Incarnation, Visitation and 21st Century “Church”

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“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited his people and redeemed them.  He has sent us a mighty Saviour from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.”  (Luke 1:68-70)

After Zechariah put his foot down, named his son “John” and got his voice back, he immediately praised God and launched into this great prophetic monologue about his son John and the coming Messiah.

I think we are a little like Zechariah.  We have lost our voice in our culture.  I recently read a staggering statistic that 20% of young people leave Canadian evangelical churches when they reach age 13; another 20% leave at age 18; then even more staggering numbers leave in their 20’s.  And that doesn’t begin to wrestle with the reality of how few of our young people, not to mention those in the culture at large, have any sort of biblical worldview at all.  Amidst all this bad news is good news and I wonder if Zechariah’s Christmas prophecy is one of the keys for us as we seek to re-acquire that voice in our culture.

It seems to me that the Christmas story unmasks the lie that we, including us church folks, can buy into.  The lie is this: if you want to be heard, you must have the brightest, loudest, showiest, glitziest, presentations out there and those presentations must capture and control every major mode of communication.  If we can do that, then the culture will hear our voice, buy our message and make it the dominant ideology of the day.  So we try to produce splashier programs/presentations and market them on more communication outlets – and yet, like Zechariah, we still seem to have lost our voice.  In fact, it seems the underground church (in countries like China), which is banned from making any presentations in any major communication venues at all – has a much louder voice in their respective cultures.  Hmmm!

And this is the rub.   Aside from a great angelic program announcing the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2), God’s communication strategy for redeeming His people is – well, it’s pretty weak. His plan was the incarnation – visit His subjects – as one of them.  He was from the royal Davidic line to be sure, but still He came as one of them.  Christmas is the story of a humble visitation: “God with us”.  God was willing to empty Himself, live in squalor and identify with rebels and sinners.  And in the end, His visitation changed the world forever: He was “a mighty Saviour” but had a pretty odd way of showing His might.

I believe that the North American church can learn something here.  Splashy presentations broadcast in a million communication venues are great but perhaps we ought to mimic the incarnation: just show up and visit our world as the Redeemer did 2,000 years ago and wants to do again through His people.

We talk about “the Millenials” a lot.  We design programs and worship and all kinds of things for them but they are so used to being entertained and we can’t compete with their idols anyway.  What if they really just want (or need) to be spiritually coached by adults they respect who “visit” them in the same way the Messiah visited us 2,000 years ago?  And think about average Canadians snugly resting under their duvets in  mid-December (at a chilly minus 30 degrees).  How many of them are dreaming of getting out of bed and searching the city to find the most entertaining worship band or speaker?  Perhaps we need to first “visit” His people, who are yet to be reconciled to Him, in practical and incarnational ways.  Then we can take them with us to worship Him.

Beneath the lights, decorations and glitz of Christmas lies a powerful story: a story of incarnation, humility, sacrifice and visitation.  May we make that story our story for His glory and the redemption of our neighbours!

Serving with you,

Bill Taylor
EFCC Executive Director

Pulse in Chinese

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This is the most recent edition of the Pulse in Chinese. You can click below to read it, and you can even download your own copy after the jump:

The Pulse Summer 2011 (Chinese)

Please pass this on to anyone who you think would be interested…and who is literate in Chinese! :-)