“And they spread among the Israelites a bad report” (Numbers 13:32 NIV).
In nature, the following factors affect momentum negatively:
- Inertia – The resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion. As Newton observed, “An object at rest tends to stay at rest.”
- Friction – The resistive force acting between bodies that tends to oppose and damp out motion.
In the church, spiritual momentum can be negatively impacted too. We see a similarity between the physical and the spiritual laws of momentum.
Spiritual inertia can be seen in churches where the people have become comfortable and set in their ways. They are resistant to change. They want to sit in the same pews and sing the same songs from the same hymnals and listen to the same sermons and leave at the same time with the same people. In a fast paced and ever changing world, people don’t want any change in their churches. They see the church as a static and safe place, rather than a dangerous, faith-provoking movement of God.
Even after their churches become stale and lifeless, they resist change for fear of losing that which is known. Like the Israelites, they would rather live in the past and return to the “Egypt” they know, than risk going into the promised land they don’t know.
But fear alone doesn’t entirely explain this spiritual inertia. Confusion is the other factor. Those resistant to change have often taken what was a movement of God in their generation and turned it into a monument. They confuse God’s methods with His message. God’s Word will never change, but His methods are new for every generation.
God doesn’t do encores. Moses learned this when God told him to “strike the rock” to bring forth water the first time, but to “speak to the rock” in the second instance. Moses struck the rock both times. In the first, he was obedient, in the second he was not. God still gave the people water, but Moses never entered the promised land. God is on the move. He wants us to follow.
Spiritual friction is seen when a movement of God has already begun. This is an opposing force that damps out spiritual momentum. In nature, it is between bodies or objects. In churches, it is between people. Invariably, when a church begins to see God move, they will also notice an increase in people arguing and complaining about things. Their disagreement may or may not be with the direction of the church. Often, they just find themselves offended or hurt by someone in the church and they react by hurting back.
When Moses had to address the complaining of the Israelites, he and Aaron “fell facedown” before them. When the leadership of the church has to turn to address the bickering and relational friction of its members, the church loses momentum.
The church is vulnerable to this opposing force for a couple of reasons. One, because we have not learned to become unoffendable like Jesus. We are like walking wounded, easily hurt and offended by the slightest word. And two, because there is an active and evil opponent in the world. Satan hates the church and will do everything possible to stop it. If he can’t do it directly, then he’ll stop it through manipulating us in our relationships. Spiritual friction is spiritual warfare.
I think WCC is experiencing a season of spiritual momentum right now. But I’m praying really hard against spiritual inertia and friction. I’m praying against fear of change and a tendency to build monuments out of the past movements. I’m praying against us being easily offended and manipulated by Satan.
If you sense that one or both of these factors that hinder momentum is affecting you, will you make it right? Will you trust God? Will you forgive your friend? Will you stay unified with God and with one another?
Will you join me in asking God to “shake” things up in our world?