Friday April 6 marked another great bridge event for River Run. Bridge events are meant to help connect new families and individuals with Christ, and with the River Run family. An Easter Egg Hunt and Potluck lunch was hosted in Pioneer Park and Master’s College as part of our Good Friday – Jesus is Alive Celebration. It was a perfect day and a great setting for the event. The Park was flooded with baskets being dragged by children across the grass, and parents running to catch up. Several new families joined us in the activities. Those needing to keep a little warmer watched from the grand windows in the lobby, while others prepared the food. Jason shared a clear message on the meaning of Easter that placed Jesus front and centre in the celebration of the season. All were reminded that new beginnings and new life comes from Christ giving his own life. Crafts and lunch waited for everyone inside the College, and as usual the food was top notch. Many people lingered to eat, drink, and talk, which made for a great day and successful event. Thanks to everyone for your participation.
Over recent months I have heard a number of fellow pastors share how several of their long time members had left the church. Had it been one church experiencing an exodus it would have been one thing, but it was much more than that. Friends and coworkers were withdrawing from different churches by sending pithy emails or by leaving brief voice messages. Obviously my friends were deeply concerned, which caused one to say, ‘Please God stop the leak!’ Unfortunately it is more than a leak. It is a culture.
It is clear that things are shifting. While the North American population is growing faster than the rate of new birth in the church, and while the church’s dropout rate is over 3 million people annually, there is yet another disturbing sign. Significant numbers of believers are moving from one church to another for flimsy reasons. Undoubtedly there is a growing instability in the church.
Much of the shakiness seems to be over what people expect of the church. Some expect more, while others expect less. Some want all the options, while others are just tired of keeping the options going. Some want their needs met, when others are weary of meeting the needs. Regardless, it is enough for people to sever meaningful and biblical relationships in search of something that agrees with them.
Or are they actually cutting relationships? While we prefer to believe that the church is family, it’s actually not, or at least not in practice. For the most part relationships are superficial or absent. Generally speaking relationships that build up and shape others are seemingly inessential, and the true body of Christ immaterial. We might think and imagine family, but our lifestyles and decisions suggest something different.
Recently I heard this phrase, ‘what we win people with – is what we win them to.’ More or less it means that people who come to church, based on what it offers and on what it can do for them, will leave for the very same reason they came.
In the church’s efforts to win people, it has made the needs and expectations of the individual top priority. Meeting needs and satisfying feelings have seemingly become its mission, while equipping God’s people to do his work is overlooked, Eph. 4:12. In time the church will fail to meet these expectations – as it has already, and relationships will be surplus. The typical comment heard will be ‘God is leading us elsewhere.’
Similarly, the apostle Paul warned Timothy that over time people would not bother with Christ and the Word of God, and instead go after their own wishes. He said, ‘… a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.’ 1 Tim. 4:3. Paul knew that people were prone to shape their faith according to what suited their thinking, rather than with the Word.
The Family Of God:
I believe that the Word of God supports the church being relational or family, where people strengthen each other, work out their differences, and take steps together to extend God’s kingdom. It is centered on Christ, and on whom we are and are becoming in him. Each member is carefully joined to the other, while growing together to be the home where God lives by his Spirit.
Furthermore I believe that the modern pattern of church is faulty, and lends to expectations that cannot be sustained. As a result it burns out those who try to keep it going, and gives way to a revolving door that unsettles and obstructs God’s house.
What’s more the church has become fickle, much like the world. By and large people have grown increasingly intolerant, fussy, and unreliable, while spiritual qualities like self-denial, perseverance, faithfulness, and joy have faded away. The church is too easily bored, offended and dissatisfied, and no longer has the time, interest or staying power to become Christ-like.
Raising The Bar On Being A Disciple:
It’s doubtful the answer is found in modifying the church system, and more probable the answer is in us (the believer) rediscovering what it is to be a real disciple of Christ.
We need to lower the bar on how church is done, and raise the bar on what it means to follow Christ, because the church is rooted in believers obeying Christ. It is essential that we relearn how to love the Lord with all our heart, and how to take up our cross and follow him – at any cost. We must intimately realize the deep love of Christ, and be filled with the fullness of him. We must know him who is able to do more than we can ever ask or imagine. We must live a life of love found in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Only then, can the church become what Christ has intended.
Jesus said, ‘those of you who do not give up everything cannot be my disciples,’ Lu. 14:33. He also said, ‘go and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, Mt. 28:19-20. Jesus was less concerned with the system of church and more concerned about people becoming disciples by obeying him and his Word.
If every believer denied him or herself and followed Christ, the church would be less opinionated and more harmonious. If believers were filled with the Spirit, the church would be more outgoing and less inward looking. If believers contributed their gifts and abilities, more would be creative and fulfilled. If believers knew the Word of God and obeyed it, there would be more stability.
‘If’, suggests that there is a choice – to do or not to do. The revolving doors in churches, the dropout rate among Christians, and the church’s barrenness are easily solved if we choose so. Will we chose to be disciples or will we opt for Church-Zero?
Forty years ago this February Wally & Eleanor Best initiated a gathering of a few people in Lakefield High School that was to become a prophetic influence in Ontario. Wally had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in ’71, and believed that a life in the Spirit would change the church for the good. The Fellowship as it was known would become a leader in the charismatic renewal, and would go on to evolve into several new and prophetic expressions touching many lives in the years to come.
Some of the original gathering continue to meet with other inspired believers as River Run Fellowship. True to their roots River Run is posturing itself for the next move of God, by preparing a new wineskin for the new wine that is to come. God has said that, ‘The whole earth will be filled with a knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,’ and River Run is readying itself for such a time. God’s people must always be versatile and resilient, ready to follow what God is about to do.
In looking back we are grateful for what God has done and for those who pioneered a way, yet we continue to press forward knowing that there is more to come. It is nice to reminisce about what was, however the purposes of God are always moving forward to reach the current culture, and to resist the devil and his devices.
Thank you Wally and Eleanor, and all those who together helped establish a way that was revolutionary. We will continue to hold close within our hearts, that sense of expectancy that God can do anything.
“The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” 2 Cor. 10:4-6