Eph 2:18 NLT] 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
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[Eph 4:4 NLT] 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
In January, 2016, the Evangelical Ministerial Alliance (EMA) in our small burg decided to really step out in faith and do a “Pulpit Swap”. For weeks in advance the five week event was pitched and planned. Schedules of who was to preach and where, on the corresponding Sunday mornings were distributed, and everyone involved began to be excited about how this entire idea was a brilliant example of pastoral trust and unity. Ah, the spiritual climate was indeed warming! Capping the event, all the participating church congregations were to meet for a corporate worship service at the old Holiday Inn conference room. The excitement mounted, and spiritual hype was readily evident….
The pulpit swap went off without a hitch, and it was fun because all of the participating congregations got to hear and experience the different preachers at their finest. I really enjoyed it during the swaps, and the corporate worship service following up the “swap” was (almost) awesome. I said ‘almost’ because while the planned program went off right on schedule, it stopped just short of God’s schedule, and at the time I felt I had been enroute to a destination, but had stopped just as it the destination began to come into sight. But, it was exciting, and lots of fun to worship together in one corporate, non-denominational setting.
The Sunday morning after the big finale, I had the temerity to ask the pastor of our church, “Now what?” I wasn’t the only one asking the question. Nothing could have been more logical than to ask it. After all the hoopla of the pulpit swap, “Now what?” What followed could only have been described as a “sheep beating”!
Disguised as a “sermon”, we were harangued (and I choose my words carefully here) for way too many minutes and told in no uncertain terms to stop second-guessing God! And it just kept on and on until I felt we had worn a very deep path around the same mountain!
Going home after the ‘beating’, I felt like I had spiritual road-rash, as if asking the most logical of questions had crashed my spiritual motorcycle! Wow! I was stunned…maybe I still am.
I said at the time, that without a plan to move into the “Now what?”, the pastors would very likely spend the next few weeks (actually, 6 months!) following the event, patting themselves on their backs in congratulations, while gradually re-assuming their same old, business-as-usual church routines. I was wrong in one prediction: there was nothing ‘gradual’ about it.
Now, here we are towards the end of 2016 – probably one of the most important election years of American history, and a real good time for the churches of America to stand up in genuine unity and be counted, but instead of being “salt and light”, the churches seem to be pretending the doctrine of separation of church and state is anything but a phony construct, and are instead, as usual – busy, being busy. It reminds me of what a visiting foreign pastor said not too long ago after touring some of our churches, words to the effect of, “Isn’t it amazing how far the American churches have gone without the Holy Spirit?” Quite an indictment, and very accurate.
If we ever understood what made the church of the first century powerful, which I doubt, we’ve lost that knowledge long ago. The early church had their unity in one Spirit, and under that holy, unified umbrella they performed mighty deeds in His Name. Those days, by and large, really did die with the last Apostle, but not by God’s will; man got involved, and man has death in his fingers.
I call out to the over-educated seminarians of our day: “Wake up, take your placards off your plush office walls and be the men you were called to be – for a change.”
And while you’re at it – forsake your Godless arrogance. You can begin by crying out for personal humility – more rare than gold at this date, especially in our churches.
Now is when you are needed to be the men God created you to be – there may be no “later”.