Sunday, June 05, 2016

When He Comes, He Will Build It (More on the Presence-Driven Church)

Common whitetail dragonfly

Our church, Redeemer, is not a “Purpose-Driven church.” It is also not a “Program-Driven church” ("If we build it, they will come.) We are, and long to be even more, a “Presence-Driven Church.” This means:

When He comes, He will build it.
I did love Rick Warren’s “purpose-driven” books. I learned much from them. I have no quarrel here. I’m making a logical and experiential point, which I feel Warren would affirm. It is: out of the experiential presence of God “purpose” is given, by God and from God.

Warren taught that God has given 5 purposes for the Church. The community of Jesus-follwoers is to grow…

·    Warmer through fellowship

·    Deeper through discipleship

·    Stronger through worship

·    Broader through ministry

·    And larger through evangelism

OK. That’s good. But this way of looking at things relativizes the One Thing, which is: to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; to know God, in the sense of knowing-as-intimate-relationship; to abide in Christ, and to lead others into the abiding relationship, from which all God-things come (fellowship, discipleship, etc.).
It is only within God’s presence, only as we dwell in relationship with him, that any of Warren's 5 purposes gain experiential credibility. Unless God shows us such things, they remain mere theory. I have found that as I focus on John 14-type abiding, my fellowship with other Jesus-followers does grow warmer. As I live the abiding life and lead my people into these beautiful relational and experiential fields of the Lord, God will expand his ministry through them.

It feels to me like this. “Unless the Lord builds the house, its workers labor in vain.” A church may have, as one of its purposes, to build a spiritual or physical (or both) house. This is fine, but it is so only if the Lord has given that directive. Unless our Builder says “Build!” any building we do is in vain. The immediate purpose of building is mediated in and through the experienced presence of God.

Biblical scholar Gordon Fee calls this the “presence motif” we find in Scripture. The presence motif is the hermeneutical key to, for example, the book of Exodus. Moses, In Exodus 33:15-16, appeals to God this way:  And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” The reason “better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere” is precisely because of God’s desired, radiant, earth-shattering presence.  And the reason the Temple will no longer stand, said Jesus, is because the Temple religious leaders “shut the door to the kingdom of heaven.”
The call of Jesus for his followers to abide in Him, like branches connected to the Vine, is an invitation to presence and relationship.

As for church programs, if God speaks out of his presence, saying “Begin Program X,” then do it. And if God says “It’s time to stop doing Program X,” then stop it. Here’s where program-driven people often falter, since they have become more invested in “their” programs than in the commanding presence of God.