We've all heard the phrase (or lyric, if you're 20 or older), "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." We all know we take a lot of things for granted because we've all at least heard about poverty-stricken nations and at some point had a moment of honest reflection in which we were really struck by how blessed we are to have been born or found our way into the wealthiest nation in the world. (Appologies for the run-on sentence.) If you've ever been to one of those nations, you come back with this resolve in your spirit to take a moment and thank the Lord every time you flush a toilet, but a month later you've forgotten all about it. Of all the things I never thought I'd take for granted, though, Holy Spirit was at the top of that list.
Timothy and I were out of town last weekend visiting half of my family for Christmas. Come Sunday morning we went to church with my grandparents and my great-grandma. We wanted to be in a church to respect the Word of the Lord, and because the Holy Spirit teaches us all things ... so we knew as long as a Bible was involved it wouldn't be hopeless. We also went because it made my great-grandma happy, and anything you can do to make an 80-something year old lady happy is a good idea.
I'm not going to pick apart the service (but I certainly could), because it will avail nothing. I knew that most American churches operate in that fashion: poor if not outright incorrect doctrine, consumer-friendly message, pre-scripted prayers, and no alter ministry. I spent a decade in one of those churches, but I guess it had been a while and I'd forgotten all about it.
At the end of the service, a man began to pray and read, "Lord we thank you because we have felt your presence here this morning." Timothy dropped his head and fearfully whispered, "Oh Lord." I can honestly say I tried all morning to connect with God's heart and it was difficult. I looked around and realized that I was in a room with scores of people who don't know what it's like to be in His presence.
And that's exactly why it's not okay. It would be easy to walk away from that and say, "Well it's not my cup of tea, but if that's how they want to have church then it's up to them." I'm not alright with that. That's not how Holy Spirit wants to have church (and it's His church); that's not how church is supposed to be (see Acts); and that's not even really how they want church they just don't know any better. It's not alright because I looked around at dozens and dozens of people who love God and who are being robbed of the fullness of His glory. It's not alright because that night Timothy and I tried to pray with my grandma for healing (recent chemotherapy treaments killed a lot of the nerve endings in her hands and feet so it's hard for her to handle small things and the ground always feels uneven to her), and although she let us, she watched with this "that's so cute" look on her face as I commanded nerve endings to be restored in Jesus' name. (Of course, I'm still praying that she'll find faith one day soon and that prayer will be allowed to take its course.)
I'm kind of ranting now, but I'm frustrated. We need to pray until the crippling grip of religion is broken off of the Church in America. We so desperately need revival.