CENTER OF GRAVITATION
10And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Col 2:)
After the class I again waited in the lobby greeting many folks, then I decided to find my seat in the sanctuary. I found a nice comfortable spot and took my seat. They were playing some kind of music video on the screen that reminded me of MTV way back when. The speakers were loud and the bass was low enough to shake the building (so it seemed to me). Having had all I could stand of the "Christian" music, I departed to the lobby once again. I think someone thought the noise wasn't noisy enough because the volume crept up to what I would appraise to be near full, and everyone in the lobby began to yell at one another their greetings in order to be heard over the vociferous din in the next room. I observed the faces of these mostly elderly people and I was amazed that they seemed to be oblivious to what was occurring, especially since the tempo and the underlying current of the "music" had what I can only describe as a hard metal and trance atmosphere to it. Needless to say I did not stay for the service. My spirit wouldn't have withstood the onslaught.
People by the droves filtered into the sanctuary and found their seats. In a very short time there was not a seat to be found as all had been occupied. There was an overflow area in the back, behind the pews where I know there were many people seated. This was the second service of the day. I have no idea how many people attended that first service, but the indications are that there were quite a few.
The music was a live band of adults (not the ragged teenagers I'm used to seeing in the churches). The music was very good and very lively. One might almost think this was a Pentecostal church, which it was not. Although the music was just a bit too loud for me (nothing like the church I had just left), it was pleasant and well performed. I can say nothing contrary about the service up to this point.
Then came the announcements. Many announcements. Nothing unusual here.
Although the service was above average in my estimation, and although everything seemed to be in its proper place, there was something missing that I just couldn't put my finger on. There was something "unchurch" about this church meeting. Was it me? I tried to sense a contact with the Holy Spirit. I just couldn't feel His presence. I could feel Him and talk to Him on the bike as I rode to the church. I could feel Him and talk to Him immediately after the service on the ride home. And I can feel His presence as I write, work on my van, or do the dishes. Why couldn't I feel His presence here in this church? At the church I attended earlier it was understandable why He was not in attendance. There was almost a demonic atmosphere about that church, and its ambiance was far from what I would consider Christian in nature. But that was not the case here in this church.
I tried praying as I sat in my seat. I tried to force the Holy Spirit to make His presence known to me. Nothing happened. I was suspecting it had something to do with me, that I was out of touch with the Lord. That does happen on occasion, even (and often especially) in church.
The pastor then gave his message. As is often the case, this man was a very good speaker and his delivery was flawless. I was learning a lot from his message and I was taking many notes. But there was still the nagging feeling that something was missing.
Then it hit me.
The word "Jesus" was almost never mentioned, not even in the sermon except if it happened to be in the verse read. And the Holy Spirit was, as far as I can remember, never mentioned at all. I tried to remember back to the songs that were sung. Since they were, for the most part, contemporary songs I don't know the words to them. I can't remember if Jesus was mentioned or not. I wasn't watching for any such thing at the time.
Consider a PTA meeting or another such meeting of like-minded people. What would we expect from such a meeting? Would such a meeting begin with a prayer? I don't know about now, but in times past there was hardly a meeting of any kind, not even a town hall meeting, that didn't begin with a prayer. In fact many of my grade school classes in public school began with a pledge of allegiance (which I understand is outlawed now, I have no firm information on this), and then a prayer. Often groups of any kind will ask if there is anyone with a special need they would like to share. All groups have announcements and social activities. In these ways the church service I attended was no different than any other kind of meeting. The songs might have been different in nature, although not in spirit or tone (especially the church I was at previous to this one). And contrary to what one might expect from a secular meeting there was a sermon given, howbeit the sermon was not much different from a speech, which would be expected in a secular meeting of any nature.
Consider the music sung under the title of Contemporary Christian or Gospel. Listen to the tone of the songs. See if there is any difference between the songs played in church and those of a Rock band or other secular musical group. Listen to the words of the song. If they can be understood, take notice how they do not mention the changing of our ways and being all God expects us to be (except on rare occasions). They're about what God can do for us. What God wants to do for us. Thanking God for what He has done for us. And how God has the responsibility to change us into what we're to be. I'm always amazed when I hear a song with words to the effect that we are of little value or that we are to serve God with all our heart. I wonder if the person who wrote the song is speaking from the heart or if they are merely stating a concept from the Bible without any understanding of that concept. And I wonder if those who sing the songs have any idea of what they are saying, or if they have any intent to follow the words they sing. This is especially true when it's a church congregation singing such a song in accompaniment with a song flashed upon the screen or the band on the stage.
The sermon. What is a sermon about? What would we expect from a sermon given in a church? I for one expect to learn about the Bible, about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit, and about how to better one's life so it conforms with what the Lord expects from us. But that's me. What do you think of when you think of a sermon?
The sermon given by this fine preacher man was not about Jesus, nor the Holy Spirit, not even how to better one's self. The sermon, as with the rest of the service, was about how the body of Christ should interact with one another. It was about bettering communication with one another. It was about forming a better prayer chain in order to assist one another. In other words, the sermon, and every other aspect of the service was about the people in the church, and the workings of the church, and not what the church should be all about.
