Confession: I used to secretly think the Israelites were crybabies.
I grew up reading the stories in the Old Testament and would think over and over and over - REALLY? You were miraculously brought out of slavery in Egypt and you complained to go back? You literally saw God as a cloud by day and a fire by night, and you still doubted He could provide for you?
And again the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord. And again the Israelites did evil in the sight of the Lord, and again…. You get the picture.
But, the older I get the more I understand them. Even identify with them. They were just people living their everyday life. Going to work, raising their family, going to church. Normal people who God disrupted.
Holy disruptions aren’t always longed for. They aren’t always welcome.
I think the Church is seeing a Holy disruption right now, and I’m not sure it is welcome. I think we’ve become complacent in our entertainment-style Christianity and this pandemic is causing us to squirm in our seats.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how we got here. How did the church get to a place where just something as simple as being kept out of our buildings can cause such mayhem? Where we throw a toddler-like tantrum when our chosen way of expressing our faith is taken away? Here’s my take, and I’m sure there will be those who disagree.
For the past 100 years or so there has been a shift from smaller churches where people were taught to use their spiritual gifts and to serve in the church, to larger churches where people are encouraged to sit and be entertained while the paid staff does the ministry.
We’ve trained the people in the pews to watch, consume, and wait for the next consumption a week later. I doubt anyone ever purposefully did this, it was just the evolution of all the church growth strategies, leadership movements, and business-style church models. It was a natural progression in the wrong direction.
It seems that God has pulled the emergency brake on that way of thinking.
Suddenly we have no buildings. Suddenly we have no paid professionals spoon-feeding us our spirituality. What are we to do?
This is precisely why the conversation surrounding what it means to “be the Church” is vital. We’ve turned the word “church” into an adjective describing a building, rather than a noun identifying a people.
This seems like a small mistake to make, but it has had manifold repercussions throughout Christianity.
God has brought a Holy disruption. A sacred earthquake has shaken us to the core of who we are. When the pieces are finished falling we will have to rebuild in a new way. The old foundation was damaged, unfit to hold the weight of what the Church is truly meant to be.
I believe our mindset was too small. How could we reduce the glory of the Kingdom of God to a service once a week? Why did we think we could turn the Holy God of the Universe into something that helps us live our best lives and entertains us on the weekends?
God has sent us back into our neighborhoods. Back into our homes and our families. Will we rise to the occasion and find out what it means to “be the Church” in our everyday lives, or will we waste the opportunity we’ve been given to make right what has gone wrong?
The Israelites longed for the security of Egypt. They longed for the things they looked back and remembered with rose-colored glasses, but they forgot something HUGE - they were in bondage.
I don’t long for Egypt. I long for the chains to be broken. I long for something new, something wild and Other, something Holy.
Will we use this opportunity or waste it? Our answer will determine how long we, as The Church, wander in the wilderness before we reach the promised land.
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