Monday, February 25, 2013

The Dead Church

  It scares me how lonely I can feel at church...

This is how it feels when I'm at certain churches,
and I know I'm not alone in this feeling...
Not just one or two churches, but any given church.  I don't care what message you believe your church to have, there will always be someone who does not belong.  Someone who feels alone.  Someone who is truly there to worship, but all they see are plastic souls around them.

What brought this on?  I have attended quite a few churches in my life time.  Starting in the Midwest, I have seen the best and worst of the Lutheran church, the Episcopalian church, the United Methodist Church, the Anglican Church, and now an Evangelical contemporary church.  I have visited Baptist churches, Presbyterian churches, non-denominational churches, Pentecostal churches, AME churches, among others, and the same facade is with each of them.

Children don't need to be pacified, but encouraged to
experience God on their own.
While I was in church yesterday, I sat at a different place than normal, near the back.  My church has over a thousand people in it, it's contemporary, it's evangelical and mission-minded.  All great things to accommodate the growing Church world-wide.  However, I got a glimpse of what too many people are like in every church I have ever attended: they look dead.  I can almost smell the decay on their souls as they stand, hold the bulletin, look at the preacher, look at the words on the screen, go through the motions, and never once appear to be moved by any of it.  They open their Bibles with the help of the index and never even follow along with the Scripture as it's being read.  These same people leave immediately after the sermon ends, slipping out the back as the rest of the church sings a song and prays, but they leave so they don't have to wait for the crowd that's about to swarm out.

These same people are in the church I was a part of before I got married.  There were great people there, but there were fathers who made their children go to church because it's what you do on Sunday morning.  They would open the hymnal to whatever song was to be sung, but looked directly at the front, not paying attention to anything the song was saying.  Same thing with the mothers, they would supply their children with crayons and things to color (or even their iPhones) so they would stay content while they listened to the sermon.  Again, these same people would get up right before the end of the service so they wouldn't have to beat the traffic out in the parking lot.

Good grief! What is more important!?!?!  A relationship with God? Or getting back home asap!  Getting to know our Christ and Savior even more than we think we already do? Or keeping our kids content, not showing them the true value in opening your heart and mind to what God might say to you?

I feel sometimes like there are people who keep looking
forward at the church and the finances, but very few
members of the Church look to God for any real reason.
Sometimes I even feel like the churches I have been to are more focused on the finances and keeping a budget and using their money wisely, and they'll let others do the "reaching out" part for them.  I started a college ministry out of one of my old churches.  I started it, organized events, lead Bible studies and so on.  When others would say anything about it, it would be "good job! we're glad someone has stepped up to take that position!" But when I'd ask for help or for someone to take over and continue it, everyone would just smile and say, "God will provide someone."  True, He would, but if God provides someone who refuses to listen... what's going to happen?

I came close to tears yesterday as I stood behind people like this who stood emotionless while songs of utmost praise were being sung to the Lord.  They looked directly at the pastor during his sermon and never flinched until it was time for them to exit the church discreetly so they could beat the crowd out of the parking lot.  Even in a church that feels so much more alive than the others I've been to has so many dead people in it!  What is wrong with our Church!?  Why do we have so many people like this??  Is it because of the fathers and mothers who, for decades, have been pacifying their children, never really implementing how Jesus saved us from an eternity of death??  So the trend continues? It's more important to beat the crowd out of the parking lot and get home quickly so you can eat and watch a game than it is to spend only a few extra well-spent minutes in prayer asking God to forgive you for all you've done to hurt Him?

I have heard the argument before that, "everybody worships in their own way," and I have never doubted that.  I agree with that and recognize it.  But there's a difference between "worshiping in your own way," and "not worshiping at all."  Whatever is going on in one's soul is between them and God, but for goodness sakes, if the power of the Holy Spirit was actually moving through you, we'd be able to tell!  It's not something you can just hide!

Maybe I'm just ranting passionately about something that has truly been bothering me, but I felt so alone yesterday as I stood there, praising God for all He has done, and I look around and there's no movement - not even any lips moving or a recognition for the beat of the music, nothing.  Every time there was an important part in the sermon, I saw phones being looked at for the time, and little chatting and whispers every few minutes.  If it wasn't one thing, it was another, and it broke my heart.

That boy will make a difference for the Kingdom
of God.
I can say, there was one boy in the first service I went to.  He sat two rows in front of me, he was there with his mom and he wasn't more than maybe 16 years old.  I could feel how God was molding him just by watching the way He recognized God on his own.  He wasn't flailing his arms around and shouting louder than everyone, he wasn't dancing along to the worship songs, he wasn't doing any of those stereotypical things that people think of when they hear "truly worshiping." He was giving his solemn recognition to God by talking to Him.  He was using the words of the song as his song to God.  He was praying and his hands were open, offering himself to God.  And he was different from everyone else around him.

In that moment, I felt that there was hope for the future of our Church - the Body of Christ.  I felt that God was still working in us and through us, and He is bringing His Body to life one person at a time.  I remembered that, in one way I am supposed to worry about the dead souls around me - even in church.  I remembered that, in another way, I was supposed to worship the God I feel so hurt for and let Him handle the rest.

The reason I started this whole rant today is because it's something that consistently bothers me.  Everyone feels differently about it, but for me, I can't stand it.  I want to see the Chruch awakened completely!  I feel like the Body of Christ is still sleeping.  Think: when you're body sleeps, certain functions shut down until you wake up again in the morning.  Well the Body of Christ has not experienced the morning yet!  So many are alive and active, while most of the Body's counterparts are still asleep, waiting for the pons to wake them up.  Pray for our Church, for the world-wide Church, every denomination, every perosn and every Seeker to come awakened to the life Christ has to offer for the Body!  Let His presence reign over all the earth and let His work in the world truly start through us - a not-dead Church.

He Reigns by The Newsboys

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