If you could have a conversation with any one of the early church leaders, like John, Paul, Peter or even Priscilla & Aquilla, Thomas Aquinas, Barnabas or perhaps Mary Magdalene, who would you chose? What questions would you ask? What prayers would you pray together? What mysteries would be revealed? And if whoever you choose could look into today, what commentary would they have on the church of 2021?
I have to admit, I saw this on a meme the other day, but it did get me thinking. First, what questions would I ask and second what conversation would ensue. More importantly, I would want to know if where we are as a church in 2021, is this what they envisioned the church would be like? Is this the future church they were praying for? Many today would quickly say 'NO' this is not the church they envisioned! They would I'm sure point out the many failures along way, which lead them to say no in the first place. I too thought that when I began to think and even write this. However, the more I ponder this thought and the more I read early church writings and even writings throughout history, I'm not so sure they would say no.
The issues that we face today are in a lot of ways no different today than 2000 years ago. We have societies and governments around us, trying to tell the church how they should operate and conform. Those same societies and governments, and even religious leaders if we are being completely honest, will condemn, ridicule, point the finger and place blame on the many failures of the church, not just in recent history but atrocities committed 500 years ago. They will undoubtedly bring these up to further their agenda of their hatred of the church.
'Are you surprised this is the current state of the church'? I wouldn't be shocked if this was one of the answers, we would get from anyone of these men and women I listed earlier.
Anyone of these men and women could share some deeply profound responses. They may share a vision they had or prayers they prayed about the future church. They may even have some deeply profound wisdom. But the truth of the matter is this, are we surprised we are where we are? Today we see things very tribally. What do I mean by this? We group things by tribes to better understand people as well as we tend to be in tribes of people who think like we do. This is not bad, it is just mine, along with many others subjective view. But with that said, we in the church are split in east vs west. Or better yet east vs west vs middle east. This tribalist understanding or compartmentalization is very dangerous, although I see why this happens. It is dangerous because we limit people to their tribes and not see them holistically as the body of Christ.
We need to do our best to not see the church this way. Why? I'm not going to speak for God; however I am pretty sure that He sees a much higher view then our limited perspective. The church as a whole, not just the tribalism of each country or region or even divided denomination, is growing. Anyone one can go study research done by many different organizations, just google it. It may not seem as if it's growing in the west. It looks like people are leaving the church or perhaps they were never really going, except for major holidays.
How did we get here? We got here because we are all broken people in need of Jesus, some of us just realize it more than others. Our brokenness comes together as we surrender our lives to Jesus each and every day. And those that are believers in Jesus, those that are followers of Christ bear the Name of Lord. And bear it well!