Be Wary of the Stagflation of the Spirit

Dr Manmohan Singh, the former two-time Prime minister of India and an eminent economist commented on the state of economy in India. In the Hindu, dated November 18, 2019, under the title ‘The fountainhead of India’s economic malaise’, he quipped, “The real worrying trend is that the most recent retail inflation numbers have shown a sharp increase, especially the food inflation figure. Retail inflation is expected to rise even further in the coming months. Continued increase in inflation combined with stagnant demand and high unemployment will lead to what economists term as ‘stagflation’, a dangerous territory from which it becomes very hard for large economies to recover. While we are currently not in stagflation territory yet, it is prudent to act quickly to restore consumption demand through fiscal policy measures since the impact of monetary policy seems muted.”

“There is profound fear and distrust among people who act as agents of economic growth. When there is such distrust, it adversely impacts economic transactions in a society. When transactions among people and institutions are negatively impacted, it leads to a slowdown of economic activity, and eventually, stagnation. This perilous state of fear, distrust and lack of confidence among citizens is a fundamental reason for our sharp economic slowdown.”

Is there a deep distrust between the pulpit and pew, leaders and members? Is there a pervasive fear that looms around and sense of hopelessness because of erroneous teachings and erratic lifestyle of leaders?

He goes on to say, “This toxic combination of deep distrust, pervasive fear and a sense of hopelessness in our society is stifling economic activity, and hence, economic growth.”

According to Dr Singh, stagflation is a dangerous territory and it is hard to recover from that situation. In spiritual life too we often enter those irrecoverable territories if we are not keeping a tab on our growth. We should periodically analyse our spiritual growth as individuals and churches. Is there a deep distrust between the pulpit and pew, leaders and members? Is there a pervasive fear that looms around and sense of hopelessness because of erroneous teachings and erratic lifestyle of leaders? We need to check this. As we enter into 2020, we need to build our basics well so that our faith is strong and our generations don’t miss out on the things of God.

The word of God encourages us to “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:15). Hence the aim of our spiritual growth should be to measure up to our Lord Jesus Christ. St Paul makes it very clear about how this happens in the context of the church.

Leadership structure

God has gifted His church with a healthy leadership structure to bring the saints together unto this fullness of Christ. “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–13 ESV). Multiple grace-filled leaders and offices are involved in building up the body of Christ. It is not a shepherd alone who can bring out a change. Every ministry should work in a church context to bring in wholesome growth.

One of the duties of the apostles were to appoint elders in every town as the local church flourished (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5). There were established norms in selecting the right people for the kingdom work (1 Tim 3:2–12).

Do we have a blueprint to raise up godly leadership structure in our churches? How do we encourage and support the youngsters to take the mantle of faith?

Constant Scriptural Engagement

We are living in an era where we are surrounded by every kind of teaching and ministry. We should train the local churches to evaluate whether a teaching or ministry is functioning according to God’s word. Paul says, “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). It is a sad thing that many believers do not know how to discern right from wrong. They accept everything and do not take time in examining the scriptures. Scriptural engagement is the key and teaching the church to stay true to the text and context is the key. Intentional training even on a Sunday helps the believers catch up. Barna group has brought out this trend regarding scriptural engagement in the US since Bible centeredness is decreasing, and skepticism is growing.

It is not a shepherd alone who can bring out a change. Every ministry should work in a church context to bring in wholesome growth.

Two other significant, but less encouraging, shifts in the spectrum of Bible engagement are worth noting. The first is that Bible-centred adults have decreased from 9 percent to 5 percent in the past year. The other trend is that more than one-third of adults (35%) report never using the Bible in 2019, a 10-percentage point increase since 2011 (25%). This is an alarming trend and we should give ourselves to Christian growth by scriptural engagement. We should willingly give time for public reading and discussions of the scriptures. How do we actually engage with the scriptures?

Prof NT Wright says, “The New Testament began as letters and other documents written by people such as the Apostles. Those documents would circulate around to the many churches scattered around the Roman Empire. In fact, in the earliest days of the Christian church, most people experienced the Word by listening to scripture rather than reading it themselves. Learning from the Bible with others as it is read out loud remains important for those interested in connecting with God and each other.” He goes on, “One of the main ways this needs to be done is, of course, through sustained teaching by preachers and teachers who are themselves soaked in Scripture. Fair enough. But I do think that our churches and parachurch organisations could and should do more to help people understand the great narrative of Scripture, by sustained readings, public and private, by drawing attention to the great narrative themes and encouraging people to explore them, by discouraging the non-narratival or deconstructive songs that have swept in through today’s cheerful and unthinking postmodernity, and by encouraging and creating new words and music to get the great themes into people’s heads and hearts.”

Relationships

The church is not a disconnected structure. We should be properly connected to one another and help in mutual growth. The ‘otherness’ mentality is also on a decline as we are all engrossed in ‘self’ addiction. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love”(Ephesians 4:15–16). As our aim is to be more like our Lord Jesus, He will supply grace to be united. Our churches should be Christ-centred and not personality centred. We should derive it all from Christ and supply to one another as in a body. The key is when each part is working properly, it makes the body grow.

As we introspect our growth, let’s not grow passive but let’s continue the good fight of faith to make a decisive difference in the areas God has placed us. In this new decade, let us not allow our spiritual lives to stagnate. Stagnation will lead us to stagflation. It is my prayer that we will grow to the levels God has for us as we work together to see the Kingdom of God permeating through the church to pierce through every dark territory of the enemy.

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