I ran across a comment today from a friend who was talking about how people are wanting “the church” to be more relevant to their lives.
Hmmmm. Making church relevant to our lives.
It always intrigues me when people start complaining about the church. Which “church” are they talking about?
Thirty years ago I heard a lot of squawking about how the hymns were outdated and boring. So we moved over to the praise and worship mode, throwing out the hymns and leaving them to days gone by. We have had the 10/40 Window. We have changed the liturgy and the format of the liturgy seemingly a dozen times since I was a child in order to update and make more relevant everything under the sun in “the church.” We have taken on social issues and moral issues within our political systems. We have marched. We have demonstrated. We have had sit-ins. We have had endless candlelight vigils for an equally long list of purposes. And still “the church” remains irrelevant in the minds of some, . . . in the minds of many.
We have gone to other religions to draw from them something that is going to give us greater insight, a deeper experience. We have listened to an endless parade of people who have written this book and that, all claiming to be the latest formula to bring us to that essential “mountain top” experience. We have followed teacher after teacher after teacher, none ever satisfying the itch we have, none ever giving us what we want, assuming we have even a smidgen of a clue what we are looking for.
We have tried expository preaching, word studies, becoming houses of prayer, learning church history, published countless editions of the Bible in “modern English” or whatever is the modern language of the people. We have translated it, transliterated it, paraphrased it, and made it walk on all four legs in any number of different ways, all declared to make it easier for us to understand, for us to reach G-d, . . . for us to do absolutely every single thing possible except the one thing we desperately need to do: listen to that still, small voice.
We get out of worship what we put into it.
If we come to church to be entertained and looking for rock stars, it is going to turn out just exactly the same way every other addiction turns out in life – because this is an addiction. We will continue to need more and more stimulation in order to get lesser and lesser results. It is like the practice in zoology called “habitat enrichment,” the regular changing and re-arranging of the setting in which the animals live in order to make it more challenging and entertaining. Unfortunately, many of us, even as believers, go through life thinking no higher than this.
What we want is absolution, forgiveness of our sins (if we even call them that), without having to meet G-d face to face, bow at His feet, and turn our will and lives over to Him, in spite of the fact that He tells us over and over again that the life of a believer will cost us everything we are and will become, everything we have and will ever possess.
We think we can turn this life as a believer into a formula which requires no more of us than learning the daily routines that make the logistics of our lives function . . . on most days. Get up, eat breakfast, get the kids off to school, get our spouse off to work, go to work ourselves, get coffee, start our work where we left off yesterday, eat lunch, do more of the same work, go home, eat dinner, get the kids ready for bed, watch a little TV, then off to bed ourselves, just to do it again tomorrow. Except on the day we worship. Then we have a routine for that which looks a whole lot like the rest of the week, except instead of going to work and school, we go to church, theoretically to worship G-d, although that is not always what happens.
If we want to experience something relevant in our churches, we need to stop doing all of the “things” we are doing, get very quiet, and wait on G-d.
He is extremely adept at coming up with stuff that will knock us straight out of our shoes and will be just as “relevant” and “real” as we will ever be able to handle with His help. He will pick us up and put us in the middle of stuff that will blow our mind six ways from Sunday. He will show us things in life that we have been screaming out in hunger because we need it so badly and we did not have a clue that we did. But He knew. And He will give it to us because we crave it at the center of our being more than we crave breath. Because He made us and He knows EXACTLY what we need. And it isn’t the stuff, it isn’t the routines, it isn’t a more “relevant church.”
What we need is Him.
— J. E. Clark | 29 October 2015