Randomness, Years 3 & 4
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Issue 74

The Church: Give Me Canada or I Die

I promised one of you Anglican stuff. I, as a feeble human, have erred. I must break that promise. I am unable to supply any of what I hoped to until I'm back in Ottawa. Once there, we will see how the Spirit guides, I suppose. What you read here is about the Church generally. It is not as good as I would like. I feel that I may address some issues raised here more specifically rather than in as broad a writing as this. But here it is. I can't scrap it because that goes against my random philosophy. I can refine it a bit, then pass it along. Pax Vobiscum.

Brennan Manning quotes Hans Küng as saying, "The Church must constantly be aware that its faith is weak, its knowledge dim, its profession of faith halting, that there is not a single sin or failing which it has not in one way or another been guilty of. And though it is true that the church must always dissociate itself from sin, it can never have any excuse for keeping any sinners at a distance." Why would anyone want to be part of the Christian Church? This is a serious question. When we look at the Church in the West today, Christians are not always aware that as a unit, their "faith is weak...knowledge dim...profession of faith halting, that there is not a single sin or failing which [they have] not...been guilty of." As well, the Church in the West is quite guilty of barring sinners from its presence. Let us consider the Church. The Church is supposed to be a united, righteous, beautiful body. Today, the Church in the West is ugly. Yet it is not without beauty. And there is a solution to this ugliness. Although people may write whole books upon the subject of the illness of the Western Church and how it should change, such a thing is not about to happen.


Consider this: The Church is divided into a plethora of denominations. My dad pointed out that denominations do not exist because of God's love but because of man's lack thereof. And not all of these denominations get along. This denomination makes disparaging remarks about that one. A denomination over there makes disparaging remarks about those other two because they bicker all the time. A fourth denomination comes in and doesn't make any disparaging remarks about anyone--it's too busy being worried about itself, about the fact that it has the exclusive rights to God's Truth and Revelation, thank you very much. A Catholic girl was once told by a Protestant friend that, basically, she wasn't really a Christian. And within denominations there is division. There are the conservatives, the traditionalists, the liberals, the charismatics, the evangelicals. In at least one denomination we have "low church" and "high church". We have Arminians and Calvinists battling over whether or not we were predestined to be Christians. Then we have the people who decide that their denomination is impure and create their own version. Or the pieces of denominations that barely talk with each other over small differences, such as the fact that they do not all use the same translation of the Bible. The local church itself is rife with trouble. People get mad because someone moved the altar five inches. Some people declare that the new service is unholy. Other people get put out by the fact that there are people in the worship area while they are trying to clean. So the people who were using the worship area get put out because the others are put out and everyones mad at everyone else. There is a multitude of tiny, little things that divides congregations.

Consider this: How many young people in the Church have had to get married sooner than planned because they were expecting? Whether or not they are good people, whether or not they love Jesus, whether or not they are penitent is not at stake here. The point is that it shouldn't be that way. Or what about the men who leave their wives to live with some other woman? Or the couples who simply divorce? Or the men who go through three wives and are planning the fourth? How about clergy who have affairs with eighteen-year-olds? Or clergy who molest little boys? What about guys who get plastered on Saturday night yet appear in church on Sunday anyway? Or smoke pot? Or young people getting all mad at each other over little things? What about the rest of us? How many church-goers are Pharisaic? How many church-goers lie, cheat, lust, hate, steal? How many church-goers are overly critical, judgmental, and self-righteous? How many church-goers are full of an overweening pride? How many guys, at some point (if not regularly), feast their eyes upon "a nice piece of woman"? How many of us have seen a hurting person and turned away? How many of us have looked upon that person with contempt or ignored him, hoping he would go away?

Consider this: Many church leaders make statements that are unbiblical. Anyone can spot it. Some of them are really obvious, such as, "I don't believe Jesus really rose from the dead." In some parts of the Church, the blessing of same-sex unions has been approved, flying in the face of history, tradition, the Bible, and most of the Church. In one place, the blessing of heterosexual unions outside of marriage has been approved by the Church. Other church leaders proclaim that there are many ways to heaven, that people needn't necessarily go through Jesus. Heresy runs rampant in the Church, and no one is stopping it.

Consider this: Back in 1096, we went and beat it out of every Muslim nation as well as a few Christian nations between Constantinople and Jerusalem--in the name of Jesus. In the name of Jesus, Jews were beaten, battered, slain, tormented, thrown out of their homes. In the name of Jesus, mosques are bombed. In the name of Jesus, Hindu temples are bombed. In the name of Jesus, a variety of hate crimes has been committed. In the name of Jesus, people riot in Muslim nations--and this is not peaceful protest. The Bible has been misused to support oppressive regimes and the racist, oppressive slavery of black people throughout most of the Modern Age.

