As we talk about the why of God that has to lead us to the Who, I can't help but say something that has been on my mind a lot lately, something that I'm having conversations with others about as we talk through what it means to be ministers and what it means to be the church. And that something is this:
I think we've all but lost the who of God.
Just as we've come to this place in our private faith where we look to the Scriptures to discover the word of God, but not the heart of Him, so, too, have we come to a place in our churches where we're looking for the people of God, but still not the heart of Him.
Ask nearly anyone what the greatest commandment is, and they can quickly and accurately say that it is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, but one look at our churches reveals that that's not what we really believe. What we really believe is the greatest commandment is to go and make disciples. That's what we're focused on.
And what does making disciples really mean to us? It means making converts. It means making members. It means making services that convince persons to come forward and claim Jesus as their Lord, knowing what He did for them but not knowing who He is.
It's an epidemic, and it's one of the reasons our churches are dying. Persons say that they came to the Lord, that they came forward and accepted Him, prayed the prayer and were baptized, only to come to the horrifying realization a month, a year, a decade, a lifetime later that they only ever knew what Jesus offered them; they never knew who He really was.
It's because we've lost the who. We've traded it for the what. We no longer center ourselves, as the church, around a faith that teaches persons who God is so that they can love Him. We no longer preach the heart of God so that we can know Him. We preach the salvation of Him so that we can accept Him, but what are we even accepting? Nobody knows.
We aren't making disciples. Disciples are persons who drop everything to follow Him. Disciples are those who share in His most intimate moments. Disciples are those who become privy to His whispers, to His parables, to His heart. Disciples are those who know Him intimately. We're not making disciples; we're making members. We're making persons who come to our pews on Sunday mornings. We're making persons who make dishes for our potlucks. We're making persons who wear our T-shirts and sport our bumper stickers and tell their friends about our church, but they cannot tell their friends about our Jesus. Because they do not know Him.
It's absolutely heartbreaking, but this is where we're at. Did you know they've done studies about children in youth groups? Something crazy like 90% (or more) said they "have fun" at youth group; only 9% (yes, you read that right) have incorporated Jesus into their hearts in such a way that He is reflected in their lives. And if you want to know something truly sad, the number is the same for adult church members. Of those claiming to be born-again Christians, only 9% have so centered Jesus in their hearts that their lives actually reflect knowing Him.
We have a lot of work to do.
That's why we have to be diligent about recapturing the who of God. We have to start preaching, teaching, talking about who He is again so that we're not just making members; we're making disciples. So that we're not just making disciples; we're making persons who truly can love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. They can't love Him unless they know Him. They can't know Him until they cut through the what and get back to the who, to the very heart of God.