Daily Devotion - Wednesday, November 18, 2015
This week all of our Daily Devotions will be reflecting on the sermon that I preached this past Sunday at my church, the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis--a sermon entitled, "Three Chairs." We believe our church has a rich history, a vibrant present and a hopeful future. Not all churches or communities of faith feel that way, though. Over the course of this week we'll be getting to the bottom of how that can change.
Jesse M. Bader, a leader in the Christian Church in the 1920's & 1930's once wrote,
"[As a Christian] you can be a clerk or a salesman--the clerk waits for a customer, and the salesman goes out for him. [Christians] should be ringing doorbells, instead of church bells; we have been doing by proxy what we should do by proximity; by purse instead of by person."
The interesting thing about Bader's exhortation to Christians is that it was made during a time in U.S. history when the vast majority of Americans both claimed to be Christian and attended church at least semi-regularly. For decades, the Church in America believed that all it had to do was open its doors and people would come to fill up the sanctuary. And honestly, it worked---until it didn't.
Bader's words were prophetic. The era of the church being a destination for most people in our culture is gone. The fastest growing religion in America is "None." Despite the huge crowds that gather at so-called "mega-churches," the Christian church in America is actually shrinking. Mostly because it has never really heeded prophetic words from people like Bader about what it takes to truly be the church.
At some point the enormous arenas filled with concert-style light shows, professional bands singing the latest worship songs, food courts in the lobby... all of that won't be enough either. When our efforts to make church-as-destination more appealing by singing louder, flashing more lights, etc. began to lose their effectiveness, will Christians double down, or will we return to our roots?
In the book of Acts chapter 8, we can read the story of how Philip, one of Jesus' original disciples continues to get led by the Holy Spirit outside of his comfort zone and into the world where the people God wants to reach are located. Philip ministers to Samaritans, who by all intents and purposes were enemies of his own Hebrew people. They were also incredibly hungry for a word of hope and eagerly embraced
Philip then gets led out into the desert where he encounters an Ethiopian eunuch (who was of a different race, and would have also been considered a sexual deviant), reading from the book of Isaiah, and then helps the man discover Jesus.
Philip didn't set up shop somewhere, put out a church sign and wait for people to arrive. He went out--to witness, to testify, to share the Good News and to invite others to come and join him on the journey of following Jesus.
You see, the Church isn't a destination, it's a launching pad. It's not a building it's a people. The Church is not a place we go, it's who we are.
May you be the Church today to those who need to hear a word of hope. May you be the Church today to those who crave community and connection. May you be the Church today to those who do not know the joy of following Jesus. May you be the Church today by testifying to what God has done in your life through the ministry of the Church. May you be the Church today by inviting someone to walk with you as you discover each day more fully what it means to stumble after Jesus as you strive to more fully be the Church.