Why would anyone want to be part of the Christian Church? The Church is neither beautiful nor righteous. The Church used to offer something unique. What is so unique about a place where people act the same as everyone else? What is so unique about teaching that there is more than one way to heaven? People don't need to go to church for that. They can go to the bar or Nietzche or Foucault or a friend's place for that. As well, the Church has lost touch with society. We do not know how to present the Gospel to the postmodern world. It seems that a lot of the Church has no idea that the secular world (a) exists (b) is postmodern. We act like we did in 1902. Guess what--its not 1902 anymore. Society has changed. The Church, although some sort of symbol or something, is no longer relevant to it. The Church does not have power in political decisions made in the West. The Church has fallen from pedestal. Were having trouble adjusting. So here we are now--ugly and out of touch.


Now consider this: At the Name of Jesus, every knee shall bow. At the Name of Jesus, every tongue will confess that He is Lord. At the Name of Jesus, the glorious climax of history shall occur. At the Name of Jesus, all sorrow will end. At the Name of Jesus, the Will of the Father is done. The Name of Jesus is powerful. At the Name of Jesus, we all have access to the Father. And the Name of Jesus brings love to the world. I feel sorrow at the remark once made that Buddha was carried in China on white elephants, Christ on a cannonball. This is not the way it should be. This is not the way it will be--nor is it always how things go. In the Name of Jesus, the hungry are fed, the prisoners are visited, the hurting are healed, the naked are clothed. In the Name of Jesus, oppression is fought. In the Name of Jesus, beauty is honoured and upheld.

Consider this: Billy Graham draws bigger crowds than anyone else wherever he goes. All he ever says is the same thing evangelists have been saying for 2000 years. But its attractive and true. It is churches that proclaim the undiluted Gospel of Jesus that grow and are usually the most vibrant (while being in touch with their community). We do not have a spirit of timidity, but a Spirit of boldness and of power. That Spirit is rising up people of power. All we have to do is be willing to respond. We must not be quiet. Each of us must be willing to proclaim the true Gospel in Word and Deed. When the Spirit of God comes upon people, things happen. If we allow Him, we could be like Samson who took out 150 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.

Consider this: Many young people get married without the girl being pregnant--some of them have their first kiss at the altar. Various marriages last until death, some of them for sixty years. Others haven't had the chance yet but are sitting pretty at 29. People come into the Church and stop doing drugs, getting drunk, debauching. Many young men conquer their lustful desires through the work of the Holy Spirit. Some people are humblingly humble. Missionaries lay down their lives to bring the Gospel of Jesus to others. Other Christians die for their friends. Despite our personal sinfulness, when we allow the Holy Spirit to move in ourselves, we are sanctified. We can and will spur each other on toward godliness with the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And if we are humble, we will admit that we are sinful.

Consider this: The Evangelical Lutheran Church In Canada (ELCIC) and the Anglican Church of Canada are in full communion with each other. This means that they can pastor at each other's churches and that it is only logical for them to worship together. When walking into a Varsity Christian Fellowship or Inter-School Christian Fellowship, one walks into a room full of Anglicans, Baptists, Free Methodists, Nazarenes, Catholics, Christian Reformed Church members, Wesleyans, Mennonites, Pentecostals. These young people all worship together, pray together, learn together, study scripture together. They are friends. They are spiritual partners. At events such as YC, Acquire the Fire, Youthquake, Youth Encounter young people get together to worship God as Christians, not as Anglicans, Catholics, or Baptists. Many young people have expressed a loathing of denominations. Others are just sick of denominational boundaries.

The Church has a lot of beauty. The fact that it does is due largely to the power of Jesus Christ working in His people. The Church should not be content with this level of beauty but should strive to be even more beautiful. And the Church must pray that the people who would see the ugliness would also see the beauty and see both what the Church should and could be.

Yeah, and . . . ?

Why would anyone want to be a part of the Church? As the first section states, the Church is ill and ugly. If the Church does not gloss over its faults, they can be addressed. And if the Church is willing to accept that it is made out of defective people, then maybe those outside the Church will realise that God will take them where they are. Then they will learn that virtue and righteousness are the result of Spirit-filled living. They will learn that first comes justification then sanctification, and that this is not a holier-than-thou club. It is our duty as followers of Christ to personally take up the burden and allow Him to use us to make the Church healthy and beautiful. We must open our eyes to the state of the Church. As Küng says, we "must constantly be aware". Once we are open to the troubles and willing to admit they exist, then we can let the Son shine in. In order for us to live in a healthy Church, we must live in and through three things: the Trinity, the Bible, and prayer. We must also live amongst Christians.

The answer for the Church is the same as the answer for the world: Jesus. Jesus is the answer. Rev. Brian Wilkie, the minister at Domion-Chalmers United Church in Ottawa, says, "Hold fast to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ--there is no other Saviour." Let us not compromise Jesus for the desires of the world or the heresies of the Church. It will be Jesus, not our logical arguments or proofs of biblical authenticity, who will bring the Church back where it belongs. It will be Jesus who will bring sinners into the community of faith, not us. We are just His tools. We must know Jesus and live in a relationship with Him. Jesus tells us in the Gospels that if we know Him, we know the Father.

