Tim Stafford: Knowing the Face of God

25 February 2010

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

Rather than force you to read any of my own stuff today, I wanted to share some insights from a terrific book by Tim Stafford entitled Knowing the Face of God. In this work he breaks churchgoers into four distinct categories, which I find very relevant for our churches today. They are as follows:

  1. Dropouts: “…do not make speeches or lead groups out of the church. They just disappear. They joined the church with aching hearts; they disappear with aching hearts. They may put the blame on hypocrisy or legalism or fundamentalism or other catchwords, but they leave because they did not find in church what they hoped for. It didn’t work, and nobody in church seemed to even recognize their problem. Either all these people are phonies, the dropout thinks, or something is wrong with me. For some reason God has not chosen to make himself real to me.”
  2. Joiners: “Religion is a good thing,” the joiner thinks in his heart, like Rotary. They believe in participation, and they stay in church as stalwart members. They believe, but they have managed to ease the pinching hunger for God that probably drew them there in the first place….Joiners are as easy to overlook as dropouts, for the make no waves. They contribute money and time; they are good and faithful people. Often they are activists, trying to stir the church into motion. …Nothing draws them to God Himself; they are only religious. If the Lord appeared in the clouds today, it is questionable whether they would be pleased at the interruption. They have adapted but it is a deathly adaptation. They miss out on the full joy of their Christian faith because they have written off their hearts’ cry an no longer feel and hear the radical, uncompromised promises of Jesus.
  3. Enthusiasts: “Some people forever expect the answer to turn up. Every new movement, organization, speaker, or book catches them. This, they think, is the missing ingredient. Perennially optimistic, they are also extraordinarily patient. They are the ones who buy all the new books and records, attend all the conferences, know all the latest lingo. Every time you meet them they offer to lend you a cassette tape.  If you look a their past you find it a record of moving from one thing to another. The humdrum local congregation can never satisfy their search for the missing ingredient. They can never settle down to live the ordinary Christian life with the same people year after year, and thus the miss the true power of the Spirit”
  4. Hard-liners: “…appear super-confident, though under the surface they may be terribly in need of affirmation and prominence. They are like the enthusiasts except they never (or seldom) move on to the new thing. Rather, they settle down to defend their narrow status quo…They may be fundamentalists or tongues-speakers. They may trumpet the victorious Christian life, or they may find God among the poor or nuclear protests. They may insist that the way to experience the fullness of the kingdom is to witness it every day, using a certain booklet. If you feel any discrepancies between life as it is and life as it ought to be, they have the answer.”

(Excerpted from Tim Stafford, Knowing the Face of God, p. 26-7)

25 February 2010

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

Chris is a writer and speaker. He currently serves as teaching pastor at Tri-State Fellowship and as a research writer for Docent Research Group.

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