The Gelded Church and Her Path to Redemption

by Art Hobba

With few exceptions, the state of the present American Church–and most churches across the globe–have declined in the quality, relevance, and potency of their impact and failed to comply with the given-by-Jesus purpose of the Church as disciple-makers. Disciples don’t come out of a 101, 201, 301 information-rich course structure. They are made in the crucible of suffering–even as they soldier on as God’s Salt, Light, and Leaven within their respective “worldly” communities.

Beginning with Jesus, within two-to-three generations of a ministry founder’s vision, and its activation into an organized Spirit-led movement, most churches lose their founders’ fervor. A brief study of the Early Church’s first 100 years displays the same pattern. After many generations of institutionalization, the US church today has fallen far from its potential. We’ve invalidated the reality of Jesus–and his oneness with the Father by abandoning the humility and labors required to sustain unity.

Today, over 7,000 (the real numbers) denominations oversee  315,000 small-to-mega churches identified by their differences in beliefs and dogma. Today we have so many stand alone in their isolation (we’d rather use the word ‘independent’)–that they unconsciously betray the Christ they follow. We no longer strive to keep one of the clearest examples of unity, and the core commandment that Jesus emphasized to the 11 (Judas had been sent away) on his last day on Earth:

I and my Father are One,” (Jn 10)

In his last public prayer to the Father before verse 11, Jesus prays that ALL of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. THEN the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (Jn 17:20-23)

Unfortunately, this decline in fervor marks most individuals (study the bios of Kings Solomon, Asa, David), family units, tribes–even nations. Practically all institutions and organizations ever founded–whether sacred or secular–show this pattern as well. All begin with a type of entrepreneurial vision that leads to a mission and plan. Unity becomes the center of the original circle, followed by hard work, taking the risk of the unknown, sustaining the unity, and building up a self-sustaining ministry–or business–through a daily exercise of that unity and mutual respect.

Once the founder’s vision–and his first generation of builder-implementors vacate their offices, the inspired vision and disciplined mission that birthed and sustained a MOVEMENT begins to unravel. Waiting on the timing of the Holy Spirit listening to, and obeying the Spirit often fades with it. The thrill–and the forward pressure of vision dies out–often replaced by a safer, predictable form of maternal nesting begins to form taming the former by winnowing out remaining entrepreneurial leaders and thinkers. In their place, we install safe, bureaucratic decision-making that is more representative of Star Teck’s BORG, than the inspired mission that gave fresh and renewable propulsion to the former movement of God.

It begins to rear its head in our conversations and dinner tables as a subtle exchange of great for good. Enterprising, high-risk, high-reward Kingdom-advancing ventures are subrogated by the calmer, more rational “niceness” of calmer seas we believe a nice Jesus would think would approve.  Finally, the evolving culture becomes a place of no risk and minimal friction.

Boys and young men see our gelded, boring, men of faith settle down, and quietly walk away. We also observe others of “the sold-out” begin to develop shortcuts, turning the Spirit’s vision into their own ego-feeding–and often competitive–objectives, which they validate using their left-brained justification. The heart Host shrinks. Life’s once impossible heroic man of God, yield to a hyper-frenetic, important-seeming schedule that effectively mutes the voice of God.

A true selfless shepherd’s courageous willingness to lay down his life for his sheep–can easily devolve into a  fear-based mentality that a “good shepherd” means circling the wagons and building a fence around our congregation. These churches are self-centered, inwardly feeding–feasting even–enjoying the eloquent preachers’ delicacies, but without the vigorous action needed to synergize the Scriptures into bold sacrifices of love for the brokenhearted, the blind, the homeless, the fatherless, and the poor. They choose to secure their sheep.

What went wrong?

Over 1,600 years ago we lost the Living Water rights that created streams in the desert for thirsty seeds and souls. As Pastoral or Priestly authority was augmented, the pastoral officers killed off three of the most vibrant, entrepreneurial, and devoted biblical leadership roles God inspired in the early Church:

  • The Apostle
  • The Prophet
  • The Evangelist

Without active, sometimes caustic, but honored, Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists to challenge us, face a hostile World, and shake us up, only the Pastor or Teacher is left in charge. Both roles are designed by the Spirit to be risk and safety managers. soon they become Pharisees.

The FEAR of “not enough”, and being thought less of by others within the center of power, lulls men into a dream state of spiritual stupor. Long before then, the Spirit has left that church or parachurch organization–carrying their once bright Candlestick with him. Only a jealous and disciplining Father-God is able to awaken us. The attrition of spiritual muscle and procreation will always occur when the “Peace and Safety” rhetoric of the reprobate Jerusalem Elders of the Old Testament becomes our own religious WOKEISM. 

Near the end of the first Century, Jesus visited and–through Apostle John, prophesied over 7 churches founded by St. Paul in Revelation 2-3, warning them to “Repent!” and “Wake up!. He goes on to say,  Strengthen what remains and is about to die,” “do the former things, and “You’ve forgotten your First Love.

LOOK! He is still knocking at that door of each of our hearts, looking for us to “remember” and embrace the sweet, yet wildly unpredictable kinship he once had with us at His Table.

Art Hobba, Founder and President, Core 300

Author of The Warrior, The Priest, and The King men’s leadership curricula, designed to awaken, empower, and make dangerous a man of extraordinary faith.

art.hobba@core300.org

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