They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity[a]—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47....."All the things we're adding to the church to make it more exciting are actually killing it." Francis Chan
When I first came to start the church I pastor, I received lots of input as to what I needed to succeed. I was told I needed to have a worship service that made people want to come. I was told I needed quality children's and teen programs. I was told that I needed a facility that was welcoming and attractive. Basically, I was told that I needed to have something that was better than what people could find elsewhere. Sadly, I believed what I was told, and I spent a great part of my ministry trying to "create" a church just like the one I'd been encouraged to have. And I wasn't alone. I believe that far and away, most other pastors have pursued the same. How could we all be so removed from the church depicted in Acts 2? How could what He meant to be a body of believers in Him, become a crowd of consumers of His bread, but not of His life?
Francis Chan speaks of his time visiting and worshiping with the underground church in China. He said that when people know that there will be prayer gathering, or the celebration of communion, they come from everywhere to be a part. Often there is little if any singing or sharing of a "message." Prayer and the sharing of Scripture are at the forefront. It is His Presence that is celebrated and rejoiced in. People don't want to miss it, and will take great risks in the face of persecution to be a part of it. He then made the point that should bring great conviction upon us all. He said that so much of our church strategy here in the west is creating the kind of church that people will want to come to. Little, if any of our thought involves having the kind of fellowship that God wants to come to. We are the focus. The self-life is at the forefront. He's a supporting player. We seek to give people what they want, and we look to Him to add the elements that will make it possible. We call what we come up with "worship" and "church." What does He call it?
Have we read Revelation lately? Jesus spoke to seven churches. With five of them He commanded that they, in effect, "repent, or else." It was not that these churches were not doing good things or honoring Him in many ways. A common thread for all of them however was that they had "left their first love," God Himself. They, their desires, goals, and plans now had center stage. Christ had become their Helper. They were more consumed with themselves than they were with Him. They were "doing church" in the flesh, rather than being the church in the power of His Holy Spirit. Jesus had seen enough. Jesus had had enough. Dare we think He might have the same attitude with us?
A great churchman named Charles Strickland once said that you could build a church in the middle of a garbage dump, and if the power of the Holy Spirit was actively present there, people will come. In Africa, there is a thriving church literally in the middle of a garbage dump. They have nothing to offer anyone....but God Himself. That's Africa you say. That could never be in our culture you say. Here in the west, we need more you say? More than Him? Really? Can we dare to seek a fellowship where the only attraction is Him. Not for the good bread He gives, but for the wonder of who He is? Everywhere today are pastors who have burned out trying to build a church to which people will come. No matter how hard we try, or how well we do it, someone else will always do it better. And even if they do come, do we have a fellowship to which He wants to come? In our desire to be welcoming to people, to what degree to we wish to be welcoming to Him? Maybe I simplify too much. Or maybe we just are not willing to be simple enough. Simply having Jesus among us. What might be the result of that?