Do you ever wonder if you are missing it?
I know I sometimes do.
As I look out and see so much busyness within the church, marketing campaigns, multi million dollar building projects and program after program aimed at meeting people’s felt needs to garner popularity or influence, there underneath it all, at least for me, there is a gnawing dissatisfaction.
Is this really what church is or even more generally what Christianity is about?
Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not against building projects nor am I against trying to meet people’s needs, but when I read Scripture, particularly the book of Acts, there is a discontinuity from what I read in the text compared to what is generally the normal expression of American Christianity.
For example, you read in Acts 2:43 and 4:32, because of the gathering of the believers “awe came upon every soul” and their expression of unity was so profound that Luke writes “they were of one heart and one soul”. This at one-time small group of scared Jesus followers, now indwelt by the Spirit of Almighty God had not only the message and the mission but the power to carry it out.
Just a cursory reading through the book of Acts, you see dynamic prayer meetings (Acts 4:31, 13:1-3), otherworldly courage to proclaim the gospel in the face of severe persecution (Acts 5:17-42, 7:1-51), riots (Acts 19:23-41) and a whole host of other radical occurrences that was the normative of a supernatural church completely devoted to the resurrected Christ.
Again, I cannot read those early accounts and not feel a tad bit envious. Furthermore, I don’t believe I am going too far out on a limb to say you do too.
We have to be wary however, of some of the pitfalls that can creep in when we start talking like this. One in particular is cynicism. In an attempt to reassess and reflect how we are feeling, we can easily become sardonic in our view of others which only leads to sinful criticism and derision.
Another is despondency. We look at the issues concerning the church at large and feel that change or reform is never going to occur, so we give up. Yet, when you look at the Bible and church history, you see that God is always on the move and there is never a day when he is not working through his people.
What do we do with this holy frustration? First, I don’t believe settling for the status quo is the answer. For many of us, we have been there and done that for years. We have settled for the big flashy entertainment driven worship experience or we have been inundated with various new ministry systems only to find them over-promising and under-delivering. We need to get back into our Bibles being humble enough to use it as the ultimate and final standard for our re-evaluation and not what is deemed culturally relevant or desirable. Because what is popular today will be out of fashion in a few years but the word of our Lord remains forever (Isa. 40:8).
Second, we need to raise the question and converse with others. In doing so, it may provide needed correction and wisdom in sorting out our feelings. It would force us to practice patience and season our words with grace (Col. 4:6). Also, there is a good chance you will see that you aren’t really alone in this. I guarantee there are people in your circle who share the same sentiment as you and who are thinking that they are the only one’s feeling this way.
Third, we need to pray and pray and pray again. We need to approach the throne of God and continual petition Him for grace, mercy, wisdom and courage for ourselves and for others. As John Bunyan once said, “You can do more than pray, but you cannot do more until you have prayed.”
Lastly, we need to love. We need to love God above all else and we need to love the church. It should be out of a spirit of love not a critical one as to why we are raising the question. It is out of a deep and abiding affection for the church that we realize Biblically, the Bride of Christ is so much more than what is commonly believed or experienced.
As we journey through this together, stay humble, faithful and in love of Jesus and His Bride.