Images-12 The prophet Jeremiah lived and ministered in a time of growing spiritual apathy and moral decline. Despite repeated warnings, God's people were drifting away from Him. As a result, instead of being a positive influence on the surrounding nations, they were becoming just like them. They had already fallen from the height and splendour of David and Solomon's time, now long forgotten. Little did they know that they were very close to seeing Jerusalem destroyed. Before long they would be carried away into captivity by the cruel Babylonians.

Jeremiah prophesied words of warning and also words of hope. He called the people back to God. At one point he says, 

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls (Jeremiah 6:16).”

Unfortunately, they didn't listen. They continued on their own way … and suffered the consequences.

Here we are, thousands of years later. In many ways, we live in a somewhat similar situation. In the West, the influence of the church on society is in decline. The church has been pushed to the margins of our culture and few seem to be concerned. At times, "Christians" don't seem to be much different from their "non-Christian" neighbours. Is this what Jesus had in mind? Or are we missing something?

According to speaker and author Dallas Willard, the "Great Commission" which Jesus gave has become the "Great Omission." The church at large seems to be doing everything BUT the main thing Jesus gave us to do – "make disciples." Has the "gospel" become merely a fire escape from hell to ensure that we get to heaven when we die … rather than about living the life of Jesus … right here right now on earth?

This coming weekend, we will be starting a new series of messages at CityLife Church called "Ancient Practices." We will be looking at the core mission of the church as being that of "making disciples" and over the course of the series we will look at some of the practices that disciples can engage in to position themselves to allow the Holy Spirit to transform them. After all, social transformation begins with genuine personal transformation. 

Maybe we need to face these new contemporary challenges with age-old wisdom. To move forward we may need to first look backward. When we drift off course, it's time to find our way again … back on the ancient paths.  

8 thoughts on “The Ancient Paths

  1. Hhmm…a topic worthy of serious reflection.
    There’s so much I’d like to say on this one but I’ll spare you the pain of reading through my diatribes! However, in the interests of verbal economy may I condense it to this:
    If perhaps the church at large surrendered its relentless pursuit of novelty and innovation and its obsession with gimmicks as means of reaching the lost, and focused its energy on the evangelism-discipleship effort rather than fussing over the decision-conversion stats, then the landscape may look different. Perhaps stop chasing the wind of ‘God doing something new’ all the time.
    There is no need to idolize conservativism either, but the hipster Christian subculture acts as if it’s ashamed of the gospel as they continually try and dress it up to make it ‘more attractive’. It’s a generation that has slowly lost confidence in the raw power of the gospel (Rom 1:16) and has replaced it with whimsical methodologies. They have actually choked the good news with entertaining presentations that feed our narcissistic nature and do nothing to turn us from goats to sheep.
    Jesus’s goats/sheep analogy in Matt 25 assumes transformation (a complete change in the cellular structure) not just moral improvement, behaviour modification and a vague desire to want to ‘make this world a better place’. How can we change the world if we remain unchanged ourselves?
    Finally, I echo the point of the post’s last sentence about ‘drifting’. I think we have drifted a fair bit, so rather than trying to rethink Christianity (as is vogue these days) why not try and rediscover it?

  2. WOW! What a timely series !
    The God we worship is the same yesterday,today and forever and His values and principles do not change with the times.
    I pray that the Holy spirit would use this series to encourage and challenge all of us to be true disciples of Jesus Christ.
    Sheela Abraham

