The church today has wandered into a wilderness we did not choose. Too many churches are burdened with too much baggage, too many trivial concerns. We miss the call of Jesus when he says, “Follow me!” At times we are not even sure how to be the church today.
Many people have chronicled the passage of Christendom, that age of the church’s power and influence over western culture. Today the church is in transition. Her power and influence are not gone, but they are faded. This is not just a transition from one stage of human life to another – a graduation, a firstborn child. Rather, this is a transition that will take generations. No human knows at this point what the end of this wilderness will be – if indeed it will have an end; perhaps we have moved into an age when constant change demands constant transition. Perhaps the church will learn to function in ways unlike anything we have known up to this point. We are faced with our own fear of the unfamiliar.
Yet the church is called to follow Christ into this wilderness. Like the deserts in the Bible, wilderness is a place both of testing and preparation. In addition, the wilderness can be a place of intense beauty and powerful revelation. I believe that the Holy Spirit is making use of all these aspects of wilderness to shape the church into the image of Christ. The God who calls us beyond Christendom is faithful. Rather than sit in the ruined sanctuaries of an age gone by, he calls us to follow his promises, listen to his voice, seek his face.
My favorite part of going into the wilderness is that it forces me to see things clearly. No TV, no CD’s, no radio, no Personal Digital Assistants, no laptops, no cell phones. I love to be in the company of trees and rocks. It’s easier for me to hear the voice of Jesus in those places where the sky and the water and the land come together. My heart is healed, my mind uncluttered as I learn again to cling only to him.
As the church looks for a way in this wilderness, I believe we need to let go of many things. The quest for power is a big one. The trappings of prestige. Worldly authority. The Way It’s Always Been Done. We must drop these distractions and cling to Christ. Perhaps that is the most important lesson he wants us to learn in this wilderness.