Francis Chan has admitted that when he began his church in Simi Valley, California he didn’t know what he was doing. He just looked around and copied what everyone else was doing. The church grew, he got popular, and then he sold a few million books. He readily admits to not thinking things through.
Now that he has, he’s dropped off the grid. He’s started a home church movement in one of the most secular cities in America.
I use the example of Francis Chan to show that even the most “successful” churches and pastors in America are guilty of not thinking about their own services. They just produce a show that people are used to. What else would they do?
Surely they wouldn’t create an atmosphere of prayer, of simplicity in worship, an atmosphere that points not to man’s ability but to God’s transcendence.
(I’ve already been asked to expand on this point regarding church and what it should look like. Thoughts coming soon.)
5. A bent towards the self that cripples our ability to think and act Christianly.
St. Augustine wrote of this world’s tendency to bend in on itself:
“We see then that the two cities were created by two kinds of love: the earthly city was created by self-love reaching the point of contempt for God, the Heavenly City by the love of God carried as far as contempt of self.
In fact, the earthly city glories in itself, the Heavenly City glories in the Lord. The former looks for glory from men, the latter finds its highest glory in God, the witness of a good conscience. The earthly lifts up its head in its own glory, the Heavenly City says to its God: “My glory; you lift up my head.” (Augustine, City of God XIV.xxviii.593)
Think about it.
So much of our communication comes through reaction, rather than hard thinking, which takes time, and also demands more than just conversations.
It demands time in reflection, which equals time alone, solitude.
It requires us to write in order to figure things out.
It requires us to consult a broad array of sources instead of sources that pander to our own bent point of view.
It demands we consult with people who know more about not just a topic but know how to think about a topic.
Many of us rightly ask how we as Christians should react in the moment. And that is a good and noble question. But I wonder too how we ought to “think” in the moment.
Thinking directs our action, it informs our belief. Years ago Mark Knoll wrote, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” Not much has changed since 1995, or has it?
How ought we to think? How do we think aright? How do I understand the world in which I live?
Dimnet says the thinker is a person of vision.
And that’s what I want to be, someone who sees.
To see a thing does not always mean we see it as we know it to be, but as it actually is. When writing or painting, it’s wrong to call the trees at dawn dark grey or black, even if we know them to be that on their own.
In that moment of the dawn, when the light cascades through the forest behind my house, the trees are anything but grey and black. They are golden, orange, yellow, they glow.
Without thinking I can answer the question, “What color is a White Oak?”
But if I have vision, if I really see the trees, as they are in the morning and in the evening, I will know them to be grey and black yes, but also glowing and golden.
Seeing the trees like this takes time, patience, and a love for the truth. Something we could all use right about now.