  3. Mmmm…like John from Brisbane I wonder if I should say what I’m about to say- but will go ahead anyway – must be something to do with mid-life! As my fridge magnet says- ” are my hot flushes causing global warning?” and even more to the point ” is my hot irritation causing global turbulence?”!!
    Anyway – making disciples- I was discipled by a wonderful person who wrote to me (and still writes to me) since I became a Christian at age 10- now that’s what I call faithful discipling!
    Disciples are fundamentally those who follow Christ and are meant to become like Him- this takes a lifetime and much suffering and genuine humility and love.
    In an instant internet age, where people have very short attention spans and are full of narcissicism, I suspect that few people understand the meaning of the word, let alone the reality.
    I wish the church would stop all manipulative and cliched behaviour and treat people with the dignity and respect that we should treat people made “imago dei”- in the image of God.
    I wish our church would stop some of the cliched things we do eg. “I see that hand” when asking people to make some response to the message or to God- God sees the person’s response and that is what matters. I also wish we could stop with the “STAND UP and talk to others”- believe it or not, those people in the congregation are FELLOW ADULTS (might even be older than the speaker!) and shouldn’t be treated like children in kindergarten- if they want to stand up and go glad-handing (like politicians) well good-luck to them, but most sensible people are quite happy to talk to the person sitting next to them (at City Life chances are you don’t know them and have never met them before!)and don’t need to stand up to do so ( in fact the chances of having a more meaningful encounter are increased if you stay seated!!)
    On this topic, I recommend you pray as you speak with strangers (who are only friends you haven’t met yet! as someone famous once pointed out)that God might bless your conversation- and while you are talking, DO take a genuine interest, instead of playing the numbers game and being in a hurry to get to the next victim!!
    The insincerity and lack of genuine interest in others is one of the worst aspects of our current society, and I think leaders in churches are sometimes one of the worst offenders in this regard- they become so used to speaking to large numbers of people, being applauded for their sermons and only receiving positive feedback from those in their inner circles, that they have little idea how some others perceive them.
    In point of fact (just for a reality check!) most of us go all our lives working at difficult and sometimes thankless jobs, and NEVER receive any thanks, let alone a round of applause!! It’s good to walk a while in another person’s moccasins!
    So basically, let’s cut all the crap and treat people with genuine love and concern, no matter who they are, and let’s cut out all the cliched manipulative stuff that we all know and hate!
    In this day and age, the current generation are incredibly media savvy and have a built-in “crap detector” that can sniff manipulation/hype out a mile away- and when they get a whiff of it, they are off and running- in the opposite direction!
    It’s all very well to be having people make positive responses to evangelistic appeals in the service, but do you have any way of measuring how many people are “exitting out the back door” at the same time? My bet is the numbers are high, and the age groups over represented would be the 30s to 50s.
    If you want to meet some of them, I suggest you sit up in the balcony for a while (instead of down the front where the leadership usually congregates) and get to know some of those on the sidelines- and I don’t mean just have a brief chat! Such people won’t discuss these issues unless they sense you are truly interested and willing to listen!

  4. Thanks for everyone’s comments …
    Helen, glad you had someone take the time to disciple you. What a blessing …
    Large churches do tend to have a big front door … and a big back door .. by their very nature. A friend of mine describes it this way: “When you join a large church, it’s like you are moving along on a conveyor belt. If you step off the belt into a small group or a serving team, you will become a part of that church and will likely stay. If you don’t, you will stay on the conveyor belt and before long, you’ll be out the back door.”
    Finally, yes, leaders of large churches do need to take care they don’t get intoxicated by the applause of the crowds. That’s why being in genuine community and keeping real is so important. The flip side is that leaders of large churches are also constantly open to critique … and often criticism … usually from people who don’t even know them … Life in the “fish bowl” is not all it’s cut out to be 🙂

  5. Just following up on your other comments, Helen …
    1. Our teaching team put many hours of prayer and preparation into each message and when it is time for a prayer of response at the end, we take it very seriously. For the majority of those who respond, either by lifting their hand or saying a prayer, it is a highly meaningly experience for them. A “cliche” refers to something that is insincere or has lost its meaning. When we say something like “I see that hand” or “Thanks for your response”, I can tell you, it definitely isn’t a cliche for us or that person. It’s a very important time.
    2. The reason we suggest that people stand up during our greeting time is that it is more conducive to talking to people behind or around you. If everyone simply remained sitting down, they would tend to only talk to their friends who are sitting directly near them. However, if it works for you, you are welcome to stay seated. The goal is to encourage some interaction with others.
    3. We have leaders (volunteer and staff) who sit in the balcony each church meeting. For those of us who lead the actual meetings, it is more convenient to sit nearer the stage/platform area, as it would be too far to walk back and forth from the balcony area.
    I spend some time after most weekend meetings (unless I have to get to another meeting) in our foyer so that I can chat to people who want to do so. Feel free to come and say hello some time, if you’d like.
    I hope this helps answer some of your queries, Helen

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