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Hope for Believers (and Churches) Burnt Out, or Just Going Through the Motions

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day:

11  God was performing unusual miracles through Paul. 12  Even handkerchiefs and aprons he had used were taken to the sick, and their diseases were driven away, and the evil spirits would go out of them. 13  Some Jews who traveled around and drove out evil spirits also tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus to do this. They said to the evil spirits, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches.” 14  Seven brothers, who were the sons of a Jewish High Priest named Sceva, were doing this. 15  But the evil spirit said to them, “I know Jesus, and I know about Paul; but you—who are you?” 16  The man who had the evil spirit in him attacked them with such violence that he overpowered them all. They ran away from his house, wounded and with their clothes torn off. 17  All the Jews and Gentiles who lived in Ephesus heard about this; they were all filled with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was given greater honor. 18  Many of the believers came, publicly admitting and revealing what they had done. Acts 19:11-18 (TEV)

We need to “go out,” then, in order to test and experience our own anointing and its power and redemptive efficacy into the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness longing for sight and prisoners under so many evil masters.

It may sound harsh, but I wonder today if the church is more like the sons of Sceva than like the Apostle Paul.

We go through the motions, we say the right things (at times) we have a good intent, but we lack the faith, the trust in a God we know, to truly minister to others the way we should.

As our efforts don’t result in any significant change, we slowly give up our our outreach. We begin to rely on what others have said or written, rather than express our awe of God directly. We rely on canned presentations, Bible studies written by someone we’ve never met, who doesn’t know the people we study with and/or teach. Prayer and meditation on scripture become things we will do “when we have time”.

And we wonder why we ministry seems a drain, why people don’t realize the blessing that church should be, and why they never are free of their demons.

The more we do, the more the church gets focused internally, the more church politics rips us to shreds, the more churches close their doors, or become places that focus on things other than Jesus, and exploring the incredible dimensions of His love, experiencing what we can never completely explain.

So what is the answer, how do we go from a church of Sceva’s sons, to being an apostolic church.

How do we live out the work of God that became possible when the Holy Spirit called us, when God the Father united us with Jesus, and the same power which raised Him from the dead gave us new life?

I think Pope Francis has the answer, just “go out”, trusting in God enough to go where there is need, to the broken, to those who are blind and suffering, to those who are prisoners . Asking God to make His annointing of our lives known in our lives as we minister to those He puts in front of us.

In order to know that, we have to know He has indeed redeemed us, that we are His people, not because we are so good, but because He has indeed redeemed us. As a pastor, everytime I baptize someone, everytime I give someone the body of Christ, whether the person kneeling at the altar, or the shut-in in their home, or the counselee, whose burdens are lifted as they experience the love of God, the lesson of my own redemption is renewed.

I’ve seen the same thing when parents assist in their child’s baptism, or a sponsor assists in the friend who has come to know God’s love. Our faith is renewed, our dependence on God becomes a great joy, and we realize the world without hope is indeed full of God’s hope.

You see the church may sometimes act like the sons of Sceva, but she isn’t. She may be depressed, and dejected, focused on survival more than mission, but her Lord is with her, strengthening her, giving her life, and urging her to go to the broken in the world, with the assurance she doesn’t do so alone, or on her own power.

We go with the Lord and Giver of Life, empowered by God to do the works He has planned.

This is our call.. this is who we are..

Let’s get back it, walking with our God.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 190). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

It’s time to be “The Church”

Devotional Thought of the Day:
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25  The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, 26  the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. 27  You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. 1 Corinthians 12:25-27 (MSG)

575      To think of Christ’s Death means to be invited to face up to our everyday tasks with complete sincerity, and to take the faith that we profess seriously. It has to be an opportunity to go deeper into the depths of God’s Love, so as to be able to show that Love to men with our words and deeds. (1)

I am getting tired of conversations about the church.  There are theologians who will talk of church militant and church triumphant.and the visible and invisible Church.  There are consultants who will talk about healthy churches, revitalizing churches, legacy churches (the new euphemism for a church dead or dying, usually blamed on being 25 years or older)  There are goals to be seeker oriented, confessional, conservative, liberal, missional, contemporary, and a thousand more labels.

It’s time to stop all of the strategic talk, all the planning and plotting and vision casting and calls for others to repent.

I love the description of the church in Paul’s 12th chapters of Romans and 1 Corinthians. It’s not an organization, or a entity.  It is a family, a body, an organism, not an organization.  When one part of the church hurts, whether through real persecution/martyrdom, whether through grief and bereavement, no matter the cause, the entre church hurts, whether this is a cell ground of 6 or 8, a small church like mine of 60, or a mega church of 2000, or the Church as the entire body of Jesus Christ.  The same thing is true with moments of joy.  If all of heaven parties, if God dances when a prodigal returns home, when a baby is baptized, when a cynic or critic is gifted with faith and repentance/transformation, the whole church should as well.

For this is who we are – one body, Christ’s body.

It shouldn’t take a team of experts consultants to realize this, or to provide 8 steps to seeing it happen. What it does take is bearing our cross with Christ, of seeing everything as killed off and that cross and re-created, reformed, brought together, bonded to His resurrection as we were to His death quickened, made alive IN Christ.

In the past week, I’ve  been there when friends are hospitalized, when a former member of my church was buried, when another friend struggled with sin, when they needed encouragement to enter that struggle. I’ve watched quite a few struggle in relationships, and I’ve seen people struggling with change, both good change, bad chance and just the fear of potential change.  This is church stuff my friends, it is the time where we need to all be together, weeping working, encouraging, partying,

I love St Josemaria’s quote today… Each of the moments, each of these struggles, and the celebrations as well – each is a time to encounter Christ, each is a time to see the marvelous love of God at work, to share that love, to receive that love.

When the people of God, called together do such things – whether 2 or 3 or 10,000 do this, they are His people, His church… they aren’t just talking and setting visions, they are finding the healing they need in Christ Jesus.. and helping others to heal….this is Eph. 2:10, and Article 6 of the Augsburg Confession.

This is the Church…. let’s be it.

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2141-2144). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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