“I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” (I Corinthians 3:2)
“Turn right” “Turn left” “You’re destination is on the right”. No doubt about it, having a turn by turn GPS on my phone is a great feature. It’s come in handy as I’ve negotiated my way around a new town in a new appointment. It’s helped me in the inner city to get to where I need to go. I’ve even changed the voice on my phone so that the voice has a British accent. It makes me feel classy, although I must resist driving on the wrong side of the road.
But it’s not fool proof. As I’ve gotten more used to my new community, I’ve come to question the phone’s sense of direction. At times it will suggest a route that is convoluted and seems out of the way. And so there are times even when it makes a strong (as strong as it can be in polite British) reccomendation , that I ignore it and go my own route.
I’m also, as hard as it might be to believe, not always fool proof either. Even with the GPS I miss a turn here and here and have to find my way back.
In both cases the response of my GPS is the same. It begins to say “reroute, reroute” or “Rereouting to destitnion”. This is it’s way of warning me I have missed a turn or am in danger, in it’s opinion, of going the wrong way and it’s trying to get me back on track. It wants me to go in the proper direction.
If we were to become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and truly listen I wonder if we might not hear the same thing. “Reroute, reroute, you’re headed in the wrong direction.”? When I speak of the church, I’m thinking specifically of the United Methodist Church in the United States. But I think there is a parallel in our local churches and in our own hearts as well.
“Reroute, you’re headed in the wrong direction.” There can be little doubt this is the cry of the Holy Spirit in the church. We are headed in the wrong direction. We continue to lose members as a denomination in the US at alarming rates. Even the Pollyannas among us can agree we’ve reached a crisis stage in the Western Jurisdiction, and we are headed that way in the North Eastern Jurisdiction as well.
Thankfully we have no lack of suggestions. We need to “rethink” church. We need to become more socially active, we need to push only justice issues, we need to change to appease the millenialls, we need better growth strategies. We need to create a third way at General Conference. None of which have worked. All the time the Holy Spirit whispers to us “Reroute”.
The simple truth is none of these things, by themselves will change the church. Oh, they are all good. But they aren’t the panacea for our ills. The issue is not about going outward, or inward. We need to go deeper.
The problem with the church (and I’m including myself in this) is that God’s call for us it to go deeper in our faith first. The Great Commission of Jesus at the end of Matthew is to “go to the ends of the earth and make disciples”. (Matthew 28: 16-20) Disciples. Not new members, not social workers, not rethinkers. But disciples. Followers of Jesus. And not just new believers. But to create a group of people whose greatest desire is to go deeper in their intimacy with Jesus Christ.
Paul knew this. This is why he vents his frustration with the Corinthians in our scripture. Notice he doesn’t complain that they aren’t engaging in an “each one reach one” Strategy. Or they aren’t working hard enough to deal with societal ills. What Paul says is, “My desire is to make disciples, to help you mature spiritually and get to the real meat. But you are all spiritual babies perfectly happy on the bottle.” Or as Amy Grant put it:
But look at what happens when people are willing to go deeper: The church is added to daily. The hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the imprisoned are visited and set free. The millennials flock to the church. Sure, they are first millennial millennials, but there’s no real difference. God blesses and uses the church that is willing to go deeper.
God blesses Christians willing to go deeper as well. As we head into a New year, this has become my desire. Not to grow out or do more, or accomplish more as a pastor, or as a Christian. My desire is simply to go deeper. That’s my destination, that is where I will find blessing. Where are you going?