ChurchETHOS

An Unnatural Life

Posted in body of Christ, christian thought, cultural relevance by Nathan Creitz on October 28, 2008

The Church is on the decline in Western society today. There is division in the Church in part due to a lack of diligence on the part of elders to ward off false teaching. Christians have become lazy in their thought and in their actions. The Church has ceased to have any major impact on the world.

There are thousands of root causes to the lack of influence possessed by the Church in the West. However, there is one cause that presents itself as a large heading under which many of those causes are categorized. The problem with the Church in the West is that we’ve forgotten that Christianity has no power apart from struggle. Indeed, many church goers are doing their best to avoid struggle and pain. They are hoping that the Church will give them their best life now. Surely, being a child of the King of Kings bears a certain pride and privilege. After all, we aren’t like those sinners are we?

Many of the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit require struggle before they can be obtained. It takes effort. I’ve grown up hearing people say, “Don’t pray for patience or you just might get what you asked for.” They glibly realize and articulate that if our desire is for patience, God just might test us in a difficult way. We just might have to undergo a beating before we get it right. When we finally learn a lesson of patience God might just make us go through it again so we don’t get caught up in pride – humility being another quality that takes a lot of “lessons” from God (of all things, don’t ask God for humility, right?).

Struggle is essential to the Christian life. God will not develop such things as discipline, humility, selfless love, peace, and patience in us without tests of our character. The fact that the Western Church today lacks these qualities is due to the fact that we run from trials and tests. Peter says, “You rejoice in this [inheritance], though now for a short time you have had to be distressed by various trials so that the genuineness of your faith – more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7) James even encourages us to “consider it joy…whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4) From these passages and others (not to mention the sufferings of Christ) we find the call to suffer. This call is referred to in several places as a refining process. The verse from 1 Peter even talks about being distressed by various trials even though we have a right to an amazing inheritance. 

Why do we go through this struggle? Purity, Genuineness, Sincerity, Experience, Endurance, Joy, Maturity, Perfection and God’s glory are but a few things that come to mind in light of the above verses and reflection on the life of Jesus. What happens when we don’t endure this struggle? Division, Greed, Selfishness, Laziness, Complacency, Unorthodoxy, Immorality, Jealousy, Strife, Envy, and Drunkenness all come to mind based on Galatians 5 and even a cursory glance at the status of the Western Church today. 

God has called us to something that is unnatural. God has called us to something that is impossible apart from Him. No wonder people give up so quickly when confronted with a difficult challenge. This is not natural! It’s not natural to discipline your body and your mind for God’s glory. There are natural laws that tell us the universe decays and winds down. Our spiritual life is under the same natural law that tends towards decay unless the Spirit of God energizes us and enables us to… to what? To have our best life now? To obtain all of the promises and inheritance of God? No, the Spirit energizes us to serve, to struggle, to discipline, to grow, to mature, to be patient, and to love. That doesn’t come naturally. God is the force that is at work helping us in our weakness to overcome various trials and tests.

The decline in the Church is due to natural rather than supernatural living. The Church is not in the habit of suffering and serving. We have traded in good habits for bad habits or simply stopped being spiritually disciplined all together. The Church is winding down due to a decreased desire for struggle and an increased desire for stuff. Ultimately, the Church will come to a complete stop if we don’t realize that we are called to live an unnatural life that is pleasing to God. It’s not natural to live by faith. It’s not natural to be self-controlled. It’s not natural to be patient. It’s not natural to love. But with God all things are possible. Let’s pray that the Church will receive the discipline of the Lord and become disciplined in their habits and actions.

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4 Responses

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  1. PeregrinJoe said, on October 28, 2008 at 2.32 pm

    I agree. The reason this is not taught in many churches however is because we are too busy trying to secure money to pay for our buildings, our programs, and our comfort. If we preach the Word in this manner, people may leave and take their wallets with them!

  2. Will Humes said, on October 28, 2008 at 2.36 pm

    Thanks for this well-considered post. It has given me something to think about as I struggle to understand the declining Church.

  3. bigkafka said, on October 28, 2008 at 2.53 pm

    hi Nathan — while I appreciate the post, I’m wondering what you mean by “the Church has ceased to change the world”.

    Your point, aligned with Galatians 5, is well taken, that the flesh makes us cling to comfortable places while the Spirit demands that we struggle against it.

    Maybe you could have emphasized a bit more that the teaching in the church is too often pandering to the flesh, btw…

    But, really, I can’t remember when the Church was changing the world. To me the Church is the midwife that helps God birth people anew, and equip them to fight the good fight (and encourage them to face the struggle, yet find REST in God [as opposed to plasma screen TVs]).

    I see lives transformed every week in my church and my small group. These transformed lives go about the world to make it better.

    what do you mean ?
    eg. http://www.love146.org/

    thanks for the reflection on Gal 5 btw.

  4. Nathan Creitz said, on October 28, 2008 at 6.05 pm

    Thanks Joe and Will – I hope we continue to pray for reformation in the Church.

    Thanks also for your comment Kafka. As always I appreciate your insights and clarification questions. I also see transformation happening in my church and I’m sure it is happening all around the world. What I’m referring to is the continual drop in numbers and depth. When I capitalize the “C” in Church, I’m referring to the global Church. In other words, while you and I still see God using the Church for His glory, for the most part we are shrinking more than we are growing (I also clarified that I was talking about the Western Church). I don’t want the Church to have so much influence that it Christianizes our nation I just want to see more positive than negative.

    The point of my blog is to try and root around in the closets and basements of the Church and try and shed light on things that have been in the dark for too long. We have developed some nasty habits and we are ceasing to transform lives. The ethos of the Church has deteriorated to a point that most people won’t take us seriously. They believe we aren’t thinking straight…we are just blindly hoping. This is what I mean when I say we are not making a difference in the world. Again, we do see some transformation happening but most churches are turning away more people than they are welcoming. This leads to a decline in membership and in effectiveness. Our laziness breeds contempt. Hopefully that’s not you and I pray that’s not me, but collectively that is us!


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