I was intrigued to read an editorial in a local newspaper, under the above title, by an architect in our city. He was commenting on a street of homely, very popular restaurants in our city. These pavement ‘cafes’ always seem busy and are patronised by students, yuppies, wannabes, baskers, etc. There are people walking up and down, quaint shops and eateries, trees down each side of the street, yet there is no flamboyant spending. There are no dancing fountains or super-stores, fast-food restaurants, multi-storey buildings with glass atria and so on.The architect sees Stanley Street as evidence of a global mind shift, an increasing rejection of what is opulent, fake, false, pretence and even scam. Growing numbers no longer trust commercial messages, big business and big institutions. They reject branded goods for handmade alternatives, artisan breads, crafting, and cappucinos to order. I.o.w. a growing number of people are searching for authenticity! For what is real, sincere, not boring and not fake.
Oh my, is the Church really observing and listening? Do I have to remind you of the up-front shows that pass for ‘church, ‘ silk-shirted and perspiring preachers that pass for down-to-earth prophets, the gospel of prosperity for the gospel of the Cross? So un-true, un-real, plastic, false and objectionable. Do you know how many sincere believers I encounter these days who have bailed out of ‘God Pty Ltd’ for the sake of their spiritual sanity and survival?
Now where do they go? That’s part of the reason why I wrote, a few years ago, an almost 400-page academic dissertation on alternative, more biblical forms of church for the 21st century, partly entitled ‘Toward a Re-Incarnation of Church’ (sometimes it’s easier to birth something new than resurrect a corpse). We all long for a Church that is more biblical (founded on biblical truth and principles), basic, simple, organic, grassroots (rather than top-down) and above all authentic.
Tell me, where do you find a group like that, especially in the West? We’re not talking about a Church made up of super-believers but rather of ‘ordinary’ home-grown disciples, transparent, seeking by grace to ‘to love as he loved’, to serve rather than be served.
Didn’t Jesus, Head of the Church, radically model this for us? Didn’t he associate with fringe-people, broken people, rich and poor, attractive and unattractive, clean and dirty? You had to be a ‘sinner’ to ‘qualify’ for his favour and help (cf Lk. chap.’s 14-15, etc). Can you ignore his impatience with any hint of showmanship, hypocrisy, falseness, pretence, mask-wearing (cf the ‘7 woes’ to the Pharisees in Mt. 23). Jack Deere in his ‘Surprised by the Power of the Spirit’ was quite right when he wrote years ago that pharisaism in the Church, with its hypocrisy, legalism and traditionalism, was a greater threat to Christendom than the New Age Movement, as serious as the latter was. Consider again Jn.1:14, ‘The Word became flesh among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ John uses the word ‘truth’ 25 times in his writings, closely linked with Jesus, who also ‘IS the truth’ (Jn. 14:6). ‘Aletheias’ also translates as ‘reality,’ ‘sincerity,’ that which is ‘authentic’ rather than feigned.
How do we recapture the authenticity of the Church? (ultimately a God-thing!) By passionately pursuing:
- Jesus himself, Head of the Church and Lord of the Cosmos (Eph. 1-2; Col. 1-2).
- God’s immeasurable love in Christ for all people.
- Corporate and individual holiness (Christ-likeness) of life (Eph. 4:17ff), by the indwelling life of the life-giving Tree (cf earlier blog, ‘A Theology of Two Trees’).
- NT-type community (Acts 2:38-47, etc). Can’t find such a community? (a common complaint). Prayerfully consider starting such a community – gather informally with like-minded, humble, hungry and thirsty friends, people prepared to be ‘real’ with God, the Bible and each other. Gather informally in your home, talk lots about Jesus (the NT one). For your encouragement, God has long initiated this process: A.W. Tozer wrote many years ago, ‘There is a fellowship within a fellowship – a sort of wheel in the middle of a wheel which gathers to itself all who are of its spirit in every church in every land and every age.’
The Lord be with you!