church: THERE. IS. MORE.
This is the 15th post of a series. I started out telling a chronological story, but got derailed before I could get past August of 2012. I’ve addressed the derailing tangent to death. I’m tired of talking about something I wasn’t even talking about. I’m skipping WAY ahead in my story. Maybe I’ll get back to explaining how God brought me to where I am today, maybe not. Today, I’m cutting to the chase. And I can see another tangent coming at me already, so I’m hoping an acknowledgement will help me nip that in the bud. (If you need to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.)
I’m going to say hard things. I’ve spent a week writing this particular post and I’ve prayed about it for hours. and hours. and hours. and HOURS. Hard. Things. I promise you I’m saying them in a spirit of edification.
HERE’S MY POINT:
THERE. IS. MORE.
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Christ came that we may have life, and have it abundantly, in all its fullness.
Not abundant blessings or stuff.
Abundant life isn’t a state of existence to be pursued or attained. It isn’t a level of success or a degree of spirituality. It is an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and it leads to a dependance on Him that can’t be met through or in or by ANYthing else.
Without Christ, I can accomplish NOTHING of eternal significance. Without Christ, I have NOTHING. Without Christ, I am NOTHING.
And before I say another word, I need to acknowledge something:
I know there are people in my church who understand what I’m saying.
I need to say that LOUDER:
I know there are people in my church who understand what I’m saying.
But there are so. many. people in my church who have no idea what I’m talking about.
There are people in my church who don’t want what I’m talking about.
There are people in my church who don’t give a flyin flip what I’m talking about.
And to beat a dead horse – I am not only referring to people who haven’t yet accepted Christ.
This is NOT about evangelism.
I am primarily referring to people who have accepted Christ.
I accepted Christ 28 years ago and up until 2007, I wouldn’t have known what I was talking about if I explained it to me. (good luck following that.)
There are born-again Christians in my church who have never experienced abundant life in Christ through an intimate, no holds barred relationship with him, who have no idea what I mean by that, who flat out don’t want it and/or don’t think there’s any need for it.
And if the Christians aren’t witnesses to what Christ has done and is doing in our lives and in our church, how will the non-Christians – both the people seeking God and the people who think they are Christian but have never accepted Christ – ever see evidence that a life transformed by faith in Christ is any different from their own?
There are so. many. people. – Christians and non-Christians – at my church who don’t see any need for an intimate relationship with Christ. They don’t even know that what they are missing even exists.
And that realization causes me to grieve for my church. and to pray. persistently.
Because as much as God desires an intimate relationship with us, He won’t force us into it.
The father let the prodigal son leave,
The king invited people to the wedding banquet for his son, but he didn’t force them to come,
He stands at the door and knocks, but he doesn’t bust it down and come barreling in if we don’t open it.
My church is not a Christ-centered church. The gospel is not the foundation of all we say and do.
My church has gone off on our own to accomplish good and reasonable things in the world.
My church is so focused on working for God it doesn’t even occur to us to come to the banquet and spend time with God.
My church isn’t refusing to open the door, we just can’t hear Him knocking over all the activity in the house.
There’s nothing I can do or say to bring revival to my church. There’s nothing anyone can do or say to bring revival to my church. Not even the pastor. A Christ-centered sermon here or there won’t do it. A compelling sermon won’t “convince” us to desire revival. Because revival doesn’t come from an intellectual decision to initiate it.
Only the Holy Spirit can bring revival.
Yes, the Holy Spirit can anoint a pastor and use a 20 minute sermon to draw people to Christ. But if God were to move and stir revival in my church, He wouldn’t limit Himself to that 20 minutes. He would saturate the culture of the church in a foundational dependence on Christ that results in a consuming passion to worship Him, an underlying peace that comes from an unwavering trust in Him and JOY that trumps any unhappiness or trial we might face.
“We depend on God to help us.”
no. we don’t.
“Yes we do.”
no. we really don’t.
For all the things we do at my church, all the programs and classes and service and ministries and sermons and worship sets, we don’t – as a unified body of believers – acknowledge that without Christ at the center of all we say and do, we can’t accomplish ANYTHING of eternal significance.
At my church, we link arms and stand strong together;
we would kick butt in a game of Red Rover.
