November 12, 2013

Introducing the Why

This isn’t the article I was planning to write. I was going to write about the problems in my church.

You know, the important stuff: such as how they never use both the piano and the organ for song service (by the way, they sound great together). Or those minor grammatical errors that pop up in the bulletin (very tough for us tortured writer types to ignore). But the worst is when the deacons don’t put chairs back where they were in my Sabbath school room after their committee meetings (hey, OCD is a serious disorder!).

Yeah, so I was going to tell you about all of those problems. Then I was going to talk about how I’d been out of town for a variety of reasons for four of the past five Sabbaths. Then, how on this past Sabbath, when I was finally back in my normal routine, I realized—despite all the “problems”—that I’d really missed being at my home church.

So I was going to spend 700 words talking about how much each of us needs to be part of a church community, rather than just attending on a weekly basis. We need people to miss us when we’re gone and tell us so when we’re back. The scientific evidence is pretty conclusive: People who are part of a spiritual community tend to live longer and healthier lives. The spiritual evidence in my own life tells me that I can’t thrive in isolation or exist with only surface-deep relationships. I have to belong to something that supports my belief system and provides an opportunity to connect with others on a more profound level.

Anyway, that was going to be the extent of my article this month. To summarize, church is awesome; make sure you find one that meets your needs.

Right? Well, sort of.

Engaged in Battle

As humans we’re innately selfish and often express that self-centeredness in a variety of ways. That can certainly include our religious experience. Don’t get me wrong: we should all be so fortunate as to be part of a church that supports our emotional, social, and spiritual needs. But it can’t stop there. Don’t take my word for it: check out what Ellen White wrote.

“Many professed Christians, in seeking church relationship, think only of themselves. They wish to enjoy church fellowship and pastoral care. They become members of large and prosperous churches, and are content to do little for others. In this way they are robbing themselves of the most precious blessings. Many would be greatly benefited by sacrificing their pleasant, ease-conducing associations. They need to go where their energies will be called out in Christian work and they can learn to bear responsibilities.”*

Where can your energy be used most effectively? In Judges 6, after testing God twice with a fleece, Gideon knew he was called to center his energy on more than 100,000 Midianites. His initial army consisted of just 32,000 men. And that was before 22,000 went home out of fear.

Are you and I part of that number? Do we sign up on God’s team out of obligation, but run away at the first sign of resistance?

In God’s eyes Gideon still had too many men. This time the Lord told Gideon to send back all those who knelt down to take a nice long drink. Another 9,700 soldiers were excused.

Perhaps like the 9,700, we made it past the first round, staying the course out of obligation. But as the battle looms it’s easy to relax and soak in the last moments before certain failure.

Gideon had only 300 warriors left. But these men were not afraid to leave their comfort zone or face impossible odds. They most certainly were not about to lose focus with the confrontation so close. These were men with whom Gideon could go to war.

The battle has shifted, but the great controversy is alive as ever.

Be the kind of person with whom God can go to war.

*  Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 151.