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When Church [Trans]plants Wither

November 23, 2016
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by George

Every Christian must have a mental picture of the ideal local Church – a gathering place of the ‘called-out ones’ (ecclesia).

Old, white country church

Old, white country church with stained-glass windows

Mine would likely resemble something similar to this picture. A bit of old world charm and simplicity mixed with an escape from the harsh, cold reality of the post-modern western society we live in.

But I would be quick to point out the flaws in my own reasoning concerning this. For God has not called us out of the world to escape it, but rather the opposite – to reform it. We are to be in the world, though not of it.

Meaning not operating by the principles of fallen mankind, but by the ones revealed in the Scriptures. Yet we ourselves are recovering idolaters – coming from a background of State supremacy as Slavic immigrants from the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and our children are besieged by humanist propaganda all around them – and within.

And that is the fundamental reality we ought to come to realize so as to not return to the gulag.

I love history. It portrays the consistent backdrop of human depravity on display for all to witness. If it even remotely states the facts, then it is practically impossible to miss the message of our need for a Savior.

Of course, He has already come. And His Kingdom with Him. It begins within all who receive Him and is visible among His followers, the Church. Eventually it will be made manifest to all.

But even sincere Christians often hinder the revelation of Christ’s present enthronement by not developing a consistent worldview and growing in knowledge of His will. When I first read the entire Bible (initially out of obedience) I had some faulty interpretations based upon my personal upbringing being projected on the Word. I didn’t question the doctrines of my childhood faith because I saw the sincerity of belief and the good works of many holding to this denominational viewpoint (Pentecostal).

The more times I read the Holy Bible, however, and became acquainted with Church history and thought, the more I started seeing that there were more consistent and justifiable interpretations of some passages and verses I had accepted as a baby Christian. I realized traditions can be good, but also need to be examined in the light of Scripture. This was before I studied the Protestant Reformation more thouroughly. Eventually I realized I was breaking tradition with some of the traditions that I had been raised in.

I remember hearing as a younger child who spent much time in church services, how we (the evangelical Slavic refugees who had overcome Soviet persecution) must have been sent here to the west to revive its faith. There was a recognition of the fact that the Christian character of the United States of America had been waning for awhile. And I was filled with awe and purpose by the works of God.

Twenty year later, I look back and see that there is not much the Slavic immigration wave of the 1990’s has saved here. On the contrary, it is more likely to hear among them now that, whereas their children were preserved despite the Soviet propaganda, they have been defecting the churches in significant proportions lately.

Instead of being like another Plymouth plantation, the church transplant has seemingly withered in a prosperous land. Don’t get me wrong – the Slavic evangelical community has become quite prosperous. The land of opportunity has not been a disappointment in this regard. But the character of the people has suffered, I find. What could be the reason for this?

I have an idea: instead of growing in faith, the knowledge of God, and developing a more consistently

The Church must know what it believes & confess it

The Church must know what it believes & confess it

Christian worldview (continuing biblical reformation) we have become complacent. Like other Christians who sought refuge in the land of the pilgrims’ pride. The local churches may increase in number, but decrease in quality. Everyone searches for his own ideal escape.

But few are willing to change themselves and build the Church by continuing in the reformation tradition. We are largely comfortable where we are at, even though the culture around us is deteriorating and our society may collapse into relativistic chaos. Because many churches are themselves unaware of God’s systematic truth and remain pietist, so how can it be otherwise?

Granted, some people are getting out of their comfort zones. Slavic evangelicals are moving away from the west coast mainly due to the inconveniences of socialism (which they ironically didn’t resist). Reasons include impracticably high cost of living, restrictions on parental rights, moral decay, etc. But if our churches don’t address the poor theology that leads to this, moving won’t help much other than perhaps buy some time.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any Slavic churches willing to examine the foundational issues (first within themeselves) and if necessary, then relocate for the advancement of the gospel, as the pilgrims.

Not just to live a bit more comfortably in a less threatening socialist state, but to confront its sinfulness and call it to repentance. And show by example that living biblically is better than stealing from your neighbor and redistributing the wealth. Consider the value of the Protestant work ethic, which was not about luxury or salvation but the godly task of taking dominion over the earth and doing everything for the glory of God.

Being drawn to my idea of the church building (pictured above) is isolationist and selfish. It takes hard work to reform and be reformed according to the Scriptures. But otherwise our churches will continue to wither in the midst of abundance and plenty, after withstanding the fiery storm and drought of the anti-Christian Soviet experiment. And the abundance won’t last here either if we continue to abandon its godly source.

So I am ready to say farewell to my comfortable white church with stained glass windows, and join other believers for the sake of a church transplant that doesn’t seek to escape society or conform to it, but rather intends to be transformed by the Word and in turn reform the culture as a light in its midst.

Christian reformers are welcome to join my family in this worthwhile endeavor.

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