It says more about me than anything else the amount of time I spend thinking and praying about the state of the church in the United States today. Sad as it may be, a good amount of my time is spent consulting with God through prayer and thought about how the Body of Christ can once again get focused on the making of disciples once again. Along the way I have had more conversations than I can count with clergy, lay persons, and those outside of the church to try and find some direction. Through the conversations I have heard all kinds of reasons for the situation of the church today, economy, hypocrisy, theological liberalism, theological fundamentalism, not to mention the changes of our culture and values of the world around us.
Does it seem strange to anyone else that we in the church are very good at looking outward to find answers to our problems but we try to function intensely in turned?
The long list of reasons given for the state of many churches, let's remember one blogger could never represent all of anything, matter, however none of them and all of them are the root of the issue. All kinds of spit and polish can be put to it, however the core of our issue is we place other things ahead of Jesus Christ in our communities. There is this wonderful Old Testament word for placing things ahead of God in our lives, idolatry. No matter what it is, no matter how good it is for our lives, whenever we place something in higher value than God in our lives we are in an idolatrous relationship.
Now in most cases we are not talking about idolatry like in the hard core biblical examples. There is not collection of gold for the creation of a calf to worship. In many cases the idol is more of what we consider an acceptable idol, or shall we call it a tolerated idol. Funny thing, idolatry is a lot like being pregnant, there is no such thing as being kind of pregnant. There is not such thing as a little idolatry. Much less things that are acceptable idols.
Take a few moments and think about the things that are more important to you than the relationship you have with God through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Is your financial security more important? Is your personal comfort? The new car, job or house? How about the things and stuff of faith like the Bible, the church building, the way of doing church? It is especially dangerous when our idols are so draped in God that we can get confused. We cannot have a full relationship with God without the Holy Scriptures, however we must not elevate the scriptures above God. It is extremely useful for the people that make up the church to have a space for worship, mission and ministry but is the physical space more important than the God who calls and loves us? Are we so tied to our ways of doing things that we miss what God is doing in our midst?
No one is exempt from idolatry. It seems that we all have things in our lives that become acceptable idols. At the same time we all have the same Good News available, we can lay down our false gods and return the One True God to the rightful place in our lives. When the people of the church begin to do this, to return the focus, direction and hopes of their lives to God above all things, all the reasons given for the struggles of the church will melt away. As a people we have been called to order our lives in certain ways. Jesus Christ is the first and foremost. This includes the call of Christ to go and make disciples. This includes the idea that to gain we must lose everything.
Friends, the time has come to refocus our lives, and put away all the idols, including and especially the acceptable ones.