Last week I posted the following status update on my Facebook page: “Cindy wants to say things she shouldn’t – so instead I’m going to take a nap.” I did take a nap and it helped. Nothing like a quick little rest on a Sunday afternoon to press the reset button on my attitude! But even though my attitude – and outlook – were changed, the things that were on my heart and mind were not.
It’s not that what I wanted to say was bad. It’s just that the way it would have come out in the abbreviated space allowed for a Facebook status update would have probably made it sound worse than what I meant because it is a topic that requires more thought and explanation than that little space provided.
So what was the comment I wanted to make? Simply this: “I look forward to the day when I sense less oppression and hopelessness in the church than I do in the grocery store.”
Once upon a time people came to the church looking for answers. They came looking for hope. That is happening less and less in our day. As one man put it recently, “the church has become an island of irrelevance in a sea of hopelessness.” Somewhere along the way we became something of a “holy club” concerned more with preserving our way of life and making converts to our system of belief, than we are with being an incarnational presence of Jesus to a hurting world. As a result, rather than being seen as having the “answers” we’ve simply become irrelevant. And with good reason – for the most part we don’t seem to be faring any better in life than the world around us! In fact, in many ways we look worse and the differences people do see are not necessarily perceived as good!
Believe me, this isn’t an indictment on any particular individual or church. I’m part of the church and it’s our problem. And, sadly, I’ve been part of the problem at least as often as I’ve been part of the solution. More and more I find myself wanting to distance myself from the mainstream church, but I know that’s not the answer either. Jesus loves His church and He desires that I do so as well. But somehow we need to come back to the reality of what the church is supposed to be – we were never supposed to go to church and win converts to the institution, we are supposed to be the church and make disciples of nations.
Yes, Jesus loves His church – but He also loves the world. And as its been said, “Until the church cares more about the future of the world than it cares about the future of the church, the church has no future.” We are stressed and depressed, because our focus is on taking care of ourselves -rather than on first desiring to bring His love and goodness into the world around us. Even many of our “outreach” efforts are, at their core, more focused on advancing our agenda than they are on truly advancing His kingdom.
So is it hopeless? Heavens no! We do have the answer and fortunately He never has and never will change. Jesus said we could live a life free from worry and strife if we would simply, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” None of us do it perfectly, but I know a growing number of sincere seekers after His heart who have grown weary of church as usual who are instead learning to move in harmony with His Spirit. Those who are learning to love what He loves and do what He does. Those who are learning to walk the walk a whole lot “louder” than they talk the talk.
I recently had dinner with a dear friend who is one of these sincere seekers. We were sharing our sadness, and occasional frustration, over the fact that so many in the church live in such a state of fear and hopelessness. She made the comment that it was so hard to understand because, “we have the golden ticket!” She is right – we do have the golden ticket. We have the treasure. We have the answer. And since we do, we should be leading the way in bringing solutions to our nation and the world’s problems – not wringing our hands in despair and desperately trying to hold onto our little slice of the pie.
Yes, we have the golden ticket. My friend knows that and she is living it. To be honest, she has had far more reason in her personal circumstances at the moment to be giving in to fear or hopelessness than almost anyone I know. But she’s chosen to hold onto hope. She is not in denial of reality – she is simply focusing on the presence of a greater Reality. She knows where her hope comes from and He has never failed her. My prayer is that we, as the church, will learn to do the same.
I am looking forward to the day there will be less oppression and hopelessness in the church than in the grocery store. Better yet, I’m looking forward to the day when hopelessness is eliminated from the planet!
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Let Your kingdom come and Your will be done, Jesus – because there is always hope in Your kingdom.