Throughout history, the Christian movement has followed a cycle in numerous geographical areas. In the early church, the growth of faith in Jesus thrived with exponential expansion. In Israel and in much of the Mediterranean world, followers of Jesus Christ multiplied phenomenally. Today, the region is primarily secularized.

Several centuries later, the Roman Catholic movement spread across new trade routes to places like India and South America. With the birth of Protestantism, Christian influence thrived in Europe and North America with early missionary movements to Africa, Asia, and elsewhere.

In the twenty-first century, secularization has overtaken much of Europe and is creeping toward major influence in North America, and Christianity is thriving in many parts of Africa.

What is at the heart of this repeated cycle? One of the great contributors is ecclesiastical drift. Operated by human hands, the church drifts from organism to organization. This is propelled by contextualization that has been overcome by syncretism. These are big words, representing

spiritual disaster. As always, getting Jesus—the Head of the church— “right” is at the heart of revival. Getting Jesus not completely “right” is the foundation for disintegration.

The writer to the Hebrews gets this. The theme: As Christ-followers, we travel on the Way. Sadly, as humans, we often get in the way. Back to basics: In Hebrews 2:14-15, the writer says, “Since the children (of God) are flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by His death.” This is technically called the “incarnation”—Jesus became meat, like you and me: flesh and blood.

The incarnation is a powerful missionary concept. It has tremendous impact on the effectiveness, the power, of the Christian movement. It is called contextualization.

The incarnation demands that the faith be expressed in the realities of the audience you are trying to reach. This is where church people so often go off the rails. The Catholics perpetuated Latin as the language of faith for centuries. Many American churches are still built to look like miniaturized European cathedrals, from a century long gone. Many Christians still sit in pews, long after better seating has been invented. Many worship services perpetuate songs, called “hymns,” using words like “thee,” “thy,” and “thou”—old English words they don’t even use in daily context, even in England!

The faith becomes “foreign” to unbelievers. This is an abomination to the incarnation. It’s religion, not faith. It’s hanging onto the delivery systems of faith, not the basics of the faith. It is

an obsession with peripheral Christianity. It causes spiritual and missional dry rot for the movement.

Meanwhile, many Christians, following a misguided understanding of contextual mission, practice “syncretism.” This is the effort and attempt to “sync up” with secular, non-biblical practices that are contrary to Scripture. This is the drift toward liberalism of theology that leads off the cliff of disaster and paralyzes the Christian movement.

All this makes you wonder: “Can we just do faith by the Book?” In Hebrews 3:1, the writer to Hebrews nails it: “Take a good, hard look at Jesus. He’s the centerpiece of everything we believe.”

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