Easter Sunday has passed. The majority of our nation gathered together that day at a local church or with friends and family either to celebrate the risen Savior or a bunny that brings baskets of eggs. Here in North Alabama it was an absolutely perfect Spring season day. Our own family spent the majority of the day sitting in lawn chairs outside soaking up the vitamin D until after the sun had set.
It was a lovely afternoon that began with a beautiful morning and musical Sunday service. A Sunday service likely similar to most all evangelical churches. A Sunday service where everyone was to be on their best behavior, making room for all the visitors with extra greeters and welcome signs and special gifts and all… and then everyone (visitors and members) would leave as quickly as they came in.
I am still studying through the books of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. In 1 Kings 11-14 we read of the split of the nation of Israel. God gives Jeroboam the ten northern tribes to rule over and promises him that He will bless him as He blessed David if he will simply honor Him and keep His commands. However, Jeroboam doesn’t believe God and fears that He will loose the loyalty of the people if they continue to go to Jerusalem to worship the LORD. Jeroboam decides to set up his own places of worship in Dan and Bethel with his own priests and own feasts and lets the people know that it is for their convenience. They don’t have to travel all the way to Jerusalem and observe the feasts down there, they can do so from the convenience of these places that Jeroboam made available. Jeroboam was not at all concerned with the heart of the people or their devotion to the One True God, he simply wanted them to stay in his part of the land. I read of this moment in history and I can’t help but think that the heart of the American church looks a lot like Jeroboam’s heart.
How many business meetings and staff meetings are set around making everything at the church as convenient as possible? How much time at a staff or leadership meeting is focused on what needs to change in order to keep people from leaving? How many discipleship meetings are focused on what gimmicks need to be offered in order to draw people in instead of equipping the willing to go out? Meeting after meeting, working and tweaking and planning and manipulating, trying to figure out how to get people in the doors and keep them once you get them. Hours spent talking in circles about the same old situations all the while silent hearts are sitting out in the congregation wondering why they have been attending the same church every Sunday for years and yet no one there knows what their life is like Monday through Saturday.
We’ve got coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack machines for in between. We’ve got soft seats, temperature control, and blankets for when your still cold. We’ve got Bible studies offered with no books, no homework, no teacher prep needed, just show up, sit down, and press play. Then we sit back and shake our heads because this still isn’t convenient enough. So we keep meeting and talking amongst ourselves about what else can be offered to make people come. When all the while the words of Jesus keep circling above our heads… “GO and make disciples.”
The sin of convenience. The sin of let me try and figure out what I can do to make you choose to worship our way in our place and stay. This sin of let me pick and choose leaders who will agree only with our way. The sin of let our preaching be about how everyone else is wrong instead of simply teaching the Word of God.
Is there not something amiss when a person can walk in and out of a church Sunday after Sunday and Wednesday after Wednesday for years and do so without one single person ever becoming a friend? Have we made it so easy and so convenient that a person can come in the door, find a seat, smile and listen, and get up and leave week after week, with nothing more than surface conversation on the way out to the parking lot? Should it not concern us when someone can walk out the doors of a church and weeks, months, and years pass and not one person that they once used to see every Sunday, every Wednesday, ever asks where are you and why did you leave?
However, to engage, to get to know, to find out… would require someone to inconvenience themselves wouldn’t it? The sin of convenience… and it’s root is found in pride and selfishness.
Perhaps all our programs have become our downfall. Programs planning out our conversations and controlling who we meet. Programs training us by man’s ideas on how to speak and how to think instead of how to read and hear for ourselves. Programs designed to keep us busy and keep us on schedule and crossing finish lines and receiving token trophies when our prize should be eternal lives now redeemed and alive in Christ.
Remember Christ in the breaking of bread and taking of the cup.
Teach His commands and observe them.
Sing His praises and worship Him and care for and encourage one another and then go out and keep His commands in every area and aspect of your life.
It was always meant to be that simple. Yet, perhaps in our man made attempts to make it simple, we have instead made it rote.
So today, who do you need to inconvenience yourself for in order to get to know? Today, how do you need to inconvenience yourself in order to discover why someone is no longer involved? Today, don’t start with someone at your church. Today start with someone in your home. Put down the phone, turn off the tv, set the multi-tasking aside. Don’t make excuses for them. Don’t make assumptions because they are teenagers. Don’t listen to the lies being whispered in your ears giving you a hundred reasons why you don’t have time and they wouldn’t be interested. Today simply start by stopping long enough to talk without worrying about a clock.
Jeroboam’s heart did not trust in the Lord to keep His Word to him. Jeroboam allowed his fear that he would lose the people to cause him to take control of the people by orchestrating his own way of making the people stay. In doing so he lost everything. God wanted to bless him. God wanted to keep His promise to him… but Jeroboam didn’t believe Him and now God would have to clean up his mess by removing him from power and making a clean sweep of his house. The ten tribes that had been infected by the idolatry introduced by Jeroboam would be shaken. They would no longer have the protection of the God they rejected, but would now see how well their idols could help them.
God wants to bless His people. God wants to bless His church. God wants to bless our homes… but we have to be willing to trust Him. We have to be willing to obey Him at all cost. We have to be willing to be inconvenienced.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.