We keep hearing and reading about the terms "transformation" and "community". It is what the people want and they are trying multitudes of ways to grasp and claim these experiences for themselves and their families. Some are looking for formulas, "silver bullets", programs, curriculums, retreats, pastors or truth that will lead them to this oasis. When they "hit a wall", they pick up their ball and move on to the next playing field. I can say that, because that is exactly what God has lead me and my family to do. I am absolutely OK with that change as long as it is a God-move rather than a selfish-move (that is another whole issue in itself).
Today was a huge eye-opener for Michelle and me. We attended one of the largest churches in our community and they were celebrating with a baptismal service. At one point they asked each of the attenders to participate. Around the room, they formed a river like mural by placing hundreds of pieces of paper with one word on them. The words they used were "peace", "joy", "awe", "surrender", etc. multiple times. As the worship continued they encouraged each attender to get up and go get one word off the wall that best described the experience of their baptism and faith walk. When the song had ended and virtually everyone had returned to their seat, Michelle and I were devastated as we looked at the remains on the wall. My opinion is this church is representative of the majority of churches across our country. It was apparent today the church had been indicted. During the whole service, the end of this song was the one moment that God spoke to me (and Michelle) the loudest. As we scanned the room and especially the front walls, it was apparent that all the words were chosen by the people except one. In fact, it was the only word left posted on the front walls. Can you imagine which word it was? I would have never imagined.
"AWE" was left on the wall.It was absolutely apparent that "awe" had very little impact on the church. Without "awe", the church is doing stuff in their own strength. They may be getting a lot accomplished but imagine if "awe" was part of the experience. Then the whole world would be talking about it. Immediately I began to see the difference between today's church and the church we read about in Acts 2.
38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
You know what stands out to me in that passage besides "awe"? "Transformation" and "community". Pretty simple... The Holy Spirit showed up, lives were transformed, there was a sense of awe and they chose to hang out in community because of these things.
This is the church in its most true form. Can we really strip away all the other stuff we have made it to be over the many years? That is my prayer as the Leavener Community gathers.
See you Friday,