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THE STATE of THE CHURCH – By Colin Wilson

State of the Church Address - Raintree ChurchRaintree Church

For a period of over 5 years or so, I have been increasingly
bumping into committed Christians who are unsettled. They
often find difficulty in articulating how they feel, but the
the general drift is a dissatisfaction with the level of Christian
living in their own lives and in their churches.

In the past, a common response in these situations has been to move
church (and I should stress that the folk I am referring to are
not immature church-hoppers looking for the ideal church)
but part of the perplexity that they are sensing is rooted in
the fact that surveying a cosmopolitan church scene
(everything from strict Calvinist to chandelier-swinging) they
do not see evidence in any of the churches of whatever it is
that is eluding them.

This may sound a bit complicated, and it is. The best way
of summarising is to say that folk (maybe not thousands
but significant numbers) are unhappy with their own situation
(personal and church), are not sure what they are looking
for, and do not see any promise in the church escape around
them.

I might describe it as a God-given unsettledness, a holy
dissatisfaction, a hunger, and thirst for reality. The
“disconnect” which they seem to feel is the disparity
between what they read in the Bible (typically the book of
Acts) and what they are experiencing in their own situations.

Many are puzzled and insecure – feeling “out of step” with
others who seem to be quite comfortable with the general
scene (apart that is from being concerned about falling
numbers in churches).

Meanwhile, society, in general, is MUCH less inclined just to
offer unthinking allegiance to organizations and institutions.
Indeed there is a growing disillusionment with structures.
Folk is prepared to get behind specific initiatives, projects
, or people with whom they can identify, but they are no
longer inclined just to automatically support historic ties.

This dynamic is also in evidence in the church. One result of
this is declining attendance and financial support (especially
at the younger end of the age spectrum).

Although there are perhaps several different views concerning
what exactly will be the shape of the church into the 21st
century, there seems to be a consistent view that it will be
different; and what we are currently experiencing is the
transition in the process. The words I hear are “liquid church,
emerging church, the unstructured church”. We have also heard
the term “cell church”. My concern is that the latter is often
described in the context of cells/supercells/mega cells with
an “apostle” sitting atop the pile. The other concern that I
have is that we will succumb to the seemingly innate urge to
“organize” everything in new “structures”.

SHAKING

Structures that have stood for hundreds of years are in
imminent danger of toppling. And those who derive their
status, income, ministry base from organized religion are
most at risk.

I do not discount the notion that God might be behind all of
this; indeed I believe that He is. And in that sense, the
general situation could turn around tomorrow. However, my
sense is that there is a winnowing, shaking, refining,
purifying, purging going on. I do not believe that God is
going to send revival into the churches in their current
situation. And to that extent, I feel that the shaking etc.
will intensify.

REFINING

Over the last decade (as it seems to me) personal lives, local
churches, and denominations have been shaken to the core
by “covered-over sin”. Minor issues which would normally be
easily dealt with have been causing much deeper and more
serious problems to be forced into the open, as great
eruptions. The latter have often been suppressed (pushed
into the basement) over a period of years.

Ezek 13:9-10:
“My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions
and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the
council of my people or be listed in the records of the
house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then
you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD. ‘Because they
lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no
peace…'”

KINGDOM BUILDING versus EMPIRE BUILDING

I believe what God is looking for is a chosen people who will
give over their hearts, their lives, their all to the will of the
Father. Names and reputations and religious machinery
that have been built on man’s value system will be shown
for what they are. Pride has been the driving force behind
so much of what we do.

COMMITMENT

Western Christianity has succumbed to the values of our
age. Our lives are governed by the same aspirations, values,
lifestyles, choices as the secular world around us. In the
matter of “giving,” God doesn’t want a tithe. He wants our all.

 

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Jesus’ Return – The Second Coming – Christianity

Christianity Jesus' return - the Second Coming

Christians believe that Jesus Christ is going to come back and when it happens, absolutely everyone will know about it. His return is often called the Second Coming. It will be an extraordinary, unprecedented moment in history – very different from his first arrival as a helpless baby in Bethlehem. The Bible gives clues about what it might be like but does not say when it will happen. Jesus spoke about his return in the days before his crucifixion in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. In the Bible book, Matthew, he told his closest followers, that all nations ‘…will see the Son of Man (Jesus) coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather his elect (Christian believers)….

This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven

Jesus’ last moments on earth also give a clue about the Second Coming. Christianity teaches that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion and spent a further six weeks with his followers. More than 500 people saw him during that time. Then he took his followers up the Mount of Olives, a hillside overlooking Jerusalem, and was taken up into heaven right in front of them. This event is called Jesus’ ascension. As the followers gazed in amazement at what had just happened, two men in white suddenly appeared. The Bible book, Acts, reports that they told the followers, ‘This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. The Bible says that, at the moment, Jesus, is sitting at the right hand of God in heaven, awaiting his return.

Christianity Jesus' return - the Second Coming

The early Christian church thought Jesus was coming back soon to rescue them from the oppression of the Roman occupation. Jesus had told his followers that no one apart from God knew the time of his return, but he taught them to make sure they were always prepared for it to happen. Gradually the early Christians realized it was not going to happen as soon as they thought. Over the centuries that have followed, Christians have studied parts of the Bible that speak about the future to try to work out the circumstances in which Jesus will return. They have focused particularly on the final book of the Bible, Revelation, which was written by one of Jesus’ closest followers, John. It is an account of a complex, poetic vision given to John. It is rich in symbolism and spectacular imagery but it is not easy to understand. It speaks of present days but also of the future – including a time when the current heaven and earth will disappear and be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth.

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

Various theories have been developed as people have tried to work out what will happen. Some Christians believe that all believers will suddenly be removed from the earth and will join God in heaven along with all Christians who have died. At that moment, Jesus will return to take control of the earth and will reign for 1,000 years.

Others interpret the reference to a period of 1,000 years differently – seeing this as a time of just and peaceful leadership of the world by the Christian church which will be followed by an apocalypse of violent evil. Jesus will then step in to end this time of terror.

A third view is that the symbolic events set out in Revelation do not foresee specific events. Instead, the return of Jesus will coincide with the end of human life on earth as we know it now and the beginning of an eternity of love, joy, and peace in the new heavens and the new earth with God.

There are many variations on these theories but the Bible teaches Christians not to obsess about these events and their timing but to take comfort in the certainty that Jesus is definitely coming back to make all things new. In almost the last words of the Bible, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

https://christianity.org.uk/article/jesus-return-the-second-coming