I was struck today with the thought, “How did we come up with church the way we do it?”
I don’t know the answer to this question. It is so different from what I see Jesus doing in the gospels, or the early ecclesias of Acts and the Epistles. The word “church” wasn’t even used until centuries after Revelation was written.
And then I look around and see Sunday-morning productions, filling chairs with the butts of the mildly-entertained-and-faithless masses who attend and forget. Are they hopping from spiritual experience to spiritual experience? Are they there because their family has always come? Are they there so the kids get a good moral education?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to rail against mega-churches or seeker-friendly services. I actually support those, but everything can become an idol.
Your idol may be the musical style: organ, ear-bleedingly-loud rock, hipster bluegrass, or Gaither.
Your idol may be the doctrine to which you faithfully hold and use to keep the living spirit of God at bay from actually moving in your life.
Your idol may be the building that your family helped pay for, the graveyard where your grandma is buried, or the pew where you have sat since you were born.
Your idol may be the accessibility and self-righteous tolerance you show to everyone who comes. Just make sure the coffee is fair trade!
But, at the end of the day, all idols bring death! Only the gospel of the kingdom brings life!
And that life doesn’t look like an hour on Sunday in your best clothes.
If you are reading this, chances are you are more in danger of being a Pharisee than a tax-collector. It is easy to believe that you aren’t too bad, and generally a moral person. You (like me) need to become poor in spirit before we can follow our Lord.
Poor in spirit means that we recognize our need for God (check out the New Living Translation). Do you know you are hopelessly sinful? Are you aware that you are totally depraved? Have you come face-to-face with your selfishness that crucified Jesus?
If you have, you will be utterly confused by the American church. Sundays won’t make sense to you, but you will find yourself unable to stop inviting people. You will be wracked with guilt and self-doubt as you observe all of the others who seem to have their lives together and are pressuring you to, as well.
No more! I am a sinful, hopeless, broken sinner left to my own devices! It is only by the power of the Spirit and my resurrected Lord that I can get ANYTHING right! I will be OPEN about my failures, so that I (like Paul) can boast in what the Lord is doing in spite of me! I will believe that God is alive and active, and approach people and ask if I can pray with them, or buy them a cup of coffee, because what I have received but not earned is too amazing to not share. I will be completely surrendered to what my Father wants of me, from the uncomfortable to the costly.
The world is broken, we have the antidote. It isn’t on Sundays, but every moment with us.
Wake up, O sleeper!