Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. ~ Jeremiah 6:16
Ever so often I get a stirring in my soul. A dissatisfaction of sorts, like something is not right. Many times it is so strong that I have to stop and wait on the Holy Spirit to speak, to impress, to reveal. Here lately it has been very strong again on one particular subject, the church. Even more to the point, the way we do church.
In today’s social climate of media and information it is not hard to watch what is happening in the world around us. This can be a good thing but it also allows us to see into the world of religion like never before.
Let me ask a question. Where did the common liturgy found in most congregations find its beginning? If you have ever visited churches in our local area, for the most part what you will find as the order of service, a welcome, offering/announcements, three to four songs, a talking head for thirty to forty-five minutes and sometimes a response for prayer. Before you turn me off, I will confess that we are no different at Embassy of Hope.
I am not going to bore you with the history of the church, but I can say with all confidence that we have not only strayed a little off course, we have literally gone off the radar. The ink wasn’t completely dry on Luke’s parchment as he wrote the Acts of the Apostles before man started to devise others ways to worship and other interpretations of the Apostles teachings.
In the Book of Acts, the whole body of Christ was appointed to be a witness of the resurrected Christ in the form of a single church. The church was a body of disciples who were devoted to the Apostles teachings. The presence of the Lord was found in their midst and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit was given in different ways through all the members.
This single church was found in many locations and were in direct relationship to the authority of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no suggestion that one church should control another or that any organized union of churches should exist, but an intimate personal fellowship united them.
We also are told in Acts chapter two, that the followers of Jesus were devoted to sharing meals, communion, and were devoted to prayer. Yep, it says prayer! Prayer, that practice that is only reserved before a meal, before bed time and when things get really bad. Okay, I admit it, that was a little sarcasm, but this was a real, functioning community where humility thrived, self-promotion died, possessions were sold, and necessities were shared with those that had need. The result of this wonderful assembly of faithful saints and their devotion to grow in Christ were glad and generous hearts, praises to God and holding favor with all the community, and the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Today much of our two hours a week is found taking offerings, staged worship presentations with focus consumed performances, the popular hip pastor bringing the heat, and then hundreds getting born again and again and sometimes, again. Then photo bombing Jesus afterward to let everyone know what they missed out on so you better come and join the club. Well, lets face it, the whole human race is really good at commercializing everything, including God.
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” ~ Matthew 21:12-13
I am somewhat venting as I process all of this stirring in my soul. Today I find myself stopping and standing by the road, asking for the ancient path, where the good way is once again. (Jeremiah 6:16)
What the church has become does not look right and it does not feel right. I feel like I am suffocating the Good News of Christ with the good news of me. I feel like I am a cheap imitation of what it means to follow Jesus. Embassy of Hope is a poor replica of the early church and things must change if the fruit is to be of the finest quality.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. ~ Acts 2:42-47