We must also become acquainted with God the Father. We must read the whole of the Bible and see His overarching goal and framework for the redemption of humanity. And we must recognise the end result of this redemption is for us to be in covenant, communion, and relationship with the Creator of the Universe. Let us become madly in love with our Heavenly Father. When troubles come, let us rest in his big, loving arms.

The Bible also tells us that all the followers of Jesus have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. The Holy Spirit will come up a lot in this text because we have a tendency to ignore Him. We have all this testament of God the Father throughout the Bible. We have testament of Jesus in the Gospels. The Holy Spirit seems less clear. But when He came upon the Church at Pentecost, He stayed. He did not just come upon Peter. He came upon us. We must be open to Him. As well, the manifestations, fruit, and gifts of the Spirit have often been abundantly present in times of revival, renewal, and reform--times like today. We must be open to His work. We must pray for the Holy Spirit to come upon each of us with power. If we long to be cleansed of unrighteousness, we must pray to the Holy Spirit that He may descend upon us and begin His sanctifying work. We must pray for Him to fill us to overflowing. As many of the mainline denominations are not especially big on the Holy Spirit, I would suggest grabbing a concordance and reading the passages on Him. I cannot think of a good book on the Holy Spirit, but if you take the Alpha Course, Nicky Gumbel gives excellent teaching on who the Holy Spirit is, what He does, and how to be full of the Holy Spirit. The Alpha Course comes in book-format, called Questions of Life. To learn more about the Holy Spirit, talk to your pastor, your friends, whomever. Learn about Him and His role in the Church. These are the days of renewal. Today can be your personal Pentecost. And today is a new Apostolic Age dawning. Nurture a love-relationship with God in all Three Persons.

Next, know the Holy Bible. Remember, man cannot live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Be nourished in the Scriptures. Live through them, grapple with them, know them, understand them. See God in the passages. See his overarching story stretching from Creation to today. See your role in His story. If we know our Bible, we can spot an unbiblical or heretical teaching the moment it passes our way. Then we will be able to pray specifically for that issue. If we know our Bible, we will know what we believe as Christians and why.

In Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be, J. Richard Middleton and Brian J. Walsh give a good analysis of the contemporary situation. They also present a form of biblical living that will help us live as followers of Jesus in the confusion of our times as well as show people the truth of the Bible effectively. The question is not the modern question, "Was Jesus really a guy who did stuff?" Today, the question is the postmodern question, "Why should I choose Jesus over Buddha or Mohammed or Joseph Smith?" People want to know why they should choose any worldview over any other, seeing as how this has led to violence and oppression in the past. We must work for peace. We must show the liberty of the Gospel. The only way to do this is to be personally acquainted with the Holy Bible. I dont mean memorise it. I mean live through it. Don't merely apply it to a situation but apply your situation to it. Grapple with a tough passage, dont ignore it. See the overall story of the Bible. Make the Word of God a powerful, vibrant part of your life. Nurture a relationship with the living God, with Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who, in the fullness of time, became man, lived among us, and died for our sins. The God who loves us more than we could possibly ask or imagine. Through the Bible, we will also learn about how we should live, how to know the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and how to pray.

Third, we must pray. I think we all know what to pray about. Pray for the problems that I have mentioned. Pray for the Church, that the Holy Spirit may move in it, strengthen it, and empower it. Pray for any troubles you see. Pray specifically and generally. William Barclay states, "True prayer is asking God what he wants." In light of that statement, pray that God will reveal to you your own role in the events unfolding before us. Do not think with your heads all the time, but by guided by your spirits and your hearts. If we allow God to move our spirits, our heads will follow quickly after.

We must pray for our personal lives as well. We must pray for our own walk towards righteousness. We must pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us. We must pray to be overflowing with the Spirit. We must pray for an outflowing of the love of Jesus from ourselves to the world. We must pray for the Father's splendour to glow from each of us at all times. We must pray for a thirst to know the Bible. We must pray for understanding of the Bible and God's Will. We must pray for an openness to God's Voice.

An illustration from the Alpha Course is one of a hot coal. If the coal is removed from the fire, it is glowing red at first. Then, after a while, it becomes cold and black. But if the coal is placed back within the fire, it will become glowing red once again. So it is with our faith. We must be part of this Church, despite its shortfallings. Some people dislike some of what goes on in the Church and leave. This is not good enough. We must stay within the Church, for it is amongst brothers and sisters that we find ourselves at home. And it is in the heat of the fire that the coals of our faith will glow hottest. We must fellowship with one another. We must have fellowship both on a large, congregational scale as on Sunday and on a small scale, such as a cell group or Bible study. If we have fellowship with the Church, we can help spur it on towards righteousness. If we leave it, we suddenly have no power. If we are to be filled with the Spirit and effect change in the Church, it is imperative to be part of the Church.

John Knox prayed, "Give me Scotland or I die." The Presbyterian Church, as mentioned in the newest Anglicans for Renewal newsletter, is taking up this mantle. Let us do the same.

Give me Canada or I die.

-Matthew Hoskin

Copyright 2002, Matthew Hoskin