We gather every Sunday to worship God. Our songs plead for mercy and we agree on our mutual, desperate brokenness. We admit our inability to live in a holy and righteous way without Jesus, and yearn for a closeness and bond with our heavenly Father that is unmatched here on this temporal plane. We use the words of lovers, but on a deeper, more intimate level. We openly and freely declare our devotion and undying dedication to our Lord and Savior.
These frail lives that are but a wisp of smoke and cut off like mown grass, are mingled with an eternal, and superiorly creative God. He always was, is, and will forever be. Our Father welcomes us as children, and we are gathered up into His arms; lovingly, tenderly and compassionately embraced. Through the depths of our being we know that our lives are utterly dependent on His mercy, grace, and long suffering. He see’s our secret sin, we know this, but He doesn’t cast us away. He only bids us to come closer. We marvel at the perfection of a Savior that still receives us into His family, in spite of our ugliness and crippling weaknesses.
Our songs of worship say all this and more as we are taken on a journey to a place of humility and openness, and ultimately to the heart of God. We are ripe for change, our guard is let down, and we have been freed from the thoughts and problems that clog our minds with all the stuff of living. We are now ready to be given the keys to this life that will bring freedom, joy, peace and contentment, all beyond measure. We thirst for the answers that will deliver relief from pain and the trauma’s that have dogged us for so long. We wait expectantly to know how we can beat addictions curse, learn the truth of who we are in Christ, and set our lives in a direction that leads to wholeness.
Then, the pastor gets up, we lean forward on the edge of our seat, nearly salivating at our impending deliverance, and…nothing. All of this preparation and build up, all the effort made to create an atmosphere of holy change, often falls flat. The anticipation is met with disappointment, our hopes dashed by a message that cannot live up to our expectations. You see it all around you. Little kids doodling, teens on their phones, others yawning and distracted by the littlest thing.
We came, honestly knowing that we are called to come together to bind each others wounds and lift each other up in prayer. We came, burdened by sin or overcome with grief, and there was no solace. We came, knowing we are not alone in the place we find ourselves, but there is no way of connecting when there is no direction given, no openness about the struggles of this present age.
We are taken back to the times of Christ and told of the hero’s of the Bible. We are led to the very precipice of deliverance, but left hanging when there is refusal to go all the way. We speak of David and are told why he fell, but we aren’t told why we fall because we won’t touch certain subjects openly. We stop short, to not offend, to not step on toes, to make it all a happy, and positive Sunday experience.
Where is the altar call that compels us from a place of comfort and anonymity, and where are the impassioned prayers for deliverance imparted through the laying on of hands? Where are the sermons that shake you from the slumber of apathy and rock our inattentive core into the reality of who we have become? Where is the boldness of those called to lead us out of the wilderness, who instead merely coddle and enable,the only deliverance they offer is a weekly portion of babies milk?
Pastors have a very difficult task before them, as do any who serve in the church. They are people just like you and I, and subject to the pressures that exist within its structure. They can be intimidated (though they probably won’t admit it) and feel that they can only do so much before they are reprimanded by the congregation. They wrestle with many things; and then some yahoo complains that the sermon was too long, or too short, too many jokes, not enough stories, needs more scripture, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, some of the problem lies with those who come every week just to be entertained.
The point is that our songs say we want to change, they say we are broken and willing to be healed. We plead for the Father to come and envelop us in His love. We are at the end of ourselves, right now, and we are willing to do whatever it takes to be free. Pastors, take us there, boldly and without regret or apology. That is what we need. That is what we long for, and unfortunately that is not what many of us are getting.
Lets be clear, I am not asking someone else to do the work so I can have an easy way of it, no, I am doing everything I can. But I NEED the church to be who it is called to be. Community, yes, a gathering of like minded people, yes, with a solid foundation based in the word of God, yes. But I am not alone in feeling an emptiness when I leave church knowing that an opportunity was so close it could be tasted, and then was ripped away.
We cannot let another summer, let alone another week go by with inept, ineffective, and time consuming fluff and excusing it as “well, so many are gone on vacation.” So what? Are we reserving our so-called good stuff for the bigger crowds? Every Sunday there are people limping into churches in the valley of decision, and when another canned message or trite exercise is delivered, it is saying nothing to the reality of the life we are facing. We are far to concerned that we must cater to specific groups of people, and appease their desires, or lose them; when souls are clinging to a thread and needing to hear what God desires us hear. People are left longing for a morsel of meat that could have been the key to their very life.
Worship takes us to the brink, the table has been set….
Pastors, take us the rest of the way.
*Related content can be found in the post: Deal with the Sin, but First Remove the Shame