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Lessons from the Pandemic: (1) Disruption

Late last year I read through Os Guinness’ book, The Grave Digger Files, and he has a chapter on what the nature and effects of privatization. This book is written similarly to CS Lewis’ book “The Screw Tape Letters” where there is a senior demon writing to another demon filling him in on the strategy (in this case/book) to undermine the church. In this chapter he uses the analogy of how the modern world is encroaching more and more on wilderness and how before long wildlife will be held captive and locked into zoos in order to preserve animals.

Os is highlighting a strategy of the enemy to tame the people of God into, what he calls, the private realm. The senior demon explains that Christians can do whatever they want in the private realm of life, so long as they never bring their faith into the secular realm. In other words, there is a divide that often develops between the sacred and the secular.

Os goes on to write…

“But what I am getting at is that wild animals, once savage and dangerous to humans, have become little more than pets; and what has happened to wildlife is nothing compared with the taming of religion.” … “Yet today, where religion still survives in the modern world, no matter how passionate or ‘committed’ the individual believer may be, it amounts to little more than a private preference, a spare-time hobby, a leisure pursuit.”

This is what Os Guinness calls the private-zoo factor. He calls it this “because it domesticates, until now, an untamable world of the spirit and fences in the once unbounded provinces of the Church and Spirit”. He wrote this book in 1983…

We have been living through one of the most profound disruptions since WWII. The private zoo factor was a threat before the pandemic, it was the lie to keep ourselves to ourselves. To not push any agenda or ultimate truth onto anybody.

The last year we have been living, some longer than others, in isolation. We were forced into the private realms of our home. It’s as if the “private-zoo factor” has been amplified. None of us know what the long term effects of the pandemic will be, but I wonder if the pandemic has even furthered the process of containing, or as Os Guinness says, “taming the church”, into further isolation, division, and fragmentation?

As things begin to re-open what will be left of the church? I’m certainly no cultural expert! But what I do think is that the church will not be the same after restrictions are completely lifted and that there will be people seeking new ways of discipleship.

This may sound all doom and gloom! I do believe there is good news. On the one hand, the church (because of this disruption) has gone through a process of pruning. On the other hand, I believe there has been a remnant pushing through and chasing after Jesus in deeper ways than before and that ultimately this remnant will come out stronger, ready to be unleashed into the world for God’s glory and for his purposes.

The thing about the private zoo factor is that it has to be a subtle work of the enemy. And because of this… Os goes on to say… “Faith is never more dangerous than when it senses danger.”

Would you like to escape from the private zoo factor? Do you sense the danger facing the church? Are you seeking more of Jesus in your life? Will you chase after Jesus in deeper ways than before?

Don’t let the challenges and opportunities of this season quench what the Spirit is doing. Be encouraged that the Lord is doing a new thing. Join in a fellowship band with others to press in to Jesus. Register for an Inspire online course to be intentional about growing as a disciple. Do not settle for less than the fullness of life Jesus has for you.

Anthony is an Inspire Missioner, church planting in St Louis, MO, USA. 

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