With the intensity of our church search beginning to wind down, one particular question with a whole bunch of tentacle filled arms has been whirling all over my mind. Honestly, I’ve been subtly aware of it nudging at me for the past few years, but over the course of the last few months, it’s taken on the appearance of a flashing neon sign; demanding my attention.
So, the colossal unsettling question is: (Deep breath) How much of “church” is really God?
I can’t even read that question out loud without running through it at chipmunk speed and then nervously sliding low into my seat. I’ve been a part of communities that might consider this sort of thought rebellious territory and giving it permission to leave my lips or pen/keyboard might be labeled as un-submitted. But for some reason it’s like a car wreck in my mind that I just can’t look away from. Because as scary as the question is, I think it’s one we all should be asking as we stroll through the doors of our churches and slide into the pews (even though they’re not really pews anymore…OK, some of them are).
About a week ago, I was reminded of a story from the book of Exodus in the Bible. In this story, the Israelites are wandering in the desert when God says to Moses that he’s going to give HIS people their Promised Land; everything they’ve pleading for, but that HE himself wouldn’t be going with them. Moses’ response is this:
“And Moses said to the Lord, If Your Presence does not go with me, do not carry us up from here! ...Is it not in Your going with us so that we are distinguished, I and Your people, from all the other people upon the face of the earth?” Exodus 33:15-16
What an incredible reply!! Every time I read these verses I feel something inside of me shift and align with the proclamation of these beautiful, pristinely pure words. Every part of me wants to shout out, “YESSSSS, me too!!” I could just fall on my face weeping with how deeply I want these verses to mark my life! But how many times have I been willing to forfeit HIS presence for that “thing”. How many times have I longed for value and respect and influence and joy or love, only to find myself wandering away from the one who gives it definition?? Truthfully…far more times than I wish to admit.
And I wonder how many times we’ve done this with church; where the pursuit of our visions have walked us right out of the presence of the Almighty God and into our own self-constructed promised lands. I wonder how many of our ministries have been authorized by God but are entirely void of him? I don’t want to get so far down the road of chasing my dreams, even my “God-dreams”, that I haven’t stopped to notice that I’m alone.
What would church look like if we allowed God to pick and choose all the elements of the service and also gave him permission to scrap the rest?? I’m not sure that I have the answer to that question. But I hope I don’t ever stop asking.
Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.