The Global Church - Part 4 (unfinished)
The Open Church
Part 1: The millennial church & A church in tune with the world
Part 2: Church networks and global management
Part 3: The call to global oneness (Jay Gary and Global Missions)
Part 4: The Open Church
Part 5: Christians in the new millennium
"Separation" is not welcome in the 21st century church.
The founder and chairman of the Open Church Ministry (OCM), Jim Rutz, lives in the mountains above Colorado Springs. His goal is to "bring new life to churches and believers by enabling them to reclaim three of the freedoms they had in the First Century: pure worship, true sharing, and free ministry." During his years as a freelance writer, Mr. Rutz wrote for World Vision, Youth for Christ, Prison Fellowship, the Lausanne Committee and Intervarsity.
For almost a decade, Jim Rutz and OCM has been distributing a promotional audio cassette titled Christianity in a New Key, an introduction to The Future Church. It includes statements by well known Christian leaders such as pollster George Barna, author Gene Edwards, reconstructionists Jay Grimstad (COR) and Dennis Peacock, Fuller Professor Peter Wagner, Kansas City Fellowship prophet Mike Bickle, author Rick Joyner and Tom Houston, the professional director for the Lausanne Committee for world evangelization.
Without identifying individual speakers, the tape begins with a string of related statements concerning the envisioned future church:
“God is now moving.” [What does that mean?]
“He has been preparing over the lasts several decades a new kind of Church.”
“In the Church of the future, God will touch us and turn us into the lions we are supposed to be, and give us the freedom to serve Him in far wider realms -- the unexplored and forbidden lands of high spiritual adventure.
“The whole infrastructure of church bodies has to be changed and prepared to accommodate great numbers of new converts.”
“We will see in the 21st century a recreation of a dynamic of the Church that we saw in the 1st century.”
The tape suggests that this global church will be so attractive to the world that people everywhere will flock to Christ:
"... when all of this big stuff, the big prayer movements, the prophetic movement, the political activist movement, the UNITY MOVEMENT, the whole bit, when all of this congeals in the next 10-15 years, there’s going to be some explosive growth - not only in evangelism and personal holiness - but whole countries are going to change and just come rushing into the Kingdom of God.”
How does this scenario fit Scriptures such as John 6:65-67? That's where Jesus tells the crowd, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father." As a result "many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more." His way simply didn't fit the popular ways of the world.
The well distributed Open Church audio cassette closes with these words by David Bradshaw:
“...we’re talking about a revamped worship service that could transform your people like a cold shower. You won’t have many spiritual blobs that show up once a week, then vanish. You’ll have people of action, concerned participants.... Let’s stop playing church. The time has come to end our 1700 year experiment in spectator Christianity....”
He is comparing his vision of church participation with the old church structure based on Biblical authority. The new way seems to trade obedience to God's Word for a new collective vision of "what God is doing." No need for lectures by a pastor-teacher who has spent his adult years studying the Biblical view God's will and ways! The Holy Spirit will lead the group to new truths, broader understanding and higher ground.
Or will He? Can God's Church be rebuilt by ambitious managers who are trained to compromise?
George Barna, whose name was included in the Open Church promotional tape, now has some serious concerns about worldwide shift toward dialectic groups and home churches:
"... small groups may be doing more to inhibit peoples’ spiritual growth than to facilitate that growth. Part of the reason is that, first of all, in most groups, you have an individual who’s in charge of the group or leading the group who really doesn’t know Scripture very well. So if they’re leading a discussion or trying to teach on things, more often than not, what you wind up with is heresy rather than Christian orthodoxy." [Interview with George Barna, Part I]
The new church management systems train group leaders and facilitators to guide the group toward a politically correct interpretation. Paul Proctor illustrates the mind-changing process:When Bible study members and church groups are freed to set aside Biblical authority and interpret God's Word by consensus rather than by the Bible itself, their understanding of God as well as truth will be distorted. Human nature has always tried to imagine feel-good gods whose ways match human wants and illusions. But God says,
"A group gathers, and has agreed beforehand that each in attendance will ultimately surrender his or her own personal position on any given issue to the will or 'consensus' of the group after *processing to consensus* through dialog. In a Christian setting, the presupposition is that the group's will determines 'the will of God'. The group's 'facilitator', whoever that may be, mediates between sides, be they 'good and evil', 'for and against', 'republican and democrat', 'liberal and conservative', etc., whatever the case may be, often instigating heated confrontations between the opposing sides for the purpose of suggesting compromise as the perfect solution to restore and maintain the peace and the relationships of everyone involved.
"The resulting outcome or *consensus* is then re-introduced, if necessary, at the next meeting for more 'Praxis', more dialog and more compromise until another 'consensus' is reached. Then the "process" repeats all over again.....and again....and again until the facilitator's desired outcome is achieved. Over time, the convictions and concerns anyone may have had originally are processed away beyond recognition or relevance leaving one and all to accept the facilitator¹s pre-determined outcome as the consensus of the group. It's no longer a question of what is right or wrong, good or bad, lawful or unlawful, but rather HOW WE ALL FEEL ABOUT IT.... That's the Hegelian Dialectic." [Willow Creek: Hegelian Dialectic and the New World Order]
"What right have you to declare My statutes...
Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you?
When you saw a thief, you consented with him,
And have been a partaker with adulterers.
You give your mouth to evil....
These things you have done, and I kept silent;
You thought that I was altogether like you;
But I will rebuke you...." Psalm 50:15-21