If Jesus entered your typical modern American church, how do you think he would receive it? Would he weep over it? Would he gather it into his arms? Would he declare it his bride?
Look now to the global persecuted church abroad, the gathering of believers eagerly risking their lives in brutal conditions all for the sake of communing with one another to build each other up in hope and love in Christ Jesus, and ask those same questions.
Which would He choose?
The scales would appear to tip in favor of the persecuted church. In fact when looking at those red printed words of Jesus in Revelation, it would appear the church abroad is Smyrna (which Christ adores) while the American church in all of its pomp and sound stages is Sardis. A church that looks alive but is actually dead.
Is it true? Are we Americans in need of repentance? Have our good intentions of communicating the gospel taken a back seat to our ever-growing church budgets and personalities? Have we asked for Pastor-King in favor of God? Maybe we’re just using the hand we’ve been dealt, and this is what church looks like in America? Remove the pomp, does the church still love Jesus? Remove the AC, roof, and soft seats, are we still eager to hear His word?
These are some of the questions I want to answer and discuss! In our next episode “Did Jesus Call You by Name or Number? / The Production of Church” Alex and I begin dissecting the avenue how / why we do church. The focus of the show is the production of church because often times the production drives a hard shoulder into your sternum leaving you gasping for air in a fetal position on the ground, but the overarching theme of the show is the search for Authentic Worship.
Full disclosure, I can’t tell sometimes if I’m angry or jaded. There are times I want to take a whip and drive out the church from its building (as in my Snowbird Songs article “God Please Blow Up Your Church”) but then in the mess of it all… I’ll witness a jewel, the miracle of an authentic conversion and the reconciliation of a lost soul back to God. I’ll remember Christ’s words to the church in Sardis when he says “Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.” And I’ll be reminded that despite the mess of human error (as in the whole canon of scripture) God is still redeeming the lost through the brokenness of those who are willing to be bold for Him.
A Sign of Hope
Last week I sat in my car on my lunch break reading Romans when I looked out my windshield and saw a breath of wind exhale on the extended branches of a towering oak tree. The ripple across the leaves turned into a wave and for a brief moment I connected with God. The world felt right, my daily fears were erased, and I was embraced with the love of God as if he had put his own arms around me. I had comfort, peace, hope, and I knew just as assuredly as the wind tousled those leaves, that God was alive and active. I gave thanks to God and in that moment I had authentic worship.
That’s the very worship I want to experience with the church and the worship I want the new believer to see. A worship that isn’t man made and fading, but a worship that is as deep as the ancient roots of a tree and as firmly planted as the base of a mountain. Those leaves didn’t move from the pounding kick drum of a power ballad, they didn’t nudge from the flapping lips of a Red Bull juiced pastor through a Twitter sermon, they didn’t wait for the energy infused 5 minute “countdown til worship” clock to time out. They moved because, like the rest of the earth they belonged to God, as do we. It was a sobering reminder of how easy it is to worship.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Please comment and share. Listen to episode 4 as we begin to tackle “the production of church”. If you have a question you would like answered on our show please post it to social media with the tag #asknypp. If you have a private question please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks – Jason