Another one of the challenges I felt the Lord pushing me to do this year was to intentionally begin surrounding myself with good, Godly men. Men that challenge me in my faith and push me to chase after Jesus more. As always, the Lord opened a door for this to happen, and I am now a part of a discipleship group with these men.
In our first time meeting, we decided we were going to start reading Forgotten God by Francis Chan. As I prepared for our discussion the next week, I began to read. After reading the introduction, not even the first chapter, I found myself angry. Not at any particular person, denomination, or place of worship. But at the Church as a whole.
"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 then attending a typical evangelical church. Chances are you'd be shocked..." (Chan, 16).
Reading this fictional situation, I began first to question, and then to weep at what consequences would exist if this situation were to be true. If someone who had never been to church, but had only read the Word of God about the Church, and then one Sunday found themselves in a typical evangelical church...they wouldn't believe it.
There are so many vastly different things about the "church" that we see in Scripture (specifically Jesus & the disciples in the New Testament) and the Church of today. Granted, some of these discrepancies carry little to no weight (i.e. location of meeting, amount of people in church, etc.), there are some that are mind-boggling and should immediately catch our attention.
In Acts 8, we see a small passage about Philip proclaiming Christ in Samaria. It says they (the disciples) were preaching the word, which would fall under what most Christians would define as "church", depending on who you ask. In this small, 8 section, we don't see much...except...
"...and many who were paralysed or lame were healed." (Acts 8:7b)
Uh, excuse me, what? Maybe this is just some wild and crazy day. Oh, what's that?
"...he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons." (Mark 1:34b)
"So those who received his word were baptised, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41)
These verses are HYSTERICAL. Why? Because they are so nonchalantly exclaimed. There are many, many more that exist just like this - and it seems to be no big deal that MANY were healed, even from paralysis, and that MANY demons were cast out. In fact, it seems almost like an afterthought.
"Oh, also, by the way, tons of people were healed, thousands were saved, and some demons left."
WHAT! These verses are examples of things that would immediately begin to catch the attention of our island-native turned church-goer. How come, in the New Testament church, the idea of many salvations, healings, and spiritual cleanses was so normal and now it is so radical?
There is a flaw in our Church. Not the church I attend in Abilene, but the body of Believers across the United States. It has become radical for us to truly walk step-by-step with the Holy Spirit - and that is supposed to be the norm. It should be normal, almost monotonous, for us to hear "many were added" or "many were saved". And in some specific church bodies, this is more normal than radical. But often, it's vice versa. It is time for a change.
My challenge to you - and to myself - is to examine where we are lacking when it comes to genuinely surrendering every day life to Holy Spirit. Somewhere along the way, we've misplaced our desire and our willingness to truly see Holy Spirit move - and that HAS to change if we want to see a radical, new breed of Christianity rise up. But it all starts one person at a time.
Holy Spirit, please allow us grace & compassion as we chase after you in a new way. Thank you for never leaving us, and for your unconditional love. You are so worthy of our every day surrender, and I pray for more opportunities to choose that. Amen.