Everywhere I turn another Christian is complaining about something.
"STAY HOME, STAY SAFE!"
"HOW IS IT OKAY FOR STORES TO BE OPEN BUT NOT MY CHURCH?"
"STOP LEAVING YOUR HOUSE PEOPLE!"
"HOW IS THIS NOT PERSECUTION OF THE CHURCH! A PASTOR WAS PUT IN JAIL."
Firstly, let me ask you a few questions in regards to our current situation before us - Church Services, essential or not?
· What is better? To be in a pew listening to a Pastor preach or to receive a phone call from a brother/sister in Christ where they talk to you one-on-one and pray with you at the end?
· What is better? To be in a pew listening and praising Jesus or to be at home listening and praising Jesus?
· What is better? To attend church Sunday morning or skip so you can go visit your dying grandmother and witness to her?
· What is better? To be fed the Word of God on Sunday or to be fed the word of God on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and the rest of the week?
Let me clear the air - CHURCH IS ESSENTIAL. Hebrews (my current favorite book) chapter 10 (my current favorite chapter) says this, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."
However, American Christianity and the churches within it are not true models of “Church” as Christ meant it. Read the book of Acts and ask yourself throughout your readings, “is this what the American Church looks like today?” The answer is, unfortunately, no. So let’s stop grumbling “church is essential” – instead, let’s pray to God and ask Him what (about church) is essential. I would beg to argue that most church services that American Christians know today are far from essential, because they are far from what Christ wanted His church to look like.
Allow me to share a few quotes from religious leaders/authors in regard to American Christianity today.
· “I am convinced that we as Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the Gospel we claim to believe.” – David Platt
· “If following Jesus doesn’t cost you anything, it’s because you’ve bought into American Christianity.” – Paul Washer
· “[American] Christianity has been watered down until the solution is so weak that if it were poison it would not hurt anyone, and if it were medicine it would not cure anyone.” – A.W. Tozer
"The American Church now, more than ever, is closer to reaching the Church Christ intended for her to be."
Friends, stop complaining – this is the time to shine with joy so that the world (full of fear) can see that our souls are well. Think about it - what (should) we be seeing now from Christians? People loving others. People being kind. People giving to those in need. People sharing Christ to their families, friends and neighbors. People posting Christ on their social media. People sharing their gifts and talents. People trying to fill needs. People starting podcasts, blogs, and support prayer groups. The Christians (paying attention) are responding incredibly well during this season. The American Church now, more than ever is closer to reaching the Church Christ intended for her to be.
I know that our church has felt a strong call to begin having several members/leaders of our church go “LIVE” on Facebook and share their gifts and talents. I did not envision this being how church would look in 2020, but I will say that I am actually glad it is. God is filling social media feeds and the internet with Gospel. People are sharing (and maybe oversharing) their gifts and talents. At long last, everyone has a voice. For far too long, Christians have silenced (themselves) by referring to their Pastor for any and all questions regarding their faith. Now, we are called to the carpet – who is God and what is He doing in and through you?
"At long last, everyone has a voice."
I continue in shouting to you this: Church is essential, church buildings are not. Assembling (however that may seem) is essential, gatherings of thousands is not. Praying for others is essential, going to a building is not. Feeding the homeless is essential, a church potluck is not. Some churches seem to think they need to keep going, I admire them for that. I do not believe this is the time to continue meeting – but I am not in the position to condemn, critique or judge them – God is their conviction, or whoever is their Spiritual authority.
We as Christians need to stop dividing over any and all issues. Some churches are still meeting, but ask yourself before calling for heads – are you their spiritual authority? I know what the scripture says in Romans 13, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.”
In my state church has been deemed essential and is considered one of the few ‘businesses’ still able to meet freely (yet, most Christians seem to think the Government shut Sunday service down). Newsflash Utah friends, your Pastor and church leadership chose to close the doors during this time - The local authorities just request that the church leadership try to follow the non-profit guidelines: avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and remain 6-feet apart during fellowship. I think that is totally fair. In fact, as I have stated previously, I think it is closer to church the way Christ intended it. We are acting like Christians have some type of high-ground on anyone because of religious freedom, but that is not what is occurring. Nobody is stripping us of being Christians, they are stripping us of gatherings of over 10 people. The last time I checked, Christ said we only need two people for God to join us (note Matt. 18:20). A church of thirty could divide into three church services and do that every single Sunday – so why don’t they? Too much work. A church of 1,000? Forget about it. Your Pastors are not lazy, they understand that the best response to what is occurring is to use the internet and technology to keep things going.
