Updated: May 3, 2021
During my ambitious, performance driven days of church life when we were on the eternal quest for something new and revolutionary to make Christianity more exciting, appealing and relevant it was not uncommon to hear the refrain, “We don’t want a 16th century revelation of God”. No, we didn’t want the religious trappings of King James’s religion. We wanted to be on the cutting edge of what God was doing today. We didn’t want the old ways and we didn’t want that “old-time religion” either. We wanted to be innovative, unconventional and on the forward edge of what we were doing for God. On the surface it sounded good- even progressive.
But we were so full of ourselves, our clever ideas and our youthful ambition that much of our striving wasn't really about Him or selfless service but about our self-serving ambition disguised as spiritual passion and godly zeal. Like King David, we fell for the old snare of “having a better idea” than God. In our quest to improve everything we touched, we ended up trying to fix that which wasn’t broken. Like King David in our spiritual zeal, we often borrowed the ways of the world to build a better oxcart rather than simply follow His word and do it His way.
Though we would never admit it, we thought we could do a better job than God. Our ways would have the “Wow” factor that God desperately needed in these changing times. Our ways would be leaner, meaner and more efficient. So, we embraced a never-ending merry-go-round of church fads, dog & pony shows, enticing gimmicks, programs and above all else – Hype. In their never-ending quest for novelty and creativity, emotional hype often took precedence over scriptural truth.
So, we resurrected the old “Jesus plus theology”. Instead of contending for the faith that was once delivered to the church, we looked for new spiritual ground to break. Many bought into spiritual success formulas, extra-biblical teachings and self-empowerment theology. We adopted innovative new ways of doing evangelism with a whole array of nifty accessories and evangelism gimmicks in the mistaken assumption that we were what made the gospel work rather than the fact that the gospel is the reason the gospel works!
This trend inevitably gave birth to a whole generation of clueless, young Christians, sensation junkies and fad groupies who, quite frankly, were as clueless as a stump. Now, it is all about hyper-relevance, culturally correct theology, seeker sensitive churches, prosperity gospels, name it and claim it self-empowerment, ear-tickling messages and “It’s all about me” religion. Now it's about a "new and improved Jesus."
In essence, most of this has resulted in a warped version of Christianity which, when you boil it all down, embraces a theology that believes that we really aren’t complete in Him. It is the ancient “Jesus plus something else" theology which dates back to the Gnostic cults of the early church who taught that we needed to experience “special knowledge”, special revelations and special experiences before we could truly be complete in Christ. It is at the heart of same deception that entices multitudes of gullible, biblically illiterate followers to pursue an imaginary “yellow brick road” in search of the elusive something from the “Wizard of Oz”. It was this root error that birthed the old “Toronto Movement”, “Brownsville”, “Bethel Redding”, “The New Apostolic Reformation”, “the Church Growth Strategy” movement, and a host of prayer, prophetic, and signs & wonders heresies.
What the church desperately needs today is not a 21st century revelation of God or a 16th century revelation of God. We need a 1sr century revelation of God. We need a “Back to the Future” movement. We need to return to our simplicity and authenticity in Christ. We need to rediscover our first love in Him. We need to get on out hands and knees and repent of our ways of doing things. We need o repent of all of our self-rightness, arrogance and spiritual pride. We need to get in the back seat and let Him do the driving. We don’t need more clever ideas, cutting edge innovations, spiritual formulas, church growth strategies, bestsellers, cool music, sensational movements, self-appointed prophets and apostles or social media wannabes. There is only one thing left we haven’t tried and that is to return to Him.