for. There is so much more.
In Churches of Christ we have settled for church be correct worship and a correct view of the steps of salvation (each of those have 5 parts). Viola! We have church. Then I read Acts and see something entirely different. We are not them in the sense of imitating what they were doing and valuing what they valued. We have settled for far less!
I posted this a few days ago that I think speaks into this in Churches of Christ and I would love your feedback on this video when you get a minute.
Chan then goes on to talk about being at a conference for mega church pastors in the East and how they laughed as he described to them what we call church. That was a sad moment for sure. All of this is leverage to challenge what we call church and ask ourselves if what we are doing is it or if there is something else. I believe there is something else and we can learn what that something else is by reading the Bible (again see the video above).
He writes this on page 156,
“Church, the answer is not to build bigger and nicer cages. Nor is it to renovate the cages so they look more like the wild. It’s time to open the cages, remind the animals of their God-given instincts and capabilities and release them into the wild.”
That is certainly compelling and I do believe we have settled for far too little in our churches. What is fascinating to me was just 50 years ago it was extremely common for someone to start a new Church of Christ. Just a generation or so later and this is so foreign! How does that happen and how do we think they way we are doing it is the way it has always been done?
What if we planted new churches, not with the same issues as the ones who came before, but to learn from our mistakes and to start with fresh DNA. What if we empowered and sent people? What if even down to our very children we expected more? We expected God to work and act among us? What if we committed ourselves to prayer? What if we relied on the Holy Spirit.
I think instead we make excuses. We say the world changed and people just aren’t receptive. There is some truth in that but the person we never reach out to will be 100% nonresponsive to the gospel because you never gave them opportunity. We can do better! We must do better?
How do we get the people in our churches to understand this and live this? It is so hard to release an animal back into the wild once it has been in captivity. It doesn’t know how to hunt?
Here is the key – we must equip our people to hunt. To be dangerous. This takes fasting and prayer – we don’t fast and we reserve prayer for about 2 minutes on Sunday about all kinds of random topics.