Global Movements or the Local Church?
What Ever Happened to the Local Church?
As one earnest pursuer of the Lord to another, let me ask you a question. Have you ever noticed that sometimes you get an occasional spiritual awareness on the periphery of your heart that you recognize has value and could be potentially very significant, but because of the present stream you’re following, you don’t take the time to check out that awareness any further? Yet the awareness doesn’t quite go away, and it eventually comes back. Have you experienced this?
I am personally experiencing this right now over the issue of the church’s impact and relevance on its immediate community. I’d like to share some observations with you and perhaps provoke some discussion over them. It could be that the spark of such observations might lead us to significant change associated with things we profess to be expecting from the Lord, but haven’t seen after years and years of prophecies of revival.
Here is what I have noticed, and what continually comes back to me. It is this: the local church of every stripe has virtually no practical vision nor interaction with its local community.
In the New Testament, we see the growth of the church based on immediate impact of local communities. However, in the western church of our generation, and for many decades, we have seen church growth and development within what appears to be an illusory bubble cemented only by the power of mass media technology and image.
It seems that virtually everything we know about one another and the definition of virtually everything the “Lord is doing” occurs inside this closed bubble, a theater of the mind and spirit acted out on a weekly stage with four walls. It seems also that the basis of vision of earthly impact of the church is virtually entirely on “global” and “international” and “national” levels.
The only reason any of this is becoming apparent to me is because I am pursuing the Lord under what is becoming an increasingly focused local mandate. We’re basically down to the vision for one single local town and neighborhood! The more focused our local mandate is becoming, the more irrelevant the “major streams” of activity are also becoming to us.
In all this, I am becoming increasingly wearied of “movements” and “conferences.” I’d settle for just a little dependable local relationship! Actually, I’m beginning to find myself more at home with the names and faces of the unbelievers in our community than I am with the nationally renowned prophetic icons I have been used to tracking. As written before, we do a lot of worship-prayer walks in our area, and pray especially over the local issues before our surrounding community. Down the road, we expect to have a manifest impact from this worship and to reap actual relationship from it in New Testament fashion.
I really have no place to chide those in the same bubble where I have spent most my life and from which I am only now beginning to emerge. But the farther away I become removed from it, the more loathe I am finding myself of it. The more illusory it is all appearing all the time.
Every month, our family sets aside our apportioned allotments for giving to the Lord. It seems that virtually 100% of what we give has gone either to maintenance of a closed fiefdom called our church or else for far-flung ministries whom we know only by means of mass media. I find that, though I am committed to giving to the poor, the widow and the orphan, I struggle to find a practical way to reach out to the poor and needy of my immediate area. I don’t even know who they are.
Does it ever strike you as strange that we continue to have these powerful conferences (and they are indeed powerful in the immediacy of the moment), yet for all the hundreds and hundreds of conferences and telecasts and streams of communication among ourselves featuring worship, intercession and proclamations of revival throughout these western countries, nothing fundamentally changes around us? Does that ever bother you? Does it at least make you curious? Like the ad used to say, “Where’s the beef?”
The interesting thing about early denominationalism is that it killed true local church unity and development everywhere because it required its adherents to remain separated by holding primary and protected allegiances to “national headquarters and networks” hundreds of miles away that had nothing to do with local relationships. (That is still true.) In the more recent streams of the Spirit, some of the local division has been cured. The streams have homogenized many of the differences.
But the church as a whole in any locality is still relating as a whole to distant icons presiding over distant ministries with “global vision” hundreds and thousands of miles away. And the surrounding local world of everyday town and village affairs in every place goes on about its business, untouched by the pizzazz and glitz of the bubble.
Personally, I am thankful for the internet, for the ability to freely communicate things of the Lord that I have otherwise been unable to communicate to local people. I have made some wonderful connections through it. And my trust is that the Lord will continue to use and develop this ministry to those hungry for it in distant places. But somewhere, my spirit knows that it only really counts if we can see the Lord make our truth real in the immediate surrounding environment. I’m looking forward to His doing just that.
We want to give out what we have received. But we have no more vision of becoming part of some great international bubble stream of activity. If the truth and worship way of life we have to offer can’t affect the people at the local town hall, the banks, the restaurants and all the other local institutions around us, then I think we are just kidding ourselves about what we are really accomplishing in the kingdom of God and we are deceived about what “God is doing.”
Just some thoughts from one pursuer of God to others. Now, a penny for yours…
New Meadow Neck, Rhode Island
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created October 12, 2016