The Church and a Modern-Day Reformation

To most American Christians, “church” is the place we attend on Sunday. For some that means ornate buildings and men in robes reciting ancient prayers. For others that means new age campuses, skinny-jeaned pastors, and high-energy services. Then there are those who see the church as a place filled with hypocritical people who say one thing and do another. I’m not going to pretend that these stigmas do not exist, and I am fully aware that you will bring your own experience into this conversation. But I’m writing this to challenge us.

Since the writing of the New Testament, those inside and those outside the church have been quietly building walls—walls that box God in to something we call religion. With a smile and a promise to pray or a jaded view of anything resembling faith, we dip our trowel in the mortar and lay another brick. But what if what we commonly refer to as “the church” is distorting our view of the One who died for it? What if what we now see is a walled-in version of the truth?

The truth is, the church is changing. As Christians, we can refuse that change and fight for tradition or we can grow beyond our prejudices and step into authentic faith—as God leads.

As a disclaimer, I am not an ordained minister, nor do I lead a congregation. I have no formal theological training and I’m not well-versed in church history. Because of that, some may say that my voice doesn’t matter or that I don’t know what I’m talking about. But, I believe with everything in me that God is moving my heart and giving me the courage to speak.

Hearing From God

A friend recently caught me off guard when he said, “Matt, you talk a lot about hearing from God. I’ve been a Christian for more than twenty years and I can honestly say that I’ve never heard from Him.” His tone wasn’t angry or judgemental, it was curious and genuine.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if he was asking me a question or just making a statement. But before I could come up with a crafty answer, my spirit responded, “Do you want to hear from God?”

He was silent for a moment. Then he replied, “Man. That’s a great question.”

I believe our inability to hear from God has less to do with His inability to speak and more to do with our unwillingness to listen. In a world filled with constant noise, it’s difficult to get beyond the tangible and step into something as seemingly intangible as hearing from God. If I have learned anything, it’s that God still speaks.

About three years ago, I began rising early each morning for what I call a “prayer walk”. This is my time with my Father. As I walk, I pray out loud and listen. And as I feel a tug in those deep-down places that are hard to describe, I follow them. Last week, the tug came to walk around my church seven times. That seemed like a strange request, but I’ve learned to follow regardless of how it feels or how crazy people might think I am.

As I walked and prayed, I felt like I heard God speak, “You have built walls of fear and hesitation around my church. It’s time for those walls to come down.”

Individuals in Community for the Kingdom

A quick glance at my own life reveals that I have built walls of my own—walls around my career, around my family, and around my faith. As long as everything is well-maintained, life seems to operate as planned. But when circumstances chip away at the brick, I go into overdrive to keep everything in order. That makes it easy to dismiss the needs of others and focus my efforts on building my own kingdom.

In short, the mantra for most prudent Christians becomes take care of yourself, avoid community, and build your kingdom. And the only role God plays in that is a casual drop in on Sunday, a Bible study and a prayer or two during the week. While the intentions of our heart appear pure, we have become masters at building our own little kingdoms while neglecting His. But our efforts are simply a facade, a literal house of cards that cannot stand on its own. Comfortable is not in God’s vocabulary. (Seriously, go look it up. It’s not in the Bible)

As I continued to wrestle with the words God had given me, I started to get a picture of what He was saying. The church is meant to be individuals in community for the Kingdom—unique, whole people expressing their gifts in the world, blessing the community around them for the purpose of God’s Kingdom. It’s really that simple.

Individuals. Community. Kingdom.

God isn’t in to building walls, He’s in to tearing them down. As the church, we have no hope in standing united if we continue to remain segregated. We cannot give half of our heart or half of our life to a fully crucified Christ. He fully died that we might fully live. Remember, Jesus broke out of the tomb, He didn’t remain in it. As along as we’re building walls, we’re living in the tomb. And as long as we’re building our kingdom, we cannot possibly build His.

The Lord Has Given You The City

Joshua audaciously marched around the city of Jericho for seven days (Joshua 6). Not because it was his agenda and not because it was a “best practice”. Joshua followed the Lord’s command. At the behest of logic and common sense, Joshua followed where God led. I believe it’s time for a modern-day rendition where God’s people are willing to do the same.

As God’s children, we have to stand together for the purposes of God and follow as He directs. With unwavering faith, we have to march around the walls that have been built in our own lives and in our own communities so that He might tear them down. Remember, we either lose our life for His sake, or we just lose it.

In a time such as this, we cannot become apathetic, competitive and complacent. We cannot grow lukewarm in our faith and lose our focus on what’s really at stake. The power of God, the power of the gospel, is the only thing strong enough to transform lives. That begins with our own.

It’s time for the walls to come crashing down.

MH

If your heart burns for more, if you feel the Holy Spirit’s move, please respond to the call. We have followed God’s lead to form YouPrint, a faith development organization. Our mission is to help bridge the gap between Sundays and help people uncover their “Why”, thrive in their gifts, and live the life of impact God has planned for them. Schedule a discovery call to learn more.

 

Matt Ham is the cofounder of YouPrint, a faith development organization intent on helping people strengthen and grow their faith. Think of it as the church between Sundays. Connect at www.youprint.life to learn more.

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  • Matt, I wholeheartedly agree with you on 99.9% of this. The remaining .1% I diverge from due to the statement you made about “God not being in to building walls, but tearing them down.” So, in order to clarify this, because perhaps I am in full (100%) agreement with you, but there’s a part of your perspective that’s missing within the contents of this very well thought out, and written, article on this very important topic addressing The Church (the Body of Christ). From what you’ve written, the divergence I have is that God isn’t just in the business of tearing down walls, but replacing the ones that separate us from Him with the boundaries (which in essence, can be walls) that keep us close to Him. (Nehemiah 3) So, is that what you’re aiming at and it I didn’t catch that in this article – or do you have a differing perspective on this that perhaps I am not seeing?

    • Marni –

      Great thoughts and I appreciate the input. I would completely agree that we have to build boundaries for ourselves that keep us separated from the world in the sense of our actions/behavior. The language and imagery used was intended to create a stark visual of Christ tearing the veil (literally) of the temple in two. To pretend that God wouldn’t shake the institution that we’ve built would be in direct contrast to Jesus’s ministry and the movement of men like Martin Luther, etc.