Community Center or Church?
     Pentecost Sunday, the commemoration and celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, is upon us.  The question that gnaws at my heart and spirit is, how real is that outpouring to me, to the fellowship I serve?  How real is it to you and yours?  I recently read an article as to why a true awakening in the church has not happened.  Now, I know many a pastor and layperson who is praying for just that, yet it tarries.  Do we dare to allow Him to reveal to us as to why that might be so?
     The writer of the article had a number of points, but the one that leaped out at me was his observation that we in the church have become very pragmatic and naturalistic in our spiritual views.  In our needs, spiritual, physical, emotional, material, we seek the same sources of help as those we would call "unbelieving."  We tend to seek first natural, not supernatural provisions.  How many of us, when sick, do not first seek the presence of Him in our church fellowships, but run to a Doctor or emergency room?  We will go to earthly counselors for answers, pharmacies for drugs, and friends, families or banks for loans, all before we will go to Him.  More, when we do come together, it seems to be with little real expectation that we will really meet with Him.  We will sing about Him, hear about Him, but how many of us will really encounter Him?  How much real worship really goes on in what we call "worship services?"  We live so distracted in our day to day lives, that we come together distracted, "worship" while distracted, and most often, leave distracted.  More, we plan our "worship" to such a degree that we leave little, if any room for the Holy Spirit to intervene even if our hearts may be open to Him.  How many pastors or worship leaders will react kindly to having their song list or power point presentations interrupted by a spontaneous move of the Spirit?  How many of us would view such a thing as being "out of order?"
     I've a friend who has lovingly observed that he sees the church today as bearing much more resemblance to a "Christian Community Center" than to the New Testament church.  People gather, relate to one another, share experiences, have good fellowship, none of which are bad, but it rarely seems to be more than that.  In the Old Testament Temple in Jerusalem, such was what took place in the outer court, where the emphasis was on the people, but the outer court was the entranceway to reaching the Holy Place, where God was.  Too often, we who are the church, never get past the outer court, never enter into the Holy Place and encounter Him.  Watchman Nee wrote, "You cannot know God from a distance.  In the outer court, quite rightly, you approach people; in the Holy Place, you approach the Lord."
    In our seeming obsession to be "relevant" to the unchurched, it seems we are almost embarrassed by a Holy Spirit who will not behave Himself.  If someone were to rise up this week and speak something prophetically in the Spirit, how open would we be?  If one or many were to be overcome with the sheer joy of the Holy Spirit, and shouted out that joy, even danced before the Lord, how receptive would we be?  If the Holy Spirit so powerfully came upon us this week so that everything, and I mean EVERYTHING stopped, and all we could do was be prostrate before Him, how welcoming would we be to that?  If the Lord were to be this week, not a general, unobtrusive presence, but a manifest one, where He literally took over His church, and it is His church, would we run to Him, or flee from Him?  I know what a community center would do, and so do you.  I also know, and I think you do as well, what the true church would do.  The question is, which one are we?

Pastor O
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   May 2019   
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