Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old. Lamentations 5:21 (NIV).
Something’s lost that needs to be found. Church services are largely humdrum, predictable, anaesthetized human affairs. Some services are stripped down to the basics; simplistic reruns of the same old thing. Other services are plagued by rules and rituals; a discordant jangle of regulations and rites of passage. Whatever the form, God is pushed to the sidelines – we are in charge, or worse, someone else is in charge of us.
What is it about God that makes us uneasy? Why do we attempt to master our uneasiness by putting God in a box? And what will it take to have God at the centre?
Visit the neighbourhood churches. The lights might be on but there’s no power. Much of what we do is simply that, what we do. We script the order of service, presenters (worship leaders) act their parts, the director (administrator/worship co-ordinator) pulls it together, the technicians handle the lights and computers and sound systems, the musicians play their pieces, the performer (pastor) takes centre stage, and the audience (congregation) smile and clap. Even when the service isn’t scripted there’s a format that’s carefully followed and enacted that closely shadows the known and expected. What have we become? Where does God fit in?
We can be rocking and rolling to a contemporary chorus or heartily singing a hymn, but God isn’t found in it. We can be warm and friendly, inviting others to a potluck supper, reading the Scriptures, saying prayers, taking communion, and do it all regardless of whether or not the Spirit of God turns up. Preachers are preaching from empty wells. Singers are singing from passionless hearts. Musicians are playing from uninspired souls. Offerings are collected from listless givers. Readings are read from dull lips. And the play plays on …
Who will call a halt to this charade? When will we stop telling ourselves that everything is alright? Where are the spiritually astute, the leaders to lead us out of this quagmire? Why do we continue to settle for the mediocre and the bland? What will it take for us to take our hands off the things that God alone should control? Do we even know what we’re missing? What will bring us to our spiritual senses? And when will we tell the false prophets, those that say “God is here,” that we’ve had enough of their lies?