I’ve been in Isaiah recently, although not nearly as much as I could’ve been. Despite my fairly undisciplined quiet-time schedule since our move however, God has been faithful to carefully but consistently deepen my awareness of some of the issues with which I’ve struggled for some time, but about which I’ve chosen to do nothing until now. Many of these issues, it turns out, are regarding what the modern church (including myself) calls missions.
“Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine…All the tables are covered with vomit and there is not a spot without filth. Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there.
Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people... So then the word of the Lord will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there – so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured.” Isaiah 28: 7 – 13 (italics added per MC)
Since moving here in May, due probably a lot to the fact that I’ve not had a lot of energy (1st trimester) and that I don’t speak Russian very well at all, I have struggled a great deal with the feeling of isolation. Charlie really enjoys solitude, while I really feel more comfortable as a part of a community.
I say that only to point out the irony in that it has been in these weeks of this sort of isolation and quiet around me that I have become so aware of the weight I feel regarding all of the talking we as a church are doing these days.
For example, in most western churches, the entire Sunday worship (often the entire week) is built around the 20-25 minute sermon that is delivered, typically towards the end of the service. It is what both pastors and the people coming to worship expect. We missionaries are notorious for our tendency to talk and talk. Most pastors I know won’t even let a missionary hold a microphone without very close supervision!!!
I see believers (including myself some days) easily spend an hour or more online or with some christian journal in their hands reading other people’s opinions on any number of issues ranging from how much we should be talking about sin in the church to how much of a church’s budget should be spent on a new altar rail, and then barely give 10-15 minutes (if that) a day seeking a real relationship with God through time with Him on our knees or in praise and worship or in His word. It is easier for some reason to pick up a devotion book, turn to the day’s devotion, and read the assigned verse and the author-of-the-day’s opinion of what it should be saying to the reader than it is to pick up the scriptures and ask God to show us what He wants us to see in His words.
Why does it feel that we as a church are so much more concerned with the opinions of other people (and making sure they know ours) than we are with our own relationship with Christ? Why do we spend so much time arguing our opinions or preparing our 30 minute sermons (myself included) and so little time praying with and for one another? Don’t we understand that we carry absolutely no power to save, heal, make whole, redeem, or deliver anyone? Don’t we see that the only thing we have to offer anyone else who is lost or hurting is Jesus Christ?
Why do so many of the people we serve (and so many of us for that matter) have absolutely no idea how to approach our Father through Jesus Christ? So many of us in the church – maybe in the church for years – have no idea what it means to be silent and still in His presence, and to hear from Him, and to feel the healing and wholeness that only He can bring. I wonder if the thought of that experience doesn’t actually scare many of us to death.
And of course, the ultimate irony in this is that I share all of these opinions in my own little blog!!! And the true grace is that many of you reading and catching that hypocrisy love me like your sister anyway!!! I love you and I thank God for you in Christ Jesus. Miki