-Dr. Robert Stearns, Executive Director of Eagles' Wings
Religion promoted by man (arrogant, defiled, and impure) is insidious because it reduces the supreme loving, liberating force in the universe to a series of “oughts and “shoulds” that have no power to produce true change in a life. It sounds like a cliché, but it is true that the greatest power in the world is love. The source of pure love is God. But religion has portrayed God as a harsh, unloving taskmaster who is more concerned with actions than attitudes. God certainly does care about actions, but Scripture is crystal clear that a holy life flows out of a pure and clean heart. Jesus taught us that the sick need a doctor, not the healthy (see Luke 5:31). King David wrote, “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom” (Ps. 51:6, NKJV).
I believe the next generation will not tolerate a Christianity that is not wholly authentic. There will simply not be time or effort invested in churches or institutions that sound and look shallow and plastic. There is a tremendous anointing of discernment on this generation, even those not consciously in relationship with God. They possess an instinctive quest for the real thing. This discernment ferrets out insincerity and thirsts for the genuine.
The present church leadership, seeking survival, may decide simply to placate the faithfully attending and tithing Sunday morning crowd. But they will soon realize that the church will have no future because neither guilt nor tradition will bring the next generation to church on Sunday morning. The next generation will simply stop attending, and the church will be left with a docile, obedient, but shrinking older crowd with no generation to pass anything on to.
In the midst of this crisis, the next generation will discover Jesus.
INTIMACY WITH JESUS
The Church is coming to a place where relationship with Jesus is really all that matters.
Many aspects of Christ’s message vie for our attention. There is so much in the Word to learn! But too often, we have succumbed to focusing our attention on one aspect of Jesus’ teaching rather than on developing a relationship with the Teacher. This misplaced focus leads us to all kinds of church movements that divide and weaken us. So we have portions of the Church that focus on healing, on faith, on evangelism, on spiritual warfare. The list is endless. All these, and many other areas of focus, are valid and necessary aspects of the Christian life. But all too often, these teachings become the filter by which we define our Christian lives. Instead, we must constantly keep the plumb line of simple devotion to Jesus.
We must regularly experience the penetrating gaze of Jesus’ eyes. Through the power of His Spirit, He searches our hearts, jealous over our affection. If we do not have these times of truly experiencing Him, then anything—our ministry, our theology, all our good activities—can easily become an idol, keeping us from deep relationship with the very One we say we are serving.
A COMMUNITY OF FAITH—Serving and Loving with Humility and Sincerity
At the National Prayer Breakfast in 2012, keynoter Eric Metaxas (author of recent biographies on the lives of Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer) weighed in on the issue of dead religion and said in his speech, I Hate Dead Religion, “So finally, Jesus tells us that we must love our enemies. That, my friends, is the real difference between dead religion and a living faith in the God of the Scriptures, whether we can love our enemies.” God, deliver us from the tsunami of dead religion sweeping over major institutions and leaders in some parts of the Church today. Revive us with authentic, Christ-centered faith!
The Apostle James writes, “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion isuseless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:26-27, NKJV). Simplicity of heart, speaking truth in love, humility, sincerely demonstrating love to one another and the world (friend and foe alike), fear of God, holiness, and a zeal to both proclaim and live out the Good News of Christ will mark the coming generations of godly leaders in the Church.
[Adapted from Robert Stearns’ Prepare the Way (Or Get Out of the Way!) (Destiny Image)]