At my church, we know how to follow instructions;
we would be champions at a Simon Says tournament.
At my church, we are more loyal to each other
than the Robertson Family.
At my church, if we had a box of dominoes, we would
line them up in nice, neat, reasonable, sensible rows
(I know a few who would prefer a game of Mexican train).
We – as a unified body of believers – do NOT openly and consistently acknowledge that we are completely incapable of accomplishing anything on our own.
And there goes the first domino.
The second? Because we – as a unified body of believers – don’t acknowledge that the Holy Spirit – given to us freely through our faith in Christ – is the source of our strength and abilities, because we don’t approach EVERYthing we do – programs, classes, service, ministry and every aspect of our weekly services – with a openly shared understanding that we desperately need the Holy Spirit to equip us for these pursuits, we don’t make prayer our first step – our first priority – and humbly ask Him to do the equipping.
We don’t even ask Him if the things we are trying to do are within His will.
when the dominoes come tumbling down?
We set ‘em up again.
We brainstorm and research and study and benchmark and make decisions based on good ideas and bad. We think and reason and rationalize and plan and execute – all without STOPPING. And spending “unreasonable” amounts of time in prayer asking God if these “things” we are planning are things He even wants us to do in the first place. As a unified body of believers, we don’t beg God to reveal to us our motivations and guide us to fruitfulness.
We are afraid to sincerely offer ourselves up and ask God to prune us. Why? Because we know He will?
But we need it. Because we are dragging the ground, covered in mud. Weak. Unfruitful.
We as a congregation need a clear understanding of what our church believes, what our values are, what our mission is, because without a clear understanding what we believe and why we believe it, we have nothing upon which to measure when it comes to evaluating whether or not all this stuff we’re doing supports those values.
And Christ should be at the center. Everything should branch off from that Vine.
We do good and reasonable things.
We do things because we’ve always done them.
We do things because they are efficient.
We do things because they make sense.
We do things to make people comfortable.
We do things so people won’t leave.
We don’t even consider the possibility that God might have something completely different in mind.
Something better than we ever thought or imagined.
Something we can’t accomplish without Him.
Something that would give Him all the glory.
Instead, we are…reasonable. and appropriate.
We don’t ask people to tell us how they came to faith in Christ.
Instead, we ask them how they came to our church.
Baptisms are for new babies, new members and new confirmands.
Professions of faith? new members and confirmands.
If someone comes to faith in Christ outside the schedule of a new member or confirmation class, what do they do?
Who do they tell?
How do we celebrate?
Is genuine worship something we as a body of Christ are confident we experience every week?
Or are there (too many?) times when “congregational singing” would be a better description?
How many of us wake up and go to church because that’s just what we do on Sunday morning?
How many of us wake up and go to church because we look forward to spending time with friends and family?
How many of us wake up and look forward to church because we know we will encounter the manifest presence of God?
This is what I pray for my church:
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
“The gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
That’s not a church we can build on our own power. It’s a church only Christ can build.
But we have to realize we need the Father. And come home to Him empty handed.
We have to come to the banquet and spend time with Him.
We have to open the door and let Him in.
How do we get to that place? The place where we want to go home, want to spend time with him and want to open the door?
I’m praying desperately and persistently, that my church – as the body of CHRIST – would be profoundly dissatisfied with being nice people who do good things in pursuit of a “good Christian life.”
I’m praying desperately and persistently, that – as the body of CHRIST – we would dedicate ourselves to prayer and relentlessly ask Christ to draw us into an intimate relationship with Him that leads us to experience abundant life in Him.
THERE. IS. MORE.
“All the hearts who are content, And all who feel unworthy.
And all who hurt with nothing left, Will know that You are holy
And all will sing out, Hallelujah. And we will cry out, Hallelujah
Shout it, Go on scream it from the mountains
Go on and tell it to the masses, That He is God”
“We committed ourselves to unapologetic preaching, unashamed worship, unceasing prayer, and unafraid witness. And God began to reveal His glory slowly at first but increasingly over time.”
Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be by James MacDonald
CLICK HERE to read the next post in this series, entitled: Vertical Church: a clarification. and a survey.
This is the 15th post of a series. If you need to catch up or review, CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.