A lot of folks are asking this and similiar questions about the condition of churches in their neighborhoods after hearing of one more scandal. I certainly don’t want to join in throwing rocks at an already wounded institutional church. But I do want to offer an opinion for you to consider as one of the major weaknesses of local churches I am personally familiar with.

The Chuches have left the Story-line. As it turns out, in almost every case, the bottom lines seems to be that churches have forgotten their charter, their God-given calling.  They seem to be trying their hand at everything under the sun, everything everyone else is now doing, except the very thing they were called into existence to do; live out the life of godliness before the watching world and thus be the instrument of divine healing in the midst of a wicked and rebellious generation. The emphasis here is not on the wickedness of the world, but what God in sending Christ has done to restore his wayward children. The churches are to be local gatherings of the “first-fruits” of those restored to and delighting in the presence and the “shalom”of their heavenly Father while summoning those around them to likewise be converted and join them.

The Testimony of the Father concerning his Son, Jesus Christ, thus becomes the all essential focus of all things in the local church. And this Testimony is found only in the Scriptures-it is a very special Revelation. I found a statement in one of those powerful little books that pretty well sums up what we all need to do in order to recover the spiritual health of the churches:

Consecutive reading of Biblical books forces everyone who wants to hear to put himself, or to allow himself to be found, where God has acted once and for all for the salvation of mankind. We become a part of what once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we, too, pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God’s help and faithfulness.

We are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. There God dealt with us, and there He still deals with us, our needs and our sins, in judgment and grace. It is not that God is the spectator and sharer of our present life, however important that is; but rather that we are the reverent listeners and participants in God’s action in the sacred story, the history of Christ on earth. And only in so far as we are there, is God with us today also.

A complete reversal occurs. It is not in our life that God’s help and presence must still be proved, but rather God’s presence and help have been demonstrated for us in the life of Jesus Christ. It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today. The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the Last Day. Our salvation is “external to ourselves.” I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ. Only he who allows himself to be found in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, his cross, and his resurrection, is with God and God with him.

(Life Together- Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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