Updated: Jun 1, 2020
Let's rejoice in the Lord for a moment on this Pentecost Sunday!
I've been going through files recently in order to get some parts of life up and running. Actually it's been fun to play the piano again and begin teaching. Also, being able to share freely is another immense joy. I hope we're ready.
It's time for some honest rejoicing and also some straight-forward truth within the body of Christ.
Take a good look at the picture above. What do you see?
Very briefly, here are a few of the many blessings I see.
I see multi-generational worship of the Lord our God. How often do you see kids and adults living and serving together? In the church and family, it's part of God's design. They're loving the Lord above all else and thus loving one another. So much so that they'll sing and work together to proclaim the Lord Jesus.
I see selflessness and love because of the Lord Jesus. Not each of these musicians loves the particular song we're singing, or perhaps how their neighbor is singing it. :) But their love of the Lord and of the other persons compels them to sing out anyway and to thus fully enjoy it! I see a body shining Jesus' light and possessing the Holy Spirit in them!
I see something very heavenly and pure in this picture! I see the Kingdom of God partly here on earth as it is in heaven. How would I know? Because the book of Revelation talks about every tribe, tongue, nation and creature coming together to worship Jesus (Revelation 5). And if we're going to be worshiping Jesus in heaven together, wouldn't He desire us to start now? Wouldn't that be a testimony of the truth and power of the Gospel? That we really are Christians led by Christ Jesus our Head? This is a very sweet heavenly picture!
On this Pentecost Sunday, we should rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit that shines so beautifully in this picture. The Lord did this! The Kingdom of God qualities that we see here are because the Holy Spirit was transforming each person to live and act according to the Spirit - a Bride made nearly perfect for the renown of our God!
"O Lord, You alone are to be praised for the impact You have had on us! And we do pray that You are magnified through your people worshiping You all together, for this is Your desire (John 17)!
On this Pentecost Sunday 2020, let's also be honest about other truths presented in this picture. Hard truths. They are realities we don't often talk about, because we would have to acknowledge some selfishness in each of us and lack of the Holy Spirit's power in us as His bride. But it's time to be honest! If we're going to have any witness for the Lord, it's time to truthful about what we haven't been doing so well.
The truths may confront some of our own selfish desires and plans, both individually and corporately as a worshiping body. I pray with every ounce and breath of myself that they do!
Here are the realities that have hurt me and I believe have hurt the Lord also.
You see, in the most beautiful picture above, at the time, sadly there were musicians in the professed body of the church who were quietly lobbying behind the scenes for a different kind of Music Ministry. They knew the people who were making decisions and were just waiting to "get what they wanted for music and certain musicians" so that "they could finally worship." They were crying to powerful people that they didn't have the chance to sing as often as they needed to for their fulfillment.
Others were saying at the time that they could only stay at the church if there was a style of worship better suited to them and their family.
Did you get that?
Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ were telling church leadership that they could only worship if the music fit their taste.
Let that sink in. Maybe we've all felt that at some points in time. I know I have. But, are you willing to destroy the lives of other believers for your worship? You would say you wouldn't do that, but let me tell you, it happens. It has happened several times.
And what happens is that we as a body of believers become so concerned to reach others for Jesus and to change the age of our congregations, that we will do whatever it takes to get unbelievers in the door. We will quietly and politely destroy each other. Believe me, I've seen it over and over. Only now could I speak about it.
At the time of this picture, I had accidently seen a piece of paper come off a printer that said a goal of the church was to "update Sunday morning worship." Although I needed to stand up in front of all the musicians and the congregation and pretend I knew nothing - to stay silent, I did know of a desire to get rid of what was in front of me - pure worship from the people we had been called to love and shepherd.
At the time of this picture, I had been trying to explain to those over me that I believe Jesus' words to "1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself" should have a huge impact on our ministry priorities INSIDE the church. This command from Jesus should inform our decision making priorities about corporate worship.
No one wanted those deeper conversations. I was shut down and ignored over and over and over.
The foundation of love for God and one another that was the foundation of everything in front of me, was not a foundation others desired. Instead, the priority of our discussions centered around the age of the people God had given us to shepherd. We believed some were too old.
What you don't see necessarily in this picture is the reality of the enormous, daily spiritual battle against true worship in spirit and in truth that was taking place.
Many will have a hard time believing this to be true. But you've been told now. It's real.
My prayer is that the Lord will begin to renew His Bride. We've gotten off course. Our priorities don't often align with the Lord's if we're willing to take an honest look at the picture in front of us.
We love to talk about being unified and showing love, but if that priority doesn't quite look the right way, we shove it aside. Yes, that's true too; all too often.
"All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). May the Holy Spirit convict us as we each need it.
And perhaps, just perhaps, is there one congregation bold enough and humble enough to confess their sins and change course?
We so desire to reach the world, but we're so willing to destroy each other in order to make the gospel appealing enough for the unbeliever. Do you see the problem? The church has lost its credibility.
In Mark 12: 29-31, Jesus replied, "The most important command is this: 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
Dear Heavenly Father, the Church needs you. Holy Spirit, we've grieved you over and over. We've trampled each other just to fulfill ourselves or appeal to the world. We don't trust that You alone can grow Your kingdom. Forgive us, we pray. Help us to confess our sins to one another and return to what is right in Your eyes this Pentecost 2020. In Jesus' Name and for His sake, Amen.