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The Critical Mass: How We Can Fail


Polwarth, England Credit: Hamish Irvine/Flickr/Creative commons

Polwarth, England Credit: Hamish Irvine/Flickr/Creative commons

On Sunday, in church, the pastor told us about people who had been helped in the last year. He told testimonial stories about cancer patients and struggling families. And then he told us about a man who had walked into the church to learn more. He was not a Christian, but he was interested. The pastor talked to him and gave him a book, and a few weeks later the man called to say that he had decided to become a Christian. Now he attends the Sunday services as a new Christian, growing in his faith.

The man’s name is Mohammed.

We live in interesting times. Now Muslim majority countries are modernizing, and Muslims are migrating to other countries with high levels of personal freedom. That means people can break free from the group, and choose how they want to live. This is becoming a crisis, as some young Muslims identify as atheists. Others, like Mohammed, choose another religion.

The clash is between modern, liberal, and secular values, and old religious ideas. Now, we all choose who we want to be, and we change ours minds when we want.

That is not the old way.

I was raised in a strict Christian family that was severe with any member who did not conform to their standards. When I still lived in my parent’s house, I decided to attend a Pentecostal church. And then someone tried to contact me from that church they were told “no-one in this family attends a church like yours.” Shortly after that I moved out of the house. In my family, we don’t talk about that now, but we never fixed the problem, and we are not close today.

There is an old story from the early days of Christianity. One city had a festival day when large animals were herded to a temple and sacrificed to the gods. The whole population joined the celebration, it was their big holiday every year. Then a Christian group started in that city, and the Christians refused to participate. I’m sure there were other people who were too busy, or too lazy, and some who never liked that festival. The Christians started the unzipping.

Later, someone went to the festival and saw a few people herding a couple of geese into an old temple. A few years later, the old religion collapsed. It had to be everything or nothing. Many religions cannot exist if they are not the critical mass in society. They are triumphalist, and they do not allow members to leave.

And there is a lesson here for Christians. Can you be the only believer in the room, and still believe? Do you need a cathedral to be a Christian? Can we still believe if we are not the only show in town and we don’t own the place? For example, can we still believe in Jesus if we lose our church buildings and have small Bible study groups in our homes? We started there, and I am sure we are going back to that condition.

Brace yourself.

Jesus talked about this; “Someone asked him, ‘Will only a few be saved?’ And he replied, ‘The door to heaven is narrow.’” (Luke 13: 23 and 24) It’s normal to believe and be in the minority.

The first Christians were a small group of frightened refugees who had just lost their leader and were hiding in a room. One room was big enough for them all. The critical mass was God, who came to be with them, and they went out from that room and changed the world. They had no future in huddling together.

As the believers met together that day, suddenly there was a sound like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them and it filled the house where they were meeting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on their heads. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in languages they didn’t know, for the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. (Acts chapter 2, verses 1, 2, 3, 4)

And … those who were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word. (chapter 8 verse 4)

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