We need to stop complaining and picking fights. The only fights we should be fighting are the ones grieving the Spirit of the Lord. God is not grieved that buildings are being shut down. He is grieved at the murder (abortion) in our nation. He is grieved over how many of His children are a part of a false gospel. He is grieved how many of us are too busy for Him. He is grieved about so many things, but ‘church’ being ‘shut down’ is not one of them. I would beg to argue that He is excited to pull us from our busyness. I would beg to argue He is glad the (typical) American Church has shut their doors. He is trying to re-establish His bride.
"I would beg to argue [God] is glad the American Church has shut their doors."
I nearly commented on someone’s post (Facebook) the other day, “Stop complaining and start praying.” We need to start praying and showing the love of Christ. Most of the people complaining about church being cancelled are the people who only know Christ inside the four walls of a building. God has bigger plans in mind here. He wants you to know Him in your home, at your job, and everywhere you go. God is not just the God of you Sunday morning, He is the God of the constant.
"Most of the people complaining about church being cancelled are the people who only know Christ inside the four walls of a building."
Here is something I posted to my IG yesterday: “You want to know why God closed down church meetings? So Christians would stop having the excuse of ‘I go to church’ as the reason for not being true disciples [of Christ]. Be a disciple; not a pew warmer.”
Now, in order to ‘prove’ you are a Christian – you must actually live out your life as a Disciple of Christ. Merely ‘attending’ church is no longer a qualifier for being Christian. Hello James 2, the American Church has been resisting you for some time now. Shall we dive into it together? “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?... You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
"American Pastors have failed the church."
God is calling us out of American Christianity. It is a nasty thing that has led millions of people to believe that they can go to church Sunday (and maybe Wednesday, if they are really good), give 10% of their income to the ‘church’, and call it a day – thinking wholeheartedly they are making a full-blown mansion for themselves up in Heaven. You know why this scares me? Not because I don’t think most of these people will ‘make it’ (I truly think most will, if they have a genuine relationship and acceptance of Christ). But because these Pastors, leaders and teachers will be held to a stricter judgement (note James 3:1). American Pastors and leaders are failing the church.
Friends, it is time to focus on what God is doing in this season. Not what the Government is doing – not what the world or media is telling us – but what God is telling us. Take time to seek Him and ask Him what is His purpose in this season. Take time to seek the Lord and ask Him what you are to do. Maybe you needed a season of rest. Maybe you needed a restart. Maybe you needed to slow down. God is crying out, "Come and talk with me." Will you seek Him now?
The Dead Church
While writing this, God brought to my remembrance a dream I had a few years ago. Let me take a brief moment to write it out.
I was worshiping at a church service where I knew many people – it wasn’t my church, but a blend of my church and a bunch of other Christians I knew. It was pretty cool. Someone came up to me and asked if I was ready to preach – to which I responded, “Uh, ya!” But I totally wasn’t – in this dream I had no recollection of a prepped sermon or material to speak with. I’m sure I could ‘wing it’ but I definitely began to pray and ask God for a word in the moment immediately following. The next thing I knew, I was standing up on stage about to speak. I looked down and noticed that my clothes were oversized and too big for me. I felt foolish to be in front of such a good gathering of people and be under prepared and improperly dressed. I looked out, I still remember some faces vividly from that dream and then I woke up.
As I woke up, I immediately heard “Revelation 3” – So I knew, that God was telling me the sermon I was supposed to give (in my dream to these people) was whatever was in the first portion of Revelation 3. I was still half asleep, so I couldn’t even think clearly about what was in that passage. I pulled it up on my phone and read, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you… ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” God was calling us – me – America – the DEAD CHURCH.
After some prayer, I realized I had a mandate to bring a word to the American Church. I didn’t know when or how – but here we are. This is it. I’m wearing clothes that are probably too big for me. I wish I were more mature. I wish I was wiser. I wish I focused on Christ more. I may be wearing clothes too big for me – but by God’s grace, I am wearing them – He chose me.
If you are reading this, please prayerfully consider my words. God sees that we have works – but we are without life. So please, stop crying out for church services to be restored – pray that God restores us (each and every one of us) to what we were intended to be. We need to repent and seek the Lord in this season. We need to find truth. We need to re-evaluate church as we know it. Don’t call for it to return without asking God how He would like it to be brought back first. Many churches are doing well, but the American church as a whole, is not.
A functioning body of Christ is not what we see in America today. We see churches that are not loving, or over clique-ish, or infatuated with the Pastor rather than God, or desiring the ‘feel goods’ rather than the ‘do goods’, etc. A functioning body is what we need to seek and ask God for guidance toward. The American Church needs to take this time to establish a new identity. Verdict: American Church Services (as we have known them to be) are not essential.
"Verdict: American Church Services are not essential."
Think on it.