Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Modern Church Lies Comatose in the Postmodern World

written by Kent C. Williamson

"Coma," the Doctor said, "He’s in a coma from which he may or may not recover." It was May 22nd, 1991 when I heard those words in regards to my father. It was May 22nd, 1991 when my life would be permanently changed - in some ways for the worse, in some ways for the better.

When you learn that someone you love has slipped into a coma time seems to swiftly and surely come to a stop. It was three and half weeks in May and June that year which all blend into one lengthy, tiresome trip to and from the hospital. In reality it was filled with up to three trips a day driving across the hot, dusty town of El Paso to and from the intensive care center at Thomason Hospital. It was filled with sadness (and occasional laughter) as my family, brought together by tragedy, grieved. But mostly it was filled with prayer - prayers of a twenty-four year old who desperately hoped that God’s will would align with his will - prayers of a family who had never suffered through anything so tragic - prayers of literally hundreds, even thousands of the faithful scattered across the country and around the globe lifting up a brother in the faith.

It was a tragic time, but it was a wonderful time. It was a time that looks and feels awfully familiar in a strange and bizarre way as I stare at the Church in 2004 - a modern Church lying comatose in this post-modern world.

The comparisons between my father’s coma and that of the Church are striking and eerie. They begin with the fact that the patient never knows he is in a coma. As strange as it may seem, it is true. Although the world continues to spin with the best medical staff available, the best treatments available, the best waiting room, decent cafeteria food, a newly paved parking lot, fine shopping, cars filling up highways, baseball games and cable television - the patient lies oblivious to it all. Three and a half minutes or three and half weeks, time means nothing to the comatose. They simply don’t realize that they are in a state of coma.

The second similarity is life-support. In the case of my father his coma required a ventilator. An outside object designed to breath for him - to keep his blood circulating - to keep his vital organs working when his body could not do it on its own. In the Church’s case this role is lovingly and caringly filled by the Holy Spirit. A job He willingly does regardless of whether the Body is in or out of coma. The difference being that out of a coma His breath gives life and life more abundant, while in a coma His breath merely sustains life.

Another similarity is that people check on the coma victim on a regular basis. Whether it is three visits a day or merely on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights there are those that check on the victim regularly, seeking any signs of improvement. Have they wiggled a foot, did they open their eyes, anything? Or did they just lie there since I saw them last? The only movement being the slow rise and fall of their chest forced by the ventilator and the inching of the blood through the veins - an impossible act without the life-support system.

The doctor told my mother and I that my father may be able to hear things, but just not be able respond to them. So our family talked to him, we told of our love for him, we prayed with him, we held his hand, and we even played music through headphones for him. We patiently tried to make it known that we cared, whether he knew it or not. We had to believe that he could hear us and that our words and actions mattered even though he could not tell us that they did. It was an act on our part out of love for him that in reality may have only helped us to keep our sanity in our hour of crisis. Shaking the church will not cause it to leap forth from the coma. But neither will our silence. We must trust that our words and actions will be heard and felt and that somehow they will make a difference.

I will never forget the day after three and half weeks when my father opened his eyes. I remember asking him where the clock was and watching as his eyes slowly moved across the room and landed on the ticking numbered circle, which hung on the wall behind me. It was an unbelievable sign of communication that filled my world with renewed hope.

Another noteworthy point which I am confidant will be true in the case of the Church is that when (not if), but when the Church awakes from its coma it will never be the same. The reason a coma occurs is that the body shuts itself down in attempt to keep itself alive. This state is often caused by traumatic injury, the effects of which can be life-long. In my fathers case it was a brain-injury that affected his personality and short-term memory skills. In the case of the Church we will have to wait and see the change when it awakes. When it realizes that the world has changed around it, and that the modern world it was comfortable in has ceased to exist. One thing is certain - the message of the Church will not change, but it’s methods will.

Now at 36 I find myself again praying for a coma victim, but this time the stakes are higher than just one man’s life. And again I catch myself secretly hoping that God’s will would align itself with my will - something I don’t think He is too fond of.

In the mean time, I can only patiently and prayerfully wait for the eyes of the Church to open and move slowly across the room to the ticking clock hanging on the wall.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This article originally appeared in the Food For Thought column on the Soul Survivor Website.

Kent C. Williamson is an owner of Paladin Pictures, Inc., a film and video production company dedicated to the production, distribution and promotion of family-friendly, morally strong entertainment and educational media. He lives with his wife and five children along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Please reference The Comatose Church when sending comments to Kent at Articles@PaladinPictures.com.

©2004 Paladin Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

3 comments:

+wade fahnestock said...

