Monday, March 4, 2013

Flounder or Follow

A week ago Sunday, and again this past Saturday, I posted about the church, what has been on my mind and heart for some time. I haven’t been completely specific about my concerns, and for a reason: I’m still thinking things through.

Marcus Goodyear posted first with The Uncertain Future of Traditional Faith Communities. But what he did was to prompt me to consider anew what I had pushed down and away.

David Platt is helping me, too.

At The High Calling, we’re starting a discussion today about Platt’s book Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. And I will say this: three chapters in, I can tell you it’s not for the fainthearted, or easily outraged, or easily aggravated.

Platt is doing something radical here, and yes, that’s a play on the title of his earlier book, Radical. He’s challenging every notion, every understanding we American Christians have of what it means to be a Christian.

Such as: The notion that all you have to do is accept Jesus in your heart and you will be saved.

Platt says no, that’s not how one becomes a Christian.

And such as: What kind of lives do we really live in America – Christian or comfortable middle- and upper-middle class lives? Do we even know the difference?

Platt points to the original disciples and asks, why would we think that becoming a Christian means anything less for us?

He’s advancing his thesis from Radical – what passes for much of Christianity in America today is something more cultural and less spiritual. But this time, he’s taking a jackhammer to the bedrock.

It’s all rather unnerving. My first reaction is to argue, disagree, nitpick, and quibble with alternative explanations. But I stop, and I read on. My heart is telling me he’s on to something, possibly something big, possibly something right. So I read and be quiet (for now).

If I am troubled by the state of the church, so is Platt. And I think it’s for the same reasons. He’s just articulating them better.

From early on, I had serious questions about what we call today the “mega-church.” I attended one long before it was called that. It was a denominational church, some 12,000 members strong. The word was preached from the pulpit every Sunday.

But the life within the church was troubled. A sense of drifting pervaded. We joined a young adults class that had 12 people – 12 in a church of more than 12,000. The class wasn’t interested in studying the Bible.

In the 1980s ands 1990s, in the zeal for outreach and numerical growth, the mega-church, or many of them, zoomed right past a basic responsibility of the church – to make and grow disciples. Bible study was out; trendy books were in. For a time I thought The Prayer of Jabez had become the fifth gospel.

Eventually, even Willow Creek did some serious soul-searching and publicly admitted that it had fallen short on discipleship. But its influence had been such that a lot of damage had been done in a lot of churches.

Platt is right to start where he is – at the individual Christian level. This is where it has to start. And we need to challenge every idea, every piece of received wisdom, every conventionality of what we know as evangelical Christianity.

To show where this discussion is going next, one of Platt’s chapters for next week’s discussion is entitled “Don’t Make Jesus Your Personal Lord and Savior.”

I’ve fastened my seatbelt.

We’re discussing Follow Me over at The HighCalling. Please visit the site to see the discussion and comments. It’s an important topic and important book.


Laura said...

It was a hard three chapters for me too, Glynn. You capture the struggle well here. I'm keeping quiet too (for now)until I read the whole book. Just when I get my back up, Platt covers my objections in the next paragraph. We need a balance of these hard truths and grace, I think. Seems the church is always slanting one way or the other. I think this is going to be a good discussion.

Anonymous said...

If we focus on God and relate with God, then many things are seen differently, even the church. It is our individual relationship 'of Love' with God and then Love for others that we as believers often forget. And this is the rock the base.

Gayle said...

Wow, that sounds really interesting! I do think the church is being shaken. Last night I watched the media cover on the Catholic Church and shook my head speechless. I visited a church yesterday and not one person spoke to me except in the sharing of the peace. Something is so wrong here...

Patricia said...

I was thrilled when THC chose this book for the month of March. I'm very fortunate to be in a church with leadership that a few years ago recognized everything that Platt suggests and began the process of reformation within - so Platt hasn't ruffled my feathers, but fanned the flame. It's been an intentional, focused process at our church that my husband and I have been privileged to be part of almost from the beginning. I'll be writing more about that in my contribution to this week's discussion, which I hope to have up by tonight.