We just got done studying a book in Sunday School called Forgotten God by Francis Chan. One of the best books I’ve read in a really long time…and I haven’t even finished it. We’re done with the class, but I fell a little behind ;-D I’ve liked it so much that I went out and bought his other book, Crazy Love, that I can’t wait to dig into. Anyway, the class on the last chapter of the book really made me think about the American church. In his introduction this paragraph summed it pretty well all up for me. It states as follows: “Perhaps we’re too familiar and comfortable with the current state of the church to feel the weight of the problem. But what if you grew up on a desert island with nothing but the Bible to read? Imagine being rescued after twenty years and ten attending a typical evangelical church. Chances are you’d be shocked (for a whole lot of reasons, but that is another story). Having read the Scriptures outside the context of contemporary church culture, you would be convinced that the Holy Spirit is as essential to a believer’s existence as air is to staying alive. You would know that the Spirit led the first Christians to do unexplainable things, to live lives that didn’t make sense to the culture around them, and ultimately to spread the story of God’s grace around the world.
There is a big gap between what we read in Scripture about the Holy Spirit and how most believers and churches operate today. In many modern churches, you would be stunned by the apparent absence of the Spirit in any manifest way. And this, I believe, is the crux of the problem.” – Francis Chan, Forgotten God
The video on the last chapter of the book just gave a cartoon illustration and then Mr. Chan came on and talked like he had in the rest of the videos. I really liked the metaphor, though, that he used during the cartoon. It was about a big red tractor and how half of the townspeople pushed and half the townspeople pulled and worked together to get one field plowed to plant and feed the village. They didn’t know that the tractor could just be fixed and be able to run and plow by itself with someone driving it, and didn’t believe one guy when he found the manual and told them about it. He worked on the tractor at night and finally got it working and had so much fun he plowed the whole field. That year the townspeople were able to plow lots of fields and have an abundance of food for the surrounding villages and anywhere they could ship it to.
After the cartoon was over Mr. Chan came on and said that the the tractor represented the church. Then he started talking about an elders’ meeting that he had had at his church. They were talking about all of the problems in the church and trying their best to come up with solutions for these problems. Some of them were pulling and some were pushing. One of the elders started talking about his neighborhood and how he had been trying for a long time to make these people make a move spiritually, and they weren’t moving. Finally, he just decided that he wouldn’t be able to do anything for them himself, so he just started praying for them. He said he sat back and watch these peoples’ lives be blessed and take turns for the better…all without him saying a word to them.
So now we get to my title. Are we trying to hard? Are we so bent on trying to make the church what we want? Are we so focused on ourselves that we forget to figure out what God wants for His church? Are we so busy hiding our sins trying to put on a show to make people think that everything is just peachy in our lives, that we forget that we’re just sinners saved by grace? Do we forget that this grace is extended to everyone? Do we try so hard to hide our sins that it becomes easy in every aspect of our lives to just hide and do what we think everyone else thinks we should do?
Because it’s so easy to hide our sins, I think it makes it that much easier to hide our worship without even realizing it. How many times have you been singing a song to Jesus and just felt like dancing…and not done it? Have you ever wanted to just yell out praises to the King in the middle of church…and not done it? Are we really being real? Are we letting the Spirit guide our lives, or are we trying to guide the Spirit?
I’m not going to answer these questions for you because they’re between you and God. For me, though, I have to answer them. I’m totally type A personality. I like to be in control of a situation, and the thought of letting the Holy Spirit have complete reign in my life is a little terrifying to be perfectly honest. I also get caught in the trap of putting God in my own little box. What if while I’m leading worship on Sunday morning I feel the need to start dancing up on the stage or just shouting praises that don’t really go with the songs? Will people look at me funny, or do I trust the Spirit enough to also come over those people and touch them, too? I don’t know. I hope I would have the courage to step out in faith and just let the Spirit take over. There have been times in my past that I haven’t. There have been times that I have. The times that I have have been blessed and wonderful and only made me want more.
Really what I’m trying to say is that I’m just a traveler on the same journey as you, just struggling through the bad days and rejoicing in the good ones. I’m trying to be more disciplined because as Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” I don’t want to be caught in an attack unprepared. I want to be real with people and see beyond the masks that we all wear at times.
The whole bigness of God always astounds me, and sometimes it’s easy to act like we’ve got it all together and got it all figured out rather than being completely honest and saying that there are times that we just don’t have a clue how to handle some things. So here I am reminding myself that I’m human. I screw up. I misstep. And unfortunately sometimes I take those I love down with me. But through it all, God is good. God is real. And God is love. I guess if I strive for those things, I’ll be heading in the right direction at least.