A group of people got together recently. They listened to a speaker, had some announcements about their organization, talked about community volunteer activities, and had a potluck lunch to socialize afterward. These generally good people met once a week, enjoyed each other’s company, and worked together on community activities.
What organization did I just describe? A business networking organization? Toast Masters? A political party?
Or a church?
Over the last few years, I’ve found myself asking this question: does church as we know it really look all that different from secular gatherings? If we were talking about something other than God, and had a group of generally moral people who enjoyed each other and gathered once a week to listen to teachings of wisdom and motivation, would very much change?
Let’s take it a step further: what if God stopped directly intervening or moving in your church… would anyone notice? What if the preacher still preached, the worship leader & congregation still sang, Sunday schools still studied, outreach programs still rolled forward… but God wasn’t in them?
In other words: if God left your church, would very much actually change?
It seems to me that the answers to those questions could give us an indication as to how much we’re operating in our own power. If a church can continue operating in much the same way without God’s power, I think it’s fair to say we’re not relying on Him very much.
Is that what we see in the Bible? When I read it, I see God constantly calling people to do things outside of their own power. “Go rescue my people from a Pharaoh who believes himself to be a god and is over one of the most powerful nations in the world.” “Go alone and confront hundreds of priests of Baal.” “Believe that I’ll give you offspring even though you’re too old.” The list goes on and on and on… story after story where His children are constantly put into situations that glorify Him because they couldn’t have done it in their own power.
But a church relying on its own power is not one of whom miracles would be characteristic (Matthew 16:17-18), who remain undaunted by difficulties because they believe that He sits enthroned above the flood (Psalm 29:10) and can overcome anything, and who pursue Him no matter how unachievable His commands seem. They wouldn’t even consider the kinds of things told throughout the Bible. They’d tend toward goals that are extremely low in comparison… goals they might call “realistic” or “more practical.” And before they know it, they have a church that doesn’t really need God to do their works for them (Isaiah 26:12).
After all, I can jump off of a curb all day long without a parachute–but jumping out of a plane without relying on one would have a very different outcome.