Leaving the Church to Find the Church?
It’s another Sunday morning at the church on the corner. For the tenth time in two years I am listening to a message on the identity and authority of the believer. I look around and see that, as usual, people are enjoying the message. Afterward, I talk with a few people who say, “what a good word that was!”
By the next Sunday, most have forgotten it. I ask a few, “Do you remember the sermon from last week?”
Out of four questions, I get three blank stares. A fourth question brings a semi-coherent response. How can anyone remember last week? Our lives are filled with information. I feel like St. Francis in “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” as he listened to the uncomprehending Bernardo..”Words, Bernardo. There was a time when I believed in words.”
None of these are walking in more authority than last week, and in many cases no more victory. No lives have changed. Some of those who heard the message continue to struggle with a sense of calling. Others long ago gave up the struggle. Still others have found their place in ministry within the walls, whether it is setting up chairs, teaching Sunday school, or leading small groups. But most could not identify their ministry, though they might identify some of their gifts. Few of these have any idea what it means to walk in the authority of Christ.
What’s the problem? Is the problem with the messenger? Is it the message itself? Is the problem with the people, or with God? Why do we hear the same message again and again yet our lives remain the same? Why do most of God’s people sit passively Sunday after Sunday, never really “knowing” what ministry and the kingdom are about, because after all “knowing” in the biblical sense has to do with life and experience and not merely information we store in our heads.