Some friends of ours serve at an evangelical church that tailors the main meeting each Sunday to meet the needs of ‘seekers’. It’s the kind of church Michael Raiter mentions in Chapter 4 (p 93). It’s also the reason our friends have attended Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) classes for years — they need to supplement the lack of substance in the teaching at these Sunday gatherings in order to keep growing spiritually. I admire their selflessness.
Another friend, who was raised a Catholic and later became a born-again Christian, is becoming disillusioned with the large Pentecostal church she has attended for some time. For her, there is a significant gap between what her fellow believers profess and the way they live. They seem to have little understanding of the Bible and of what it means to follow Jesus. While not abandoning the broken people in her home group, she’s looking for a church that closes the gap, so that she can continue to live faithfully and grow in godliness. I admire her courage.
One thing I really admire about Michael Raiter is the way he describes the different spiritualities represented in his book — spiritualities he doesn’t agree with — in a measured, fair and respectful manner. He doesn’t scoff, deride or ridicule, even when he’s describing some of the more eccentric options available in the spiritual supermarket. I respect that.
I also respect his desire at the end of this chapter to proclaim the truth about God, clearly and unequivocally:
The Bible … is clear that while the rational is not the sum total of an encounter with the living God, it is indispensable. Knowing God cannot be divorced from thinking, reasoning, studying, understanding, and grappling with propositional truths … Amongst contemporary Christian spiritualities there is little, if anything, of the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ, the God/man who will tolerate no rival claimants. In much of modern spirituality, themes such as sacrifice, suffering, denying oneself, and commitment are, at best, muted and often entirely absent. There is no mention of costly obedience. The concept that people have been created for God and for his glory is largely absent (p 103).There are many ways to water-down and dumb-down the good news of Jesus, to obfuscate and prevaricate, to compromise and qualify. There are many ways to point people away from our Saviour, to things without and within that distract and mislead, but the word of God is the word of life, for it points us to Jesus as the way to know God. Knowing and loving Jesus equals knowing and loving God. Jesus said:
The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:25b-30)