It is a peculiar time in the history of the Church. If one is a student of church history then one knows that it is always “a peculiar time in the history of the church”; this just happens to be our particular time with our unique challenges and our opportunities.
There is much we could say, but let me make one observation about our peculiar time, an observation I shared last week with a group of pastors and lay leaders from the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches:
There are a lot of successful people in and around our congregations who are hungering and longing for something more.
These are men and women whose hearts stir deeply when they hear Jesus words, “Come to me all you … learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). They are yearning to learn with Jesus the way of life he offers.
I often think these hungering and longing people fall into two categories:
(1) The first group of people are those who have on the one hand, high, high Bible I.Q – they have been getting pieces of candy for Jesus-God-and-Bible-answers their whole lives – but, on the other hand, they are having a tough time making sense of their lives with what they know from Scripture; or put another way, the questions of their lives and the answers they know from the Bible are not matching. This is very confusing. They are hungry.
(2) The second group of people who are hungering are those who on the one hand, have been grabbed by Jesus in their adult lives—out of the questions of their lives they have encountered Jesus … they are “in”! … to borrow Peter’s words – “I am ready to go with you wherever you go”—but on the other hand, they are unaware of the drama of Scripture. If I asked them to put in chronological order Abraham, Hannah, Mary, and Paul it would be a total toss-up whether they could do it. Thoughtful people, but biblically illiterate. They simply don’t have a robust sense of what God is up to and how he interacts with his people. They are longing for something more.
We find these people and their hungering, longing selves in and around our congregations. Sometimes they are in the pews, other times they are in the pulpit. They sit in our small groups as well as teach our Sunday School classes and serve on our leadership boards. We are these hungering and longing people.
St. Augustine wrote this prayer over 1500 years ago, “You stir us to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
It is our peculiar time in the history of the church.
For those of us who care deeply about the Lord and what the Spirit is up to in our peculiar time, how are we helping men and women—well into their faith journeys—understand and sort out this longing for something more?