Do You Sense God’s Presence In Your Church?

I’ve recently been reading Church 3.0 by Neil Cole. If you have been questioning whether or not our Western churches are hitting the mark they were meant to hit, this book shows us how we’re not. I don’t typically read books about church. But this one is worth the read.

One of the things that struck me in this book was that Cole talked about the difference between a movement of God for people and a monument of people for God.  A movement is like a river always flowing outward where the community is; whereas, a monument is more like a lake setting up a base and drawing people to itself. But the biggest difference? One is empowered by God; the other is not.

As I was sitting there processing the movement versus monument thing,  I thought about how little removed we are from the days when the people built the tower of Babel. The tower of Babel people wanted to build something that reached up to the heavens.  They wanted to make a name for themselves and not fill the whole earth as God had told them to do after the flood. So they built a monument to themselves and clumped together and held on as tightly as they could.

It struck me that we often build miniature towers of Babel, and that’s what we now call church. Churches are supposed to bring glory to God, but many times they in fact do just the opposite. Many churches desperately try to keep their own little flocks together, by having them become members of their organizations, instead of sending them out into a world that needs Jesus so badly. And so they build a big building, as much as their money will allow, so that they can try to entice more to join them in their endeavors, instead of really being salt and light to the world.

The monument in Babel was left unfinished. And many of our churches have that same feel. They don’t feel quite finished, so they add another program or they build another building in an effort to quench that constant gnawing…you know that feeling that something’s just not quite right. And they convince themselves that they just haven’t quite done enough yet, so they set up another outreach.  And they wonder why the world isn’t joining them in their monuments for God.

Some people in the churches are now beginning to realize the world is not buying what we’re selling. The problem is, just like the people who built the tower of Babel, we’re still not listening. Wolfgang Simson said, “…programs are what the church does when it no longer relies on the Holy Spirit.” (85)

“Therein lies a huge problem in our churches. We have defined church by what we are and do, rather than by Jesus’ presence at work among us.” (57)

People just aren’t buying church the way it has been for centuries…it’s lost its power because it’s lost the presence.  Seventy-eight percent of my own city is un-churched or de-churched, depending on how you look at it. I think many people are catching on that many of our churches, our monuments, are not really about God in the first place; they’re more about the people who are building them and their own glory, and people aren’t stupid.

“The church is considered by the outside world as a group that is judgmental and fearful of the world and wants to have its own subculture, and it is entitled to not have to pay taxes for it.”  But Jesus’s example to us is completely different than the one we, His own disciples,  present to the world. “He came to bring justice and compassion, not a separated, self-important sense of entitlement.” (56-57)

This post is not anti-church, nor is it a post about what the best model for church is. I am part of the church, the body of believers called to follow and love Jesus. I just think we’ve lost sight of what that really means. Cole says, “We should plant Jesus, and let Jesus build His church. We have planted religious organizations rather than planting the powerful presence of Christ.” (58)  As Cole says, are “we getting out of the way and letting people see how attractive Jesus is”? 

Some of us just recently had a share time on the Transfiguration where Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a mountain, where Moses and Elijah, who had been dead a long time also appeared with Jesus. So, Peter said, “It’s good for us to be here to see this.” But, instead of enjoying Christ’s presence, Peter got it into his head that he had to do something to make the Transfiguration into an event. So he suggested that they (Peter, James, and John) make three tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. And immediately, God’s voice came out of heaven, and He said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.”

Sometimes, we’ve gotten so involved in doing for God that we’ve failed or have forgotten how to listen to Him. In Scripture, Jesus says that He desires mercy and obedience, not sacrifice. We think that God will be pleased with all of our little sacrifices, and that these sacrifices will actually amount to something. Cain and King Saul and the Pharisees all thought that too. They all thought that doing for God outweighed listening to Him. 

The core importance of God’s church is not how the followers are organized, discipled, or helped.  The core reality of God’s church is Jesus Christ being followed, loved, and obeyed. (60)

What does it mean to follow Christ…I mean, really follow Christ? To listen to His voice and obey? If you’re looking for a list here, I can’t give one. It requires each one of us listening to Him as the chosen people He’s called us to be.

I think we’ve made being the church far more complicated than Jesus intended, and we’ve substituted methods for mystery…Christ in you…the hope of glory.

I John 2:20, 27 says, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One and all of you have knowledge…The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead His anointing teaches you about all things…”


2 Responses to “Do You Sense God’s Presence In Your Church?”

  1. October 21, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Enjoyed this post! Came across your blog today and was interested in your subject, as a fellow believer. I haven’t read the book you discuss, but I am currently reading “Radical” by David Platt. Have you read it? I’ll check back often as I like what you have to say and agree wholeheartedly with you. May you be blessed this day!

  2. 2 Meesha
    October 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    So where are we going to church next week?! Hahahaha! Seriously, I pray God will show us where He wants us, and sooner rather than later.

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