Sunday, April 09, 2017

The Presence-Driven Church Is Not Something You Shop For

Praying at Redeemer, 4.9.17 (photo by Karen Reaume)
When Jesus said, "I will build my church," this did not mean a church that existed for the sake of meeting people's needs. Rather, the church would be a temple that God inhabits. Jesus's followers would gather to meet with God. This distinction is important, since Consumer Churches have formed which have the people in mind more than they have God in heart.

The basic question of the Church is not, "What do the people want?" In the early, Upper Room Church, newcomers were not asked if they enjoyed the service. In Real Church people meet the One they need. As this happens, deep wounds are healed, and deep needs are met. The distinction is between consumer needs and existential needs. The difference is between shopping and worshiping, purchasing and being-bought.

When Christ found and rescued me forty-seven years ago, I found what I needed, but not in some consumer sense. I was not shopping for a religion. I had been met by God! The longing and great emptiness in my heart discovered its fulfillment. This longing was like the "great sadness" in The Shack. Roger Olson writes:

"I believe there are such amazing truths in The Shack that God might use it to take away our Great Sadness. That's its purpose. The author surely wrote it with the hope that through it God would heal wounds of distrust and bring some readers back to himself." (Olson. Finding God in the Shack: Seeking Truth in a Story of Evil and Redemption, Kindle Locations 101-102)

This forms, for me, what is referred to as "the existential argument for believing in God. In its simplest form, it says that we are justified in believing in God solely because doing so satisfies certain emotional and spiritual needs." (Clifford Williams. Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith, Kindle Locations 87-88)

I am a follower of Jesus because: 1) I believe it makes sense, or is true, and 2) it meets existential needs. The second says, Christ has occupied the Pascal-type abyss in my soul. This is not something you shop for. It is Someone who has captured your entire being.