Image by eddymul via FlickrL.D. Turner
If we take an honest and thorough look around us at this current juncture in the history of the Christian faith, I believe it is safe to say that we are at a critical crossroads. In America, people are leaving the church in droves and the term “Christian” has come to be viewed as a derogatory label rather than indicating a positive, constructive force in contemporary society. Recent research also shows that even those remaining loyal to the faith increasingly view the organized church with a marked level of suspicion and distrust.
With this negative backdrop, it may seem surprising that I want to briefly speak a few encouraging and motivating words regarding where we, as individual Christians, go from here. Yet that is precisely what I want to do. With the faith at such a crisis point, it is more vital than ever that a new, passionate, and creative cadre of Christian evangelists step forward and blaze fresh and attractive pathways not only into the faith, but into authentic Christian discipleship. Following the lead of the Master, Paul and the early apostles envisioned and preached a faith that was vibrant, service-oriented, and above all, transformational. Given the contemporary cultural milieu and the general disrepute into which Christianity has fallen, we cannot afford to settle for anything less.
I am convinced that God is moving in this world in new and exciting ways. Some of these movements are perhaps unfamiliar but soundly biblical in nature. For example, as the church undergoes the negative trends mentioned above, there may well be a sublime, positive purpose undergirding this entire process. Perhaps God is in fact dismantling aspects of the faith’s superstructure that have become time-worn and outmoded. Like anything else, there has to be an emptying before there can be a fresh filling. It is difficult to predict the exact forms this new in-filling will take except to say they will be different than what many long-standing Christians are used to. It is imperative that we understand that as uncomfortable and confusing as this process might be, it is absolutely necessary.
I am also convinced that God is calling many among us to be a part of this positive vanguard of Christ-followers who are stepping to the front and leading the way in these challenging but exciting waters. God is looking for faithful, open-minded, and creative sons and daughters to take the point in this vital endeavor – brothers and sisters who understand that Christianity is an approach to life, not just something we do on Sundays or at mid-week potlucks. Two interrelated words describe the kind of passionate followers Christ is calling out at this crucial period in cultural history: consecrated and committed. Both these terms refer to people who are willing to sacrifice, surrender, and get their hands dirty as they go about the task of laying a firm foundation for the Master’s kingdom. Noted Christian sociological researcher George Barna describes these consecrated, committed believers this way:
The United States is home to an increasing number of Revolutionaries. These people are devout followers of Jesus Christ who are serious about their faith, who are constantly worshipping and interacting with God, and whose lives are centered on their belief in Christ. Some of them are aligned with a congregational church, but many of them are not. The key to understanding Revolutionaries is not what church they attend. Instead, it’s their complete dedication to being thoroughly Christian by viewing every moment of life through a spiritual lens and making every decision in light of biblical principles. These are individuals who are determined to glorify God every day through every though, word, and deed in their lives.
The Master is calling those among us, perhaps you, who are willing to make the commitment to take up his mantle and reawaken his church. I am convinced he is looking for living epistles who are shining examples of what it really means to be a radical, revolutionary Christ-follower. More than ever this world needs his salt and light and the Master openly seeks those willing to step forward – those willing to shake and shine.
I am reminded of the call issued in the 60th chapter of Isaiah and feel this precise time in the history of the Christian faith is ripe for such a high calling. Listen closely as the Spirit speaks through the prophet:
Arise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isaiah 60:1-3)
I feel this calling directly upon my heart and it is my sincere hope that more and more of you do as well. It is not that I expect kings and nations to come to me, but perhaps other people who are floundering in darkness, despair, and confusion. It is, indeed, like my personal “dawn.” No doubt darkness covers the earth and there is a thick darkness over its peoples, and I think this may be especially true regarding the church.
I first became clear about this calling in my life several years ago when the Spirit moved deeply in my heart during my early morning reflective meditations on scripture. I had slowly been working my way through several sections of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Proverbs. When the call came it was in relation to Isaiah 60: 1-3 as quoted above. As time passed, this calling became more and more obvious in my life in ways both large and small. The LifeBrook blog, which I started in early 2008, was a part of my response to that calling. In addition, I composed a highly personal affirmative prayer that I used on a daily basis over the next two years. The prayer, which became an integral part of my daily devotional life, continues to be something I use to remind myself of why I am here and what the Master expects of me. The prayer is:
Lord, I indeed arise and thank you that my light has come and that your glory has risen upon me.
Although darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the people, Lord you have risen upon me and placed the light of your glory over me. Because of the brightness of this new dawn over me, others can witness your love and glory through my thoughts, words, and deeds. I thank you for the blessing of your presence and your light, the light that lights everyone who comes into the world, within me.
Lord, I thank you for this blessing and this opportunity to serve you in this dark and desperate, yet exciting and challenging age. May all that I think, say, and do bring honor to your cause and to your name.
In Jesus name, Amen.
It is my heartfelt hope and fervent prayer that at least in some small way this short article has stirred your spirit. I encourage you to prayerfully spend some quality time with the Master, in whatever way works best for you, and seek clarification on what the Lord is calling you to do. If you are genuinely serious about your faith and you desire to create a lifestyle that is Christ-centered, Christ-honoring, and spiritually significant, then rest assured that he is indeed calling you. In ways both great and small, each of us has something to contribute – some talent and some task that we can perform that brings both honor and glory to the Master and the kingdom.
Again, we are fortunate to live in such a challenging and opportunity-filled time. What is happening in the church only seems negative when viewed from a superficial perspective. Those of us who are, as Barna calls us, “revolutionaries,” take a deeper angle on all this. We realize that the dismantling of the old is necessary in order for a new, fresh, infilling to occur.
Each of us has a role to play in that infilling. Spend time communing with the Sacred Light that shines within you and I am assured that you will find clarity on exactly what it is you are to do. God gave you talent, ability, and multiple skills. Two things are thus certain: there is someone right now who needs exactly what you have to offer and secondly, for you to carry your talents and gifts to your grave unused would be a tragedy of immeasurable proportion.
Think about it.
© L.D. Turner 2011/All Rights Reserved