Are these important aspects of the church? Indeed they are. And they should certainly be dealt with. But in dealing with these issues, the church should also be in contact with the Head, the purpose, the reason for the church in the first place. The church should not be trying to deal with issues that are better left in the hands of the Lord. Of course we should be working along with the Lord in an attempt to promote and support the workings of the Lord. But we have to put the Lord first, not off to the sidelines.
I have to concede and acknowledge that I know little about this church. It could well be that this was not an ordinary service and that it was a once-in-a-great-while event where they were dealing with issues normally left in the hands of the board of elders. This is very likely. I've been to services of this very nature before, where certain issues were dealt with before the congregation.
In acknowledging this possibility, I'm still left with two unexplainable problems. One problem, concerning the church in question: If this was indeed a peculiar situation, why did I feel the lack of the Holy Spirit in our presence even before the sermon, a time when everything seemed to be normal and appropriate?
Another problem I have is: Why is it that in almost every church I enter I feel the lack of the Holy Spirit? Why is He outside the churches, and not inside the church? Is it just me? Am I entering a Spirit-filled situation barren of the Spirit myself? This would be my assumption, if it were not that I can feel Him with me at almost all other times. It's still a possibility, but in my mind, not a likelihood.
Let's go back to the beginning of the Church. When did the Church begin? I suspect you said it began with Jesus. Yes, the Church as we know it did begin with Jesus. But God started His Church long before Jesus was born in His human flesh. God planted the seed of His Church in a man who went by the name of Abraham. You know the story so I won't go into that part here. God told Abraham that He would deliver his seed to enslavement in Egypt, and then bring them out of bondage with much possessions and by many miracles (Gen 15:11-16). This God did.
The actual beginning of the Church was established with the nation of Israel departing Egypt. It was at this time God formed His Church and gave His Church a pattern by which they (and we) were to live (Ex 18:20). God said the reason the Israelites were to live under harsh treatment for two year (not the forty years of punishment) was to "prove" them and to train them in the ways they should be (Ex 18:20; 16:4; 20:20). The Israelites failed to live up to God's expectations and His demands in two major ways. Failure one: After two years of training and weeding out the rebellious, they failed to demonstrate their faith in God by refusing to enter the Promised land. The second way they failed, and why they were destroyed in the wilderness, is that they tried to force God to center His purposes around them instead of surrendering their ego and their desires to God (Phil 4:11; Heb 13:5). God said He would give them bread ("Daily Bread") in the form of manna. They wanted meat, and leeks, and all the goodies they said they had in Egypt (Num 11:5-15). They were discontent with God's plan and wanted to change it. So God destroyed them (Numbers chapter 16; Num 14:1-4).
We're doing this today, and calling it God's will. We want the goodies, where God said He would give us the bare necessities (Mat 6:25-34). He said He will provide for our needs, not our wants (James 4:2-3). Whatever we possess beyond our basic needs we are to give to those without (Luke 3:11; 9:3-5; 14:33; Mat 19:21). What we now consider our "Basic needs" has reached a proportion that far exceeds the luxuries of the wealthy prior to the last century. We have become a nation of very selfish and demanding people.
God said to love Him with all our soul, heart and mind (Mat 22:37). We're to dwell on Him constantly (Col 3:16; 1Tim 4:15; Psalm1:1-4). We're to think of Him, and communicate with Him day and night (2Cor 2:16; John 16:12-15). We're to seek the truth of His Word (2Tim 2:15). Do we do these things demanded of us? Of course not. But in spite of our not fulfilling the demands placed upon us, nor fulfilling the promise we made at our baptism, we insist God fulfill promises He never made to us, or if He did, they were with a proviso ("If") that we ignore and deny.
The church has become self-centered instead of God centered. We gravitate toward one another instead of toward God. We look to one another for our comfort, our fulfilment and our companionship instead of to the Lord. Yes, these are things the churches should be doing, but not as a priority. God should be our priority, not the church, or man.
Mankind has two basic ailments that, although there are cures for them, we choose not to deal with them. One such ailment is that of blindness. Jesus gave us many examples of how we can be blind in our search for truth and to find God. And we see in the Gospels that those who are leaders of the search tend to be the blindest of the seekers.
The second ailment we humans tend to overlook is that of numbness. When a person is immersed in an environment, even one they find undesirable, they tend to become so accustomed to that undesirable state that the condition becomes normal and acceptable. The world has saturated us with its noise and its obscenities. We have become so accustomed to the ways of the world that we don't see when they have crept into our own lives. We cry out against what we see in the world, but we don't bother to check our own homes, our own lives, and our own church to see if the world we hate is not creeping through the cracks in our walls. We've heard of the frog in the pot of boiling water. And we see how that principle applies to the world, our nation, or schools, and the media. But we don't bother to recognize when it confronts us in our very own church, our sanctuary of Godliness and decency.
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