Posted tagged ‘the presence of God’

Spiritually-Addicted Christians

December 14, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                         December 14, 2018

                  

“It’s spiritually dead here!” explains the middle-aged woman to me.

“How so?”

“Nothing ever happens here!” she says, using her hands to exaggerate the point.

“Nothing of God ever happens here. Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes, Pastor! It’s dead!”

“I’d beg to differ with you.”

“You’re the pastor. I would expect you to disagree!”

“Like last Saturday morning when the men’s bible study group prayed for a problem that Bobby was dealing with, and then we gathered around him and hugged him, and gave him encouragement! Or last week when I was out changing the letters on the church sign, and I got into a conversation with an 84 year old lady who lives a block away from our church. A few of us are going to walk up to her house and trim her bushes and fix her screen door next Saturday! Or last Sunday when Patty brought out something from the scripture story we were studying that caused a light bulb to go on in the minds of a few of us. I’m not sure what criteria you’re using to determine whether God’s involved or not, but those were all signs to me.”

She looked at me and bit her lip.

“Say it!” I urged her.

“Those things just aren’t very exciting, pastor! I’m looking for miracles and people who love the Lord, and I’m just not seeing much of that here.”

“So…have you been to see Widow Samuels? Because, even though she is in a care center now, whenever I go to visit her I experience a spiritual blessing and marvel at her love for the Lord.”

“I don’t really like those kind of places.”

“And last week I was sitting beside Joe Skinner’s bed and talking about the end of his life, his looking forward to experiencing the glory of the Lord in heaven, and how God has walked with him through a multitude of life valleys.”

“Those aren’t the things I’m talking about, Pastor. I’m talking about spiritual highs!”

“So you’re an addict?”

“Excuse me!”

“You’re a spiritual addict, whose addiction can only be satisfied by an experience that is high energy and high emotion.”

“I knew you’d blame me!”

“I’m not blaming you for anything. I’m just stating what the situation is. You don’t seem to see God working in our midst unless something awesome happens. What is awesome, however, has to be defined by your standards. Am I right?”

“No, you aren’t right!”

“Then we will just agree to disagree. The spiritual life I’m seeing is different than what you’re looking for. I mean no disrespect in saying this but there are some people who go to an amusement park and define its impact by how many roller coasters it has and how thrilling they are. When I go to an amusement park I evaluate it on being able to ride the merry-go-round with my grandkids. Different perspectives, neither which is wrong.”

“I’m not addicted, though!”

“And I’m not spiritually bored! So, I guess we’re both where we need to be!”

She smirks, starts to say something, but then turns and walks away. She has moved on to the next church down the road. 

Five years after the conversation she has moved on three other times. Sometimes, it seems, we minimize the power of God by not allowing him to be involved in our rhythms of life. There is a hunger- an addiction, if you will- to wanting to see smoke on the mountaintop while missing the nearness of His presence.

Form Dependent

October 31, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     October 31, 2012

 

I’ve coached a few basketball players over the years who have terrible shooting form, so I spend a lot of time trying to correct it!

Balance. Feet shoulder width apart and knees bent

Eyes.

Elbows in.

Follow through.

I’ve had a few players, however, who have been decent shooters with flawed form, and when I have corrected them they have become poor shooters with great form. In essence, they become more concerned about their form than making the shot.

They start asking questions like “How did that look? Were my feet okay? How was my follow through?”

Questions that seem to miss the point that their shot created a crack in the backboard. They threw up a brick, but they had perfect form.

Sometimes I think we’re like that in the worshiping community of the church. We’re hypnotized by the form and miss the Presence.

Did we say enough prayers, sing enough hymns, raise our hands enough in praise, have a long enough sermon (or maybe a short enough sermon!)? Was the service orderly and controlled? Did the pastor may the right words at the distribution of the communion elements? Was he well-dressed and eloquent?

Most of us would probably say that our worship services aren’t about the form, but about worshiping in the presence of our Lord. That may very well be! The test is to have a worship gathering where everything doesn’t go according to the plan.

A crying baby is kept in the service and sometimes to bawl.

An elderly man falls over in the pew and has to be resuscitated.

Someone forgets to put bread on the communion plates.

The sound system goes dead.

A little girl keeps flashing the congregation during the children’s story.

The offering plate gets dumped in the midst of the main aisle.

A soloist loses her voice.

You can tell if a congregation worships the form or the presence when something unplanned trumps the plan; when a dose of grace is required to go on because a young man has just stood up as the pastor has ended his prayer, and openly admitted that he is an alcoholic.

Moments of uncomfortable truth when we have to put the form on the shelf and trust in the leading of the Spirit are revealing of a church’s heart.

Don’t misunderstand me. We worship “form” in various aspects of ministry. Try replacing Sunday morning donut time with healthy bran muffins. The possibility of a riot will go up exponentially if you try it more than one Sunday in a row. In the Baptist tradition changing a light bulb unexpectedly might cause a letter-writing campaign. In some churches using a different version of the Bible than the congregation culture is used to could cause facial spasms to begin.

So form takes different forms. Form is a route to a destination, but, as I’ve found out in flying back to southern Ohio to see my parents, there’s more than one way to reach it. Sometimes my route takes me from Colorado Springs to Houston to Charlotte to Huntington, West Virginia. Sometimes I go by car to Denver, and then fly to Columbus, where I pick up my rental car and head south. And sometimes…well, hopefully just one time…I get stuck where I am (Hurricane Sandy ripple effects) and never am able to leave my point of origin.

There’s been a few worship gatherings like that. No matter the form, no matter the liturgy, mo matter the planning…the plane just never seems to get off the ground…and we know it.

I still teach my players the fundamentals of shooting, the perfect form, but realize that prayers get answered not necessarily because the knees were properly bent.