The Coma vs. The Sleeping Church
Thanks for the comparison. Very thought provoking.

As an individual who has felt the call of God to preach, share, publish the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
who has found it impossible (strong word) to 'fit in' with the traditional denominational church - period (good, bad, and ugly),
who is seeking God's best for his life in line with the calling to preach, share, entertain, encourage and pastor (keep a watch over) others,
who is asking for God's leading and help to take a step of faith - (ie. take action) on my ideas - my influential sparks of inspiration,
who is believing that what I learned about God is true: God loves Wade Alan Fahestock so much,
who is trusting in the God who loves me to display that love in and through, by and for, and with me.

I will be a display, a reflection of the glory of God.
I will be a vessel.
I will bear fruit and produce after the Light of Life.
I will love God.
I will love my neighbor.

How can we best minister to the sleeping virgins?
Do we ignore them and let them try it on their own.
Do we call God's people to the reality of the resurrection?
Do we call God's people to the reality of the resurrection's purpose (or dispose) in the 'church' in the world?
How do we reach the non-believers with the truth?
How do we disciple the new believers in the truth?

What if there were no more churches?
Gone.
It's 2038. There are no churches or ministers. No religion.
No one prays - period.
Medication and Meditation - Self-Help and Support Group
Your own personal coach software with instant podcasting for successful life fulfillment information and motivation.

Someone finds the Life of Christ - by Matthew, Mark, Luke and Ringo (I mean 'John'),
and reads it, believes it - and experiences the reality of it,
and tells someone...
who believes it...
How do they (the believers - the church) do things?
They love God.
They love their neighbor.

Where can you find them?

They're on the "i" - the current slang for the old 'Internet'
But they are also using the current tools available to fulfill the Great Commission, to Love God and to Love their neighbor.

What if that 'church' had a stroke or fell into a coma???

Am I spiritually in a coma?
Awake?
What do I really believe?

© Copyright 2005 +wade fahnestock
wade@fahnestock.net
www.Fahnestock.net

The Brothers Williamson said...

I like this idea Wade brings up regarding believers in a world with no churches, denominations, etc....

"What if there were no more churches?
Gone.
It's 2038. There are no churches or ministers. No religion.
No one prays - period.
Medication and Meditation - Self-Help and Support Group
Your own personal coach software with instant podcasting for successful life fulfillment information and motivation.

Someone finds the Life of Christ - by Matthew, Mark, Luke and Ringo (I mean 'John'),
and reads it, believes it - and experiences the reality of it,
and tells someone...
who believes it...
How do they (the believers - the church) do things?
They love God.
They love their neighbor."

I've used a similar analogy lately with the recent Tsunami headlines... image if our "island" was wiped out by a Tsunami. Only a handful of people survived, including a few who passionately believed the teachings of Christ. What would their "church" look like. It would probably focus on worship in it's infancy. As it grew teaching would become more important, but growth wouldn't probably occur without an effort to reach those around them. So at the beginning the "worship" would be an act of loving God (i.e the greatest commandment... love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind). The "reaching" would most likely be done by acts of loving their neighbor (i.e. the second greatest commandment... love your neighbor as yourself).

I believe that the traditional institutional church is good at "preaching" these commandments, but often fails at "living" them. In my experience it's very easy to say "love your neighbor as yourself", but much more difficult to actually do. That in particular is where I feel called to devote a good portion of my energy.

So how do you do it? How do you actually "love your neighbor as yourself?"

This is the question I desire to explore and to begin implementing in my own life and the life of my family.

Ronald Goetz said...

If our island were wiped out by a tsunami, I don't think our first impulse would be to sing praise songs. Our first impulse would be to work, along with everyone else, to dig out survivors, to bury the dead, and to rebuild our homes.

We might even risk our lives at times to do what was necessary to rebuild and recover.

And this, laying down our lives as a living sacrifice, this is worship. "We will work with each other, we will work side by side." The Bible talks about singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, but those are never called "worship" in the New Testament. Worship is laying down our lives (Rom 12:1-2).

Singing is cheap. Just like talk. It costs you nothing, but it may get you high.

There is one good thing about a good "worship" set: It'll keep 'em coming back.

I become more and more alienated from so-called worship with every passing year.

Somehow we have taken numbers of key Scriptural words and prostituted them to institutional ends.

Think of all the institutional and liturgical things that have had priceless Spiritual labels slapped on them over the centuries:

Worship
Church
Communion
Fellowship
Prayer
New Testament
Temple
Baptism

These precious spiritual realities have had their "labels" soaked off and applied to non-nutritious substitutes. Talk about truth in advertising! Let's get some honesty in our product labels.