But do we even know what is missing? Do we know what is lost? Most of the people I mention the “ancient ruins” to consider it to be a phrase too vague to be useful. In Isaiah 61, after it lists what Jesus is going to do (heal the sick, free the captives), it says “THEY shall rebuild the ancient ruins.” It didn’t say Jesus (“me”) would do it… it said that we (“they”) would do it.
Religion and Christian spirituality of our time is concerned with what is new. We want to see God do a new thing… yeah, Pentecost was great and a fulfillment of Joel 2, but we want an outpouring FOR US. We want a late rain. We hunger and seek for something that is fresh, something that will reach into our spirits and into the spirits of all of our friends, coworkers, and the entire world that we would experience God and His energy with us. We read about past revivals and think, “If only that would happen in our day. It would be so exciting and awesome.”
The “ancient ruins” flies in the face of that. It goes past the revivals of 200 years ago, past the dark ages, past the blood of the Crusades, past the church councils… all the way to Jesus and the disciples. It goes back to Abraham, Elijah, Moses, Isaiah, and Enoch. It points to work not excitement. It goes to the core of why God created man and why He has been so patient with us.
He wants our communion. Through all of our seeking and striving and interceding and watching and praying, we’ve neglected the base thing: communion with God. What are your prayers about? The relationship with God you so boldly proclaim you have? Or the fears/doubts/hurts/desires of the day for you and for others? Is it about the church successfully adding to their numbers? We say our life is to be lived out of love for God, but it’s not backed up by our deeds. Those deeds indicate we are still quite concerned about our comforts and position.
Somewhere along the way, we lost God. We corrupted church, Christianity, spirituality with distractions, our flesh, our pride, our total lack of patience.
Patience. Can you wait on God? I’m tired of watching congregation after congregation jump to yet another gimmick to add people and get them to listen. CAN’T YOU JUST WAIT ON GOD? If God hasn’t told you to go here and do that, then don’t do it. Wait. Pray. It’s so easy yet so extremely hard. Our emotions move us to action while God wants to see if we are just trying to add to our number or if we really have our eyes on him.
Our actions speak to where our eyes are. Yet another common interest group, yet another Saturday evangelism team, yet another mission trip… why do we do these things? We tell ourselves it’s because we want to serve God and further His Kingdom. But our actions serve ourselves. How much depth and spirituality grows out of a common interest group? There probably is a desire for that, but hardly ever does anyone actually do something about that desire. What’s the purpose of the Saturday evangelism team? To get people to come to our church (unsaved, of course. It’s not like we’re stealing from other churches). Why do we go on a missions trip? We expect to be somehow changed by the experience and it helps that we get to see the world on the cheap. I’ve seen mission trips that are practically vacations vs. really living with the people they are “serving.”
[quote]I want to see churches do things that don’t serve themselves. Give away a building. Do your Saturday evangelism for another church not in your denomination or style. Convince a core group of the church to go help another church. Destroy the existing “new” facade of interest groups and intra-church activities and seek to rebuild the spiritual ruins of Christian communion, celebration, and confession that are underneath it. Value and teach the Christian disciplines and death to self more than the worship team or the number of people that show up.
Rebuild the ancient ruins. Communion. Patience. Confession. Discipline. Selflessness. Love Slave. The bedrock of those ruins speak out that what they had was stronger and deeper than what American Christianity has now become.
[Note: Written in 2006 and edited today for clarity]