A change is coming. I can feel it deep within me. I’ve felt it for a long time. I think it all started in 1984 when I was sitting in the food court at VCU reading in Jeremiah about the princes of Israel, their rejection of God’s Word, and their coming judgment. I realized then the similarity between those leaders and today’s church leadership. I began to understand that God is not going to leave the church in its sick state. No, He is creating something new. It’s something no one on the earth has seen before. It’s going to blow all of our boxes and structures apart. And it is going to be beautiful!
I woke up this morning from one of the most intense and vivid dreams I’ve had in years. In the dream I was visiting with a group of friends who I haven’t really spent any time with since 2001. All of us are worship leaders. The house was chaos – kids running and playing everywhere, adults talking about all sorts of topics – but the main theme was Him, always Him.
One of my friends asked me why I’m not leading worship right now. This question led to an interesting discussion that started with my saying that I couldn’t explain it but I was at peace with not doing that now. I went on to try and describe why I can’t even bring myself to darken the door of most churches, stating that I believe God is bringing something new, when suddenly I saw all of church history sweep across my mind’s eye. Beginning with Constantine’s establishment of Christianity as the one world religion … then the split with the Eastern Orthodox, followed by the Reformation … then the hundreds (thousands?) of splinters within Protestantism. I saw how the church has become so fragmented that it has lost its impact and that haunting refrain from Judges echoed in my ears again: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
The conversation then took a strange turn, as often happens in dreams, and I said to my friend, “Every time anyone in history has tried to possess the Ark they ended up in captivity.” It was such an odd statement that even in my dream I was puzzled. But then it was like I saw 2 streams of human history in one sweeping moment – first Israel and then like an overlay, the church from beginning to now and the parallels were chilling. Not that the Church’s journey has exactly followed the journey of Israel in any kind of orderly fashion, no, instead I saw a likeness of seasons and of tendencies.
The Ark of the Covenant represents God’s presence on the earth. From the day that Eve reached out her hand in an attempt to “be like God” mankind has tried to possess Him, to own God, to make Him do and be what we want. Cain, angry that God did not approve of his sacrifice murdered Abel and was sent into exile. When Israel tried to use the Ark of the Covenant as a “good luck charm” against the Philistines, the result was disastrous. Israel lost the war with many casualties leaving the Philistines free to try and add the One True God to their list of gods (the result was a plague until they sent the Ark back to Israel). Finally Israel’s kings pursued power, often using religion to do so, and the nation found itself divided between the Northern and Southern kingdoms, both eventually falling into gross idolatry and then exile. Almost every story in the Old Testament is permeated with the Judge’s refrain, and some went so far as to try and use God as a weapon against their enemies, forgetting the promise given to Abraham: “In your seed, all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” God’s presence is not a weapon to be wielded but a blessing to be given.
Which brings me to the church. How many denominations believe they are the only ones possessing God’s favor? How many churches are possessing the presence of God in order to judge others, condemn others, and scorn others who don’t see everything as they do? How many so-called Christians are content to possess their fire (anti-hell) insurance, while looking down their noses at people who reject their version of the Gospel, not seeing that their lack of love for people is in direct opposition to Jesus’ mission and ministry? How splintered and fragmented we have become, “doing what is right in [our] own eyes”, trying with all of our being to possess, control, even BE God. It is time to stop using the presence of God as a hammer to control people. It is time we stop USING God’s presence at all! It’s time to start letting the presence of God use us, permeate us, in a way that makes us a blessing to others.
Something is coming. I believe it down deep. We haven’t seen it. We can’t imagine it, but we will see it none-the-less. God does not dwell in houses made with hands. After all, “He’s not a tame lion.”
First Published on Facebook, August, 2010.