This morning I was looking forward to service and hearing an encouraging message from God’s Word. Not having been in church for a few weeks due to vacation and other things, it felt good getting ready for church again.
Church is one of those things that I love and it’s been a central part of my life for almost forty years now.I love the Word.I love reading it and hearing again and again the many ways that God is for us and not against us. I love the encouragement I get from God’s word and know that I can go in the strength of that word many days.
I wish I could write that the service was fantastic,that the sermon was inspiring,that the music took me to new heights of worship.I wish I could.Oh,how I wish I could.
But I can’t.Because it was just “OK”.
Actually…it was a carbon copy of nearly every other service.
Forgive me for saying this….but it was boring.
Singing,or praise & worship, accompanied by Meet & Greet.
Leave the same way we came. Still longing for encouragement.
Smiling faces,yet no joy.
And before you say to me “hey Ron,did you ever think you’re the problem?”,let me assure you I’ve thought that for a long,long time.
But not any more. I think I finally figured it out.Or perhaps it’s more likely that I am finally ready to accept what the Lord has been saying to me through His word for some time now.
Why is church boring? Why is service almost the same every week? Why are lives never changed, or why are hearts rarely encouraged?
It’s because the Church has detached itself from the Vine.
Consider this from God’s Word:
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. John 15:1-6 NKJV
Why else are our services so fruitless except that the branch (that’s us folks) is no longer attached to the Vine(Jesus)?
We think we have this all figured out don’t we? We model our churches after Wall Street.Our church business plans are nearly indistinguishable from any major corporation in America.Instead of depending upon God we enslave ourselves to debt and interest to build ever larger churches,all the while proclaiming God’s favor upon our efforts.
Oh sure,we have churches that attract thousands every Sunday. Our buildings are often the grandest in town.We have programs that are the envy of any secular program out there.We have developed a system of self reliance second to none.
“Without ME,you can do nothing”! When was the last time we consulted HIM about anything?
We have structured our services to the point that God Himself would have a hard time getting our attention! And the horror of it all is that the church in America doesn’t even notice that God is not even present! How is this possible you ask? It’s because we must follow the script, and the script does not allow time for God to interrupt our programmed services so that He can break our hearts!
Sunday morning Christians who week after week raise their hands as if in humble worship,yet whose Facebook writings from the night before are filled with filth and vulgarity. Detached from the Vine yet still playing the part.”Repeat after me”salvation’s that cannot change the heart.Withered branches cut off from the only Source of Life there is.
We are the church of the Laodiceans, rich and in need of nothing (God). We have created in our own image a form of Godliness,but deny the power thereof.We are ensnared by the very system we have ourselves created and cannot break free of it. And we dare ask ourselves “what about that abundant life Jesus promised us”?
15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’–and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked– 18 “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. Rev 3:15-18 NKJV
Oh God,if only! If only our eyes were opened to allow us to see ourselves even as You see us!
Our feeble attempts to bear fruit of ourselves apart from God are doomed to complete and utter failure.We do not love one another with the love of Christ.We make time only for those in our inner circles,and too bad if you aren’t one of the “chosen ones”because you will be left on the outside looking in.
Father in heaven; surely there are hungry souls still on this great planet of yours,souls hungry for a touch from on high.A people whose lips have been touched with a coal from the alter of God.Just as Elijah learned there were yet seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal,my heart’s cry is that there are still multitudes yearning for an encounter with you.
Count me in that number.