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Exploring  the Spiritual Dimensions of Life
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KingdomLife

 The church today is dealing with an identity crisis. Many congregations are struggling to maintain relevancy as society rapidly changes in our Post Modern world. Some maintain traditional forms of worship that have been passed down from generation to generation, but are finding it difficult to attract the younger generations who consider them irrelevant to their lifestyles. Others utilize modern marketing techniques, audio/visual systems, and seeker-sensitive meeting formats to attract the younger generation, but struggle to develop spiritual depth among their attendees. The world is changing rapidly ... how can we keep up with the social trends, maintain relevancy, and help folks go deep in their Christian walk.


The struggle in the church to deal with the social changes and values of the world is not a new problem; it has been around since the early days of the church.


John 17:14 - I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.


The real identity crisis is not rooted in staying relevant to the current cultural trends or maintaining our church traditions. The real identity problem is this:


How do you cultivate an other-worldly culture within a worshipping discipleship community?


This has been an issue throughout the history of the church and has resulted in tensions between traditional approaches to church life, the desire of scriptural expressions, the need for sociological relevancy, and the hunger for supernatural expression.  


We can see these tensions displayed throughout church history in the unique rituals, liturgies, theologies, and even in physical church architectures.


We can see this in the protestant reformation project, which was as much about adapting to the social changes emerging from the Renaissance as it was correcting problems in the Roman Catholic church. We can see this in the Pentecostal revival, Evangelical movement, Charismatic movement, Seeker Sensitive movement, Modern Worship Music project, and even the current New Apostolic Reformation movement.


Often these tensions are tempered by the church focusing on the day-to-day problems in the world and pushing supernatural expressions back to the past and far into the future … The supernatural stuff was needed to get the church started, but we can continue without it for now and we will deal with the rest of that spiritual stuff when we get to heaven … every once in awhile, God intervenes in human history, but for the most part, he has given us what we need and expects us to take care of the details.


So in order to deal with the issues raised from John 17:14, we should ask ourselves this question;

Do we really want to even attempt to cultivate and other-worldly culture in the church, or is it enough just to attempt to be relevant to our changing culture and help our people adjust and adapt to what is going on in the world around them?


We can be traditionalist, conservative, liberal, evangelical, or even Pentecostal. We can add modern music, video clips, and drama to our worship time. We can add all types of helps ministry; alcohol and  substance abuse, physical and mental abuse victims, marriage and trauma counseling, immigration services, etc. We can create an adult education program and teach different self-help classes that will help our church members grow mentally, emotionally, socially, and perhaps even religiously.


All of these things can be very helpful and good for the members of our church, but we should be honest and admit that we are primarily helping them better adjust and interact with the world around them; they are becoming “better-worldly” not “”other-worldly”.


Historically, I see that the church has a tendency to focus on purpose, vision, and mission within the scope of our mission field (in the world, physical realm) without truly dealing with how our other-worldly identity should INFORM AND IMPACT what we do and how we do it. But if we are to take seriously (and literally) what John 17:14 says about our identity that we are not ”of the world”, then we should look at things differently. Instead of first looking at ministry from the perspective of the NEEDS in the world, or physical realm, we are going to take a shot at looking at ministry first from the perspective of our Identity and see where that takes us.  As we do this, we will consider how the gifts of the Holy Spirit can connect our identity as the church and as leaders with the mission.


John 17:18 - As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.


As we look at this verse, we see that if we are to understand how we are sent into the world, we need to understand how Jesus was sent into the world. We tend to think of our call and mission in terms of the boundaries of the physical world around us and perhaps with respect to the depths of the inner soul life … how we think (mind), how we feel (emotions), what we are aware of (consciousness), and what choices we make (will). It is “natural” for us to frame ministry this way, but when we do, we may be taking a shortcut, because Jesus doesn’t call us and sent us only according to the categories of the physical realm and the human soul.


As the Father sent Jesus into the world, Jesus has also sent us into the world.


John 3:12-13 - If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.


Why did Jesus speak to Nicodemus about earthly things and heavenly things? I thing that He was creating an opportunity for Nicodemus to step beyond the limits of his human religious thinking. He was challenging him to think differently … seriously differently. Then he provides a real-life example of a heavenly realiity that is truly mind-blowing ro Nicodemus to ponder. Here it is in case you missed it when you read the passage ….


Jesus came down from heaven to earth and is in heaven at the same time.


When Jesus said this He was standing on the Earth talking to Nicodemus (He who came down from heaven) AND he was, at the same time, in heaven (he who is in heaven). Jesus exists and operates as a dual-realm being: simultaneous existing and operating in the physical realm and spiritual realm. How can this be … He is fully divine and fully human: body, soul, spirit. Because He is fully human, His body connects with the physical realm and His human spirit connects with the spiritual realm simultaneously and His soul operates at the intersection of both realms. As a result, He can naturally take those things which exist in the spiritual realm and bring them into the physical realm (manifest them). He was sent, came down, into the world, the physical realm …. from heaven, from the spiritual realm, which he never left.


Earlier in the Gospel of John, Jesus said this to Nicodemus ….


John 3:3-8 - Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."  Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 


In order to see and enter the Kingdom of God, a person must be born again, spirit-birthed. The human spirit is dead, and must be born. It is not possible for a person with a dead human spirit to interact with the Kingdom of God, a spiritual Kingdom. That which is flesh is constrained to the physical realm. That which is spirit, can interact within the spiritual realm and from there, can see the Kingdom of God and may even enter the Kingdom of God. Once a person is spirit-birthed, then the Holy Spirit will come and dwell in the newly born human spirit.


There is much more to say about this, and we will continue in the near future with Part 2.

 The Need for Supernatural and Spiritual Leadership in the Church

 - part 1