Ever since finishing the bestselling novel The Shack the other day, I’ve been reflecting on the themes author William P. Young wove through this book. I read that Young isn’t a member of a church, and it occurred to me that more and more often I encounter believers who also have left the organized church. Young says that those who are wounded and damaged cannot find healing there. And in one way or another, all of us fall into that category.
I’ve been a long-time church attender, but in recent years I’ve come to believe that the traditional church—and by that I don’t mean the Body of Christ—is a spent husk. In the centuries since God founded it, the church has wandered far from God’s original purpose. It has added layer upon layer of administrative, organizational, and judicial encrustations, just like all the legalisms the Pharisees of Jesus’ day added to Moses’ Law.
That’s why The Shack, with its unconventional depiction of God and intense discussions of true spirituality, has reached so many people both inside and outside the church. This amazing novel holds more truth than the majority of sermons on a host of Sunday mornings. It offers new wine in fresh wineskins in the same way I’m trying to do through my stories, through One Holy Night, my American Patriot Series, and in my current work-in-progress, Northkill.
No—I’m not trying to do this. God is driving me to do it, just as he’s driving increasing numbers of hungry believers away from what is essentially empty calories so they can feast on true food. That’s why my husband and I also find ourselves pretty much on the outside of the established church. Only authentic spirituality with its total openness to God’s presence results in spiritual power that changes people from the inside out. Only a deep, loving relationship with the Father enables us to love in the same way God does and through that love to bring real heart change to a lost and hurting world.
Organizations are not able to do this. Organizations are by their nature impersonal and inescapably defective because they’re a creation of defective, limited human beings. Organizations cannot reach to the level of the human soul. Only God truly knows each individual’s heart and thus is able to minister true healing. But this is exactly where we humans always go astray. We insist on trying to organize the work of the Holy Spirit of God! We’re deaf to Jesus’ exhortation that the Spirit is like the wind. It moves as God wills and no one can tell where it goes or where it comes from! You can as easily control the wind as you can the true Body of Christ. To attempt to force the Spirit into the channels we think it should follow robs the Church of God’s power and inevitably wreaks destruction by separating human beings from the true Source of all meaning.
Jesus also told us that those who worship the Father must do so in spirit and in truth. Spirit and truth are rarely found in the church today, at least here in the United States. What we find are a multitude of empty activities to keep us busy, along with entertainment to distract us from what’s missing—God’s Spirit and God’s power! Only a relationship with the Creator of the universe can make available to us true love and healing and eternity. Imagine having access to the power Elijah received in 1 Kings 19:8! He ate and drank of the spiritual food given him by the angel, and he ran in its strength for forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God. That same spiritual food is available to all those who serve God!
As I’m writing the stories—truly the vision—that God gives me, I feel that power, that anointing, that breath of the Holy Spirit blowing through me. I pray that these words will reach many readers and accomplish in their hearts and souls everything God wills. They are for his glory, not mine.
As my character Terry says in One Holy Night, “faith isn’t for the times when life is great and everything is going our way. It’s for the times when we’re up against the wall and there aren’t any answers, when it feels like God’s gone AWOL and is nowhere to be found—or at least he isn’t talking to us.”
Have you felt like that recently, my friend? If so, I wish for you that faith that will hold you through the worst life can throw at you and empower you to stand on unshaken rock. If you do not yet know God, or don’t know him in that fullness, I pray you will stop running from the Holy Spirit and allow him to gather you in his arms. Oh, come home to the wholeness and the blessed life God prepared you for from the very foundations of the earth! Drink deep of that Living Water and be healed!