Change is difficult for human beings and is commonly resisted. Yet, as followers of Christ, we should actually expect and embrace change because awareness is a prerequisite to all acceptable changes. God predestined that his work of salvation would continually conform [or change] us to the image of His Son and we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.
[Romans8.29/2 Corinthians 3.18]
Since a paradigm shift is when a significant change happens usually from one fundamental view to a different view, I find it quite interesting how The Church has ended up in the condition it is in today. With the revelation and relationship that the early Church operated in, it had significant impact and was true to the nature of the Kingdom from whence it was birthed. The very nature of that seed was that “the increase of it, there would be no end!” and the Church produced the fruit of the Kingdom organically.
Yet, somehow as time passed, the Church began to move away from the life and power of The Head and be stranded to a purely earthly function given over to its own mechanisms, governments and forms resulting in the expressions experienced in the earth today.
For your consideration, I would like to submit a brief summation of the key factors that led to the Church’s decline in existence as presented by an astute brother by the name of John Zens.
From an essay by Jon Zens in his book, “A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile”
1.The church portrayed in the New Testament was a dynamic organism, a living body with many parts. The church from around A. D. 180 onwards became an increasingly hardened institution with a fixed and complex hierarchy.
2.The early church was marked by polyform ministry in which edification and the meeting of needs were accomplished through the gifts of all the brethren. The post-apostolic church moved more and more toward a uniform conception of church offices which separated the ministry from the “laity” and limited significant ministry to the “clergy.”
3.The church of the first and most of the second centuries was characterized by cycles of intense difficulty and persecution—it was a suffering body. With the advent of Constantine the church became protected, favored and ultimately sanctioned as the state religion by the Roman state, and thus became an institution at ease.
4.Because of its dependence on the Holy Spirit the early church was very vulnerable from the human standpoint. There was a trust in Christ as the Head of the church to hold the brethren together and to lead them into ministry. Later, the church trusted in itself as a very powerful institution, along with its many rules, rites and offices to secure visible unity and obedience among its adherents.
Much gratitude to Jon for his diligence and labor in researching and producing this work.
These four shifts are indisputable. They are recorded in history. They did not come about in a day; they were the result of many factors working over extended periods of time.
What is the point?
The current status quo of what is referred to as “church” is a key indicator that change – whether good or bad – is constant! Change is taking place around you in every realm whether you realize it or not. The effects of change cannot be stopped or contained.
And make no mistake about it, just as God set before us life and death, blessing and cursing and left the choice up to us, we as followers of Christ can only choose between advancing in the things of God or suffering the dire effects of further decline away from His purposes. There is no middle ground – there is no sustainable status quo!
The intention of our Lord is that the Church not be conformed to the spirit of this age [which is an ‘anti-christ’ spirit] but rather be transformed [into the image of Christ, individually and corporately] by the total restructuring of our mentalities and mindsets. God has always had a design on what He wants His Church to be. His intention has never and will never be altered.
Zens goes on to say in his essay, that “It is incumbent upon believers to work for the recovery of Christ’s ways and to stop contributing to the perpetuation of non-edifying ecclesiastical patterns.”
I wholeheartedly agree with him. I am so honored and blessed to be in relationship with precious people who have come out of every denominational entity, religious form and man made structure in pursuit of simply loving God and loving others. As we connect and walk this reformational road together, we are experiencing the Life of God in our midst. The “form of the thing” is not important or touted – it is the Life, love and joy of being One in Christ and continually being conformed into His image that is treasured.
That is the shift that God is bringing to the Church in these last days! And, it is the change for which to live!