Today I was in church watching the kids sitting there in their seats. Forced to go by their parents, they showed no interest at all in the proceedings around them, be it the sermon, notices, or the worship and singing. It seemed to me that they were really only enduring their time in the seat until it was over and they could once again be free to play and have fun.
This brought me to thinking about the service of a church and many other aspects of it. But to stay on topic, I started to ask myself why it was that the kids were just not interested. I also started asking if the adults were any more interested in the whole proceedings or if they too were enduring it all out of a religious duty or some other motivation not related to the proceedings.
So where is this power that Christians had? This authority? This essence of a life that shows God is real? Why is church such a show? It has been very few times that I have entered a church and felt the presence of God there. When that presence was there, even when I was completely exhausted I remained attentive and interested in everything. It felt like I was drinking in the atmosphere around me. Most of the times that I am in church it feels dry and painful. Many times I am relieved when it is over. How can this be? Why is it so bad?
If there is no reality then the kids are not going to be interested. Sure, they may end up “Churchified” and good religious people, but that has nothing to do with God. It is time that we started to return to the truth of life with Christ. That we started living and obeying God in such a way as to be in His presence. Otherwise our testimony as a church holds no strength at all, but instead starts to turn people away from Christ.
The Bible says that if we disobey God, if we have sin in our lives, if we are proud and selfish amongst other things, then God will distance Himself from us. Could this be the problem with chuch today? If God was present in the church… really present in the church, then it would show up not only amongst the adults, but also amongst the kids too.
Kids in church… they tell you a lot.
I wrote this comment on the church back in May 2004. It was how I was feeling then, and it is still how I feel now (note, this was originally written on a completely different blog but they are the same blog now):
I am at a loss. Everything in me wants to fellowship with other people, but nothing in me wants to go to a church. I am not against churches however, it is just that I cannot continue to perform this ritual. It is empty and lifeless to me. The people in the church give the place life and help me through each service, and it is wonderful chatting with them afterwards, but why do I have to endure the service so that I can enjoy this?
Am I such a “bad Christian” for talking like this? No. I am simply one that seeks God and wants life in each meeting. A place where people can grow, and where they can share. This does not mean homegroups to me either. Most of the homegroups that I have attended have simply been “mini-church” based in the home. There has been as little life in these as there is in the big church.
So what is the answer? How I desire to know this too. Every time I read the Bible I search for something that will help me to find this answer, something that will give me a clue to this. My desire is to find something that brings about lasting change.
Many people that have been “saved” have only said the magic words and there seems to be no lasting change. Unfortunately I have been a first-hand witness to this process and even championed it at one point. Discipleship seems to be a forgotten responsibility. Repentance and baptism too seem to have faded over the years and yet these were the very things, in fact the only things, that Jesus and the disciples commanded people to do to be saved.
So where is the life, the lasting change? In the Word, all I can find is that people lived what they wrote about. People honoured their father and mother, they visited the sick and those in jail, they pooled their resources to help the widows and the orphans, and they came together to fellowship and encourage each other.
So does this mean we start a new missions movement to start caring for and visiting these people? No, most definitely not. Since when should we delegate responsibility yet again to those few who are willing? What change needs to take place in our lives so that we too become the willing.
After travelling through a number of countries recently I am shocked at how people can line up for an hour to enter a church and pack it full to hear God’s Word spoken, and then as they leave the building, ignore people begging by the entrance, and step over homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk less than one block away. This should not be!
All of these things converge to the point that says we need a new wineskin. The guests at the wedding will get the best wine last, and it is not found in our conventional churches.
I seek to find followers of Christ who are passionate and motivated, who encourage and disciple others as they too are encouraged and discipled. Times of gathering where each person can share, question, and learn. How different this would be. How wonderful. This is the “church” that I want to attend.
Unrealistic? It depends on your perspective. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Why would this not be if we were all passionate about Christ and the absolutes of the Bible? I believe the time for change has come. We need change, and I for one am willing to do what it takes to see this become reality.
Here I am at the YWAM International Workshop in Brazil and many things have been happening here. One of the craziest things has been that there have been a number of different people praying for me… and even though they are from different parts of the world (USA, Chile, Argentina) each one has prayed almost the same thing for me.
Now most of them also had no idea who I was or what was going on. Well, that is not completely true. I told them about my situation, but then they prayed for me in this and came up with the same crazy things. I would love to tell you more details about this, but right now I am feeling a little shy in sharing it with the whole world… so you may have to wait a little while for now.
But the thing I want to talk about here, is that if there are these different people from different parts of the world and hence with very different ideas and mindsets… how is it that they are all saying the same thing? God is speaking to me, of that I am sure. How else would you explain it? After all, they are all asking the same God for inspiration and the things that they should pray for me.
So does God speak? I would say: most definitely.