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Disillusionment is something that happens a lot more than most people think. It's almost universal amongst the middle-aged. But, like the story of The Emperor's New Clothes, very few people have the courage to admit it.

The reason that disillusionment is so widespread is because people consistently put their hopes in the wrong things. Even in religious circles, they almost universally put their faith in organisations more than in God himself. When the organisations let them down (and they always do), there is nothing left for most people to do except hide their disappointment and carry on the best they can.

Because we are not likely to tell on them (or if we did, no one would believe us) many disillusioned church leaders have confided in us. They tell us that they started out as idealists with high hopes of making an impact on the world, but they found little support from either the laity or the hierarchy of the church. Others were more committed to defending the institution than with finding the truth. And, because the institution represents job security, even the disillusioned clergy have consented to become one more part of the whole lie.

It would be easy for us to become self-righteous about this if it were not that the same thing happens even in radical alternative groups like our own. It's usually easier to leave the alternative group and rejoin the establishment as a temporary cure for disillusionment; but even then the dropout does not find satisfaction.

No group wants someone around moaning that they aren't satisfied; so all the disillusioned millions of the world are forced to bear their sorrow privately, and to proclaim publicly their total satisfaction with whatever organisation they are now working with.

Some of this is understandable. We have another word for the disillusioned. They are called "malcontents". But there must be some way to turn honest disillusionment into a positive force.

Consider for starters that the word comes from "illusion". Finding the truth often means exposing the "illusions" or false gods of whatever system we are in. It may be an unspoken fear of contradicting leadership in areas where leadership might actually be wrong. It may be a commitment to projects and programs more than to the greater good of building the kingdom of heaven. It may be concern with numbers or expediency. We all need to become "disillusioned" with these lesser goals in order to find a higher one.

I recently discussed the start of charismatic renewal in Australia with a friend who was present with myself at the historic first gatherings of a handful of lay people at meetings in the Blue Mountains (Sydney) which led to that movement some 30 years ago. We asked ourselves what it was that made this more than just another home fellowship group; and I think the answer is that it was a group of people who wanted something bigger than themselves.

It's very rare that you can get a dozen or more Christians together for any length of time without them wanting to start a church or put up a building. But when we get a burden for something bigger than just another denomination in the clutter of denominations that already fill the earth, then maybe we can start praying the kind of prayer that God really wants to answer: "Lord, send revival... even if I (or my organisation) am not recognised as being the tool through which it came."

By all means, let us become disillusioned with lesser goals; and let us not be afraid to voice our disillusionment. For after we have done that, we need to pray for and work toward a much greater goal - the building of God's eternal and invisible kingdom here on earth... a kingdom that can reign in the hearts of all who seek him.

(See also Malcontents.)

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