Thursday, January 04, 2018

Deus Absconditus or Nobiscum Deus? (The Presence-Driven Church)

Sterling State Park, Monroe
(I expand on these ideas in my new book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.)

Linda and I recently prayed for someone in a church I was visiting, and they were healed. The people of the church were filled with joy. They are still talking about it, and giving much worship and glory to the God who did this great thing.

When someone is healed like that, we have an event which doctors, in all their expertise, are been unable to effect. And, which money cannot purchase.

A healing can have persuasive power. It gets people's attention. It is beautiful. It's a sign of the inbreaking of God. This gives people hope.

At Redeemer we are always praying for people to be healed. This is part of our culture. A healing culture is a profoundly biblical culture. Remember the Gospels, where Jesus healed and delivered many as a demonstration of the rule and reign of God. These healings and deliverances were manifestations of the Kingdom that was invading this present darkness. This is what every church needs: a Kingdom invasion. (See, e.g., James McDonald, Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs For. What Every Church Can Be. And what about the reality of Satan (the coffee cups begin to nervously tremble)? See how the American Church has been "Scooby-do-ified," in Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted, by Richard Beck)

Sadly, the American Church has lost touch with such things. This detachment is due to acquiescing to the surrounding secular, skeptical culture. The American Church has been reduced to the form of this world. Now all we have to offer is stage lighting, scripted music, blue jeans, and coffee.

I love coffee. I wear blue jeans. We don't click-track our worship. Anyone can do that. It's possible, even actual, to have all that cultural stuff and Deus absconditus. (God, absent.)

Where in the heavens is God in whatever we are doing on Sunday mornings? Singing about it is one thing; the God-invasion is quite another thing.

The good new is that hope is on the horizon, in the form of Jesus-followers who have been experiencing the kind of signs and wonders the biblical text attests to. Most of these churches can barely afford new strings for their guitars. All they have, in their midst, is nobiscum Deus. (God, with us)

Theologian John Jefferson Davis (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) writes:

"Some scholars have estimated that by 2025, Pentecostal and charismatic Christians around the globe may number nearly 800 million. "Now exploding in Brazil, Mexico, Russia, and China, Pentecostal Christianity may become the most widespread form of the religion," notes Lamin Sanneh, "with as yet unquantifiable effects on the mainline churches and global politics."" (Davis, Worship and the Reality of God: An Evangelical Theology of Real Presence, Kindle Locations 155-161)

However, this is not necessarily good news for naturalistic Americanized churches. "One outcome of this growth," writes Davis, "is likely to be a challenge from the avowedly supernaturalistic worldview of Christians in the Global South-a worldview in which biblical signs and wonders are considered normal Christianity-to the worldviews and ontologies of North American churches that, from the Southern churches' perspective, seem to be stuck in the naturalistic assumptions of Enlightenment naturalism and materialism. "

Davis asks the American Church some questions: "The idea that the age of miracles ceased with the apostles or when the biblical canon was closed seems strange to majority-world Christians, who seem to be saying to their northern brothers and sisters in the faith, do you really believe the Bible? What universe are you really living in?" (Ib.)