Are you bored in church? Don't like going anymore? Stopped going? Wishing for something better? Not plugged in? Offended and never going back? Are you hungry? Thirsty? Longing for the good old days? Did you feel God's presence today? Are you enjoying your salvation, or just feeling guilty about the rules that you can't seem to follow, no matter how hard you try? Do you even care about the rules?
I have been around the "born again" church for nearly 30 years. At some point along the journey I have attended just about every Christian denomination. If you follow this blog at all, you know that it matters greatly to me what non-Christians think about God and the church. It also matters that, as a church, we are progressing towards the goal of bringing real redemption, while being ministers of reconciliation. The church has to have a purpose, not a facade. We need to be heading somewhere, and that takes both vision and action.
What were you thinking the last time you attended a service? Would you want to bring a co-worker, a friend or a neighbor to a service like that? Some folks will say, God never changes, take it or leave it. I AGREE. The problem is not with God, but with religion. When people experience religion, they will have an opinion. When people regularly experience a living God, they are changed forever and want to share the Good News.
Here is what I see a lot of. these days Church attendance is sliding everywhere in the US. Let's face reality, for many, church is boring and/or irrelevant more than ever before. Even now, people like certain aspects of the service or fellowship, but put up with the rest to get a little slice of the Kingdom. And, with busy lives, kids, friends, work, school and TV, we may not even feel that it is time well spent.
There is a move towards friendly churches, seeker-sensitive services and programs. First, all of those things are probably good. I have met lots of people that were looking for religion and met God in the process. I am glad that you and your local brethren are being friendly. That is a good way to be different from the world... maybe. However; I get the same treatment at Wal*Mart.
Second, I am not so sure that I am glad that churches are seeker-sensitive. Does that make God relevant? I don't think so. A supernatural God is not going to do everything so it fits our natural mindset. People are intrigued with the supernatural, otherwise there wouldn't be psychic lines, horoscopes, tarot card readers and paranormal TV shows. And when are we going to pop the salvation question anyway?
Third, programs, if they are of God... perfect. They often represent vision, but they more often can be good intentions and not "God" intentions. I am a little distressed to hear that some churches won't be letting God out of the box during regular services and that Bible studies and small groups are so programed, that there is no relationship, and no ability for God to move even when invited. I understand the idea of not being all crazy and religious, that can be a turn-off for many folks. The question is this, where is God going to be God, under a bushel?
Why go to church anyway, and what's in it for us? As I came to church in those early years, I kept coming because I first felt loved. Folks were kind to me, they didn't seem too concerned where I came from before I met Jesus, and they were affectionate. Some of my needs for relationship were also being met. However; after awhile, the friendships didn't keep me filled me up. You see, I was looking for the eternal welling up of the Spirit that Jesus told the woman at the well about (John 5). I had a hunger that words could not explain. Simply said, I wanted more, a lot more. I read a few books about the Holy Spirit and how it would help me, teach me and fill me. I also read about miracles, healing, and about God speaking to us-- I wanted that!
Here is what I find amazing. First, why is it that the church is the keeper of "light" and power? This is one of the many questions I am hoping to talk to Jesus about in Heaven. If that is true, and I believe it is, then where is the power? If the non-Christian never sees, or senses God's power, how are they ever going to believe that we have anything worthwhile-- not to mention dying for? I want the kind of faith that John had, "we speak of the things that we've SEEN." And, by the way, Thomas saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. I don't think that he doubted God's power.
We see religious fanatics blow themselves up nearly every day. They are not usually Christians, nor do they claim to be. But they are sold out for their kingdom, their god and their way of life and right to worship as they wish. Think about their commitment to the cause!
The Bible says lots of stuff that people debate all the time. We can't have emotional frenzies and call that God, but we can have passion in our worship services and in our personal relationship with Jesus. Just like the little kid who runs to daddy when he gets home from work, to the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other worker serving soup and smiles at the salvation Army, we need passion! I have friends in a number of different camps. They all believe a little bit differently. I still find areas of division. And I still see areas where some look across the street and decide that God will never do that; you can fill in the blank! _____________ But it is passion that lets His light shine through us. I have seen many transformed because they could actually see something different in the people of faith in their lives. It was not mere religion. There are historical accounts of the joy of Christians being fed to the lions in Rome, a joy that captivated onlookers there to cheer on the lions.
Here is what I think (isn't that why you read my blog and not someone else's?) Have you ever been distressed debating with folks who think there is only one god, and one way to Heaven and the Jesus is NOT the only way? I have. No power, no character and no love, simply intellectual debate.
I think that a Gospel of salvation is a great thing; preach it! But let us get past "clinching the deal." There is sooooo much more to "church" and in America I think we can easily miss it. Did you know that Dr. David Yonggie Cho's church in Korea is so packed that folks only get to attend a service every few weeks? Some of the parishioners are so poor that they tithe rice. They have a place called "Prayer Mountain" where people can fast and pray. Naysayers will find fault with his church. Again, there is that which is powerful, godly and good. This is an example. Is this the perfect church? NO! But there is power, love and relationship there.
The POINT of this blog is this. If we are the keepers of light, the salt of the earth and the ones with a witness that is nearly as powerful as the Word itself, then what the hell are we doing with it?
Revelation 12:11 And they have overcome (conquered) him by means of the blood of the Lamb and by the utterance of their testimony, for they did not love and cling to life even when faced with death [holding their lives cheap till they had to die for their witnessing]. Amplified Bible