I don’t remember who said it, nor do I have an exact quote, but the idea is something like this: The world is a reflection of the state of the Body of Christ. A 1986 (!) article Frank Viola posted on his blog reminds me of that concept. I was taught from an early age, in a fundamental-turned-evangelical church climate, that the world will get worse and worse, that Jesus will rescue all the Christians just before the #@!* hits the fan, and everyone left behind will get what they deserve.
I suspect that this point-by-point future-predicting theology may not be entirely accurate and that God intends to establish His Kingdom in the same way yeast works through dough, that is, consuming very little energy and multiplying in a slow and steady manner that mimics human respiration in a repeating cycle of oxidation and reduction. It happens quietly, almost imperceptibly. Someone might be inclined to question whether the yeast is actually working at all. In unnaturally leavened bread, which rises very rapidly, the enzymes in the dough are destroyed. Consequently, the habitual consumption of unnaturally leavened bread is partly to blame for the current obesity epidemic, it is a contributing factor in candida and anemia, and may be responsible for a host of additional health problems. But, hey, it sure does come in a flashy package, complete with misleading phrases like “enriched” or “multi-grain”.
From a spiritual point of view, this is very interesting: the yeast DIES as the dough is baked, and when the yeast dies, the little air pockets in the bread stop expanding, resulting in the bread’s pleasant texture and taste. Perhaps the body of Christ needs to die to its own idea of Ecclesia in order to function in the world the way Jesus described. He said that the reign of Heaven “is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour it permeated every part of the dough..” It seems to me that believers (myself included, for over a decade, at least) have been unnaturally killing the dough.
On a more positive note, the reign of God might work in the same way God Himself works: After we learn Who God is not, it is much easier to learn Who God is. I learned, through my own long season of spiritual obesity and spiritual health problems, who the church (Ecclesia) is not. It is not a building, programs, rigid claims on orthodoxy/heresy, hierarchy, etc. I’m still discovering who the church (Ecclesia) is. I’m not the only one who makes this observation. A blog entitled, “Organized Religion is Dying” by Tyler Jones represents the mindset of a slew of Christians around the globe, who notice that organized religion doesn’t play the central role in culture that it once did. He suggests, “Let’s host a funeral”, because this just might be a blessing in disguise.
The blog begins to move in the wrong direction when Jones writes, “legalism is dead” and “we have nothing to fear”. Why? Because legalism is most certainly not dead. It is as active as unnatural leaven. That’s part of the reason WHY fewer and fewer people in their 20s and 30s attend any church at all. When Jones writes “we” have nothing to fear, he is correct, so long as “we” refers to “followers of Christ.” If every church in the world folded, the followers of Christ would still be followers of Christ with nothing to fear. The reign of God is firmly established, and it would, of course, continue to expand. To my surprise, Jones concludes the blog by suggesting that we plant “thousands of new churches” and revitalize “hordes of existing churches.”
If the death of organized religion is a blessing, why the hell would we want to keep it alive? Sure, it can make the dough rise in a manner that people notice, but what if God’s not making quick-rise bread? What if God intends to leave His ministers of reconciliation right here on this Earth for a very long time, to reconcile the world to Himself? What if He plans on letting His reign work through this three-measures-of-flour-world until His reign permeates through every part of the dough?
Churches that live, teach, and believe the Gospel are prevailing; not even the gates of Hell can stand against gospel-centered churches! [...] Someday, we will look back on this period of history and realize we witnessed an amazing transformation. We will have watched as thousands of churches closed due to the fact that the core of their existence was based on legalism instead of the Cross of Christ.
I have a lot to say about that (especially the gates of Hell bit), but that’s another blog for another day. For now, it will suffice to conclude that eventually, just as believers have chosen to abandon abusive, legalistic environments, they will also choose to abandon abusive, legalistic doctrines like eternal torment in Hell. They will recognize that a gospel-centered church, should be, according to the definition of “gospel”, a Good-News-centered church. And when believers discover that the gospel-centered claim is a farce, when they finally let it sink in that the gates of Hell, according to orthodox doctrine, stand against not only the church, but Jesus Christ Himself, then there will be another mass exodus.
And when the dust settles, there’s the church, there’s the steeple, open the doors, where are the people? Don’t assume that they are no longer viable as ministers of reconciliation in the reign of God. They are being a “blessing in disguise”, yeast that accomplishes its purpose in God’s time and God’s way, no need for a flashy package or misleading phrases.