What’s Going On in There?

To hear some people tell it, there’s a lot of stuff going on down at church. For some, it’s a long list of the new innovations and songs and changes that they don’t like. For others, it’s an activity list that could keep a family busy eight days a week. Maybe there are some churches where there’s not much of anything going on.

I don’t know how Christians moved from the idea of wanting a place to meet to building cathedrals. I hear more talk these days on the other side of the pendulum – maybe we don’t need a building at all. While I don’t desire to address the large issue of meeting houses and their characteristics, I do recognize that the size, architecture, and furnishings of church meeting houses reveal a lot about the intents of those who planned them.

But more than the activity being promoted or the furnishings being used, I was thinking about the people that gather in that meeting hall. What’s going on in there? I mean, look at them. There are smiles mostly. When the song leader asks them to sing, they do. There is an attempt to remain alert. There is a shushing of the children if they get too loud. Form and format are observed in formality.

But what’s really going on in there? If we could observe with the Lord’s eyes we would see an entirely different scenario. We would likely see the devil’s army gathered round the perimeter, watching for stragglers and weak ones.  But holding them at bay we might see God’s army, armed to the hilt and towering over the evil workers of the enemy. Inside the circle of warfare we could observe lights of various intensities…some very dim…others blindingly bright.

With God’s insight we might see a man struggling with pornography. There on the same pew is a couple that is angry with one another. Two pews back a teenager contemplates cutting her arms when she gets home. On the front row a preacher who is preparing to get up and speak a message which has been plagued with doubt and uncertainty. The deacon over in that corner is wondering why he is even there. The elderly sister with perfect hair and expensive dress is high on painkillers that she has procured from three different doctors in town. Do you see that fellow in the middle over there…by the aisle … look how hard he is trying to keep it all together. But he’ll go home alone and fall apart. Some are on the edge of losing their faith, others are strong in faith but weak in flesh. Look closely. Not a one of them has it all together. They sit there together with smiles and assurances that all is well, when it is not.

You might think that’s a crummy church and you’d never want to be a part of that. I hate to break it to you, but you already are. These issues aren’t left on the pew are they? They follow us around all week long and drain us when we start to give in to them. To the cynic, that just goes to show that all this religion stuff is hooey. To the self-righteous, this is simply irrational talk. The rest of us know that this true picture of what’s going on in there demonstrates our total dependence upon God’s grace and power. Someone wrote, “Preach to a broken heart, and you’ll never lack an audience, for there’s one in every pew.”

Yes, that’s what’s going on in there. If you’re looking for some folks who are stumbling and hurting and trusting God, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking for the place where people have all their problems solved and have life figured out, try the cemetery.

Two brief observations:

1. This understanding of the gathering of the Saints tells me that this is where I belong. If everyone here has all their ducks in a row and their troubles figured out, then I won’t fit in. I actually NEED to be here to be reminded of who I am and what has happened in my life through Jesus.

2. When I’m gathered together with my family, I am to expect imperfection and flaws … and to give credit and glory to God for His cleansing and acceptance. When I get on my high horse and start thinking otherwise, I usually end up in trouble.

Two Scriptures:

1. 2 Kings 6:16-18  “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

2. Hebrews 12:22-23 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven…

Thanks for reading.



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