Today’s Seed Update 2023.5b May 15, 2023

Long road ahead…

(Part 2)

2 important topics in this update:

  • Today’s Seed suspended this week.
  • Continued: The most urgent spiritual challenge in modern history

I sent Part 1 of this update last month. Intending to conclude it shortly after, further understanding began coming. I chose to wait until I could give you a clearer, more comprehensive picture.

TS messages will resume on Monday

I am attending a ministry conference this week. Accordingly, Today’s Seed will be suspended for the remainder of this week. Your regular TS messages will resume on Monday, May 22nd. (If possible time-wise, I will send out some previously published messages … but don’t hold me to it just yet.)

In the spirit of transparency, though standing spiritually strong, we are experiencing extraordinary challenges and significant pressures. I am deeply emotionally weary and in need of a “refreshing”. My hope for the conference is an emotional and spiritual refreshing and renewal as well as insights for the challenges we face and the future path of this ministry–part of which you will learn about in a few minutes.

Please cover these needs in prayer. Thank you, in advance.

More on this urgent spiritual challenge:

The understanding herein challenges traditional assumptions. I ask that you hear me out before reacting to a statement or assuming a conclusion. Not everyone will agree with me–and if you don’t, learn enough to really know what you’re not agreeing with. Fair enough?

We are witnessing an unprecedented, worldwide spiritual crisis. I believe it to be the most urgent in modern history. The result can be seen in our culture. We see things objectionable to us as Believers. And more important than what … is why.

To understand why, we must look for what we don’t see.

We don’t see (virtually anywhere) the numbers revealing that millions–actually, tens of millions–have abandoned traditional church. By ‘traditional church’ I mean the typical church organization in our present-day system of organized religion.

Though the pattern is worldwide, in this article I’m using numbers for the U.S. only. Those professing Christianity in the U.S. is now less than 50%, down by 70 million from not too long ago. The worldwide number is greater and the downward slide is NOT leveling off.

How does the exodus of 70 million go unnoticed?

Ask yourself: Did you know about this? (Most do not, so don’t be hard on yourself.) For traditional church, this is likened to a house burning while the occupant stands in the kitchen preparing lunch. Understand: In this I am indicting neither any particular church (or leader) nor every church.

I am saying that, for whatever their reasons, few churches acknowledge these who are gone. This is simply a fact, not a judgment. Research also reveals that few are going after them. This indicates a deeper problem–and it’s not the exodus: It is that too few seem to care. Are these too busy making lunch as usual to notice that the house is burning down?

The result is what we see happening in our culture. These drop-outs are labeled as backsliders, apostates, or worse–if they are thought about at all. When they are, they are frequently vilified for their moral, cultural, or political behaviors or views. One thing they are not–and that is loved.

Loving them does not mean accepting their behavior or having a relationship. It does mean seeing them as God sees them–including being concerned about their eternal destiny and relationship with Him. We hear both God’s love for them and His desire to restore them in Matthew 18:12-14. Jesus says,

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Mat 18:12-14 NIV)

Let’s break this down: Jesus teaches that if only 1% (1 out of 100) wanders away, we must go after them because restoring them is a priority to God. And now, today, THIS VERY MOMENT, millions are gone and few care. Do you now understand why I say that there is a ‘deeper problem‘?

Hold this thought as I shift perspectives:

There are good churches doing incredible work. Many are praying for revival; interceding for the nation, the world, the lost, and even these wandering ones. They are teaching, evangelizing, discipling, and doing the work they are called to do.

Without being consciously aware of it, however, many have the attitude that these wanderers should come “home” to them to hear the Gospel the way they preach it. It’s conditioning: This has been the way traditional church has been “done” for generations. To most, this is the way it is “supposed” to be done.

Back to Matthew 18: We are commanded to go out and find the wanderers, not wait for them to come to us. Churches that care and make an effort invariably start new programs to reach them. This is the way they are organized. They are doing what they know to do.

But even this is a problem. Because these wanderers see traditional church AS the problem, they will not respond to a “come to us” attitude–which is how they view ANY program from a traditional church.

Therefore, even good churches who do something to meet this need face insurmountable resistance simply because of what they are. And contrary to what church hopes, most are not coming back. The result is that without Godly influences in individual lives, our culture moves further away from Godly values … while we complain.

How “they” think:

This may help you understand the wanderer’s mindset:

I can’t eat raw cucumbers. It’s a genetic thing like people who can’t eat cilantro. (BTW, I love cilantro!) No matter what seasoning you put on a cucumber, it won’t go past my tongue. If a cucumber touched anything, e.g., a salad where they were picked out, I can’t eat it. No mind-over-matter is going to change this for me–even if you put cilantro on it.

This is how these people see church programs: They’re just new seasonings on something that is aversive to them. They will reject traditional church regardless of what we do.

Now, for God’s perspective:

God’s attitude toward these wanderers must also be ours. Would anyone disagree with this? He cares deeply and passionately about them, therefore, we must too. The disconnect comes when we overlay our traditions with God’s attitude.

We must be in agreement with Him, not in opposition to Him. That said, an uncomfortable truth is that waiting for them to come to us versus going out to find them IS in opposition to both God’s heart for them and Jesus’ instruction in Scripture.

Some of these can be reached but doing so will require unconventional thinking and solutions. What will be difficult for most traditional-thinking Believers to accept is that the solutions must come from outside of traditional church. This MUST be so because to the wanderers, traditional church IS the problem and like me and anything a cucumber has touched, they will reject it if it even smells like anything traditional.

There are ways to reach them and restore SOME of them to relationship with God. But know this:

  • The process will be neither fast nor easy
  • It will not be clearly defined (meaning it’s going to be messy)
  • We won’t reach all of them
  • We won’t even reach most of them

For some, it’s already too late. However, even a small percentage of these tens of millions is a LOT of people! And Jesus is unmistakably clear that even ONE is of infinite value to Him.

In closing …

There is too much to conclude today. Will you pray with us and for us as we form a response to this need? Pray for us that we clearly perceive and understand God’s communication and direction.

I expect that some in traditional church will see this as a threat. E-MIN was seen this way in the nineties. (God preparing us?) Regardless, because these wanderers are important to God, they must be important to us. Therefore, we must move forward to reach them.

Seen as a threat or not, I am convinced that the only way to reach them is together: Unconventional and conventional; untraditional and traditional; church and not-a-church. If we do not work together, we will lose this generation.

So, pray, please, fervently and urgently. Since nothing like this has ever been done, there is no model. (Again, like E-MIN in the beginning.) As it was for the first century church, this is uncharted territory. As challenging, uncertain, and potentially uncomfortable as it appears, I am confident that God has the solution because these people are dear to His heart.

I hardly know how to end this, so I will just stop for today. Pray, please. More to come…

In His service,

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“Today’s Seed” Update • May 15, 2023

About Randall Vaughn:

With 40+ years as pastor, author, teacher, worship leader, and songwriter, Randall pioneered E-MIN in 1997–one of the earliest online ministries and today the longest operating. His passion is leading people to deeper, genuine relationship with God. He lives in Alabama with his lovely wife, Karen, and their dogs, Hadi and Rayah. He enjoys hiking, exploring new tech, and “prayer walks”.

Copyright (c) 2023 Randall Vaughn • All Rights Reserved.
All trademarks, service marks, and/or company names, including but not limited to E-MIN, One Minute Message, Today’s Seed, et al. are the property of their respective owners.

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