Real Church Isn't Like That
by Bernice McDonald
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A hush comes over the crowd - the lights are off except for those that illuminate the group of musicians leading us from the stage. For a moment bright spotlights are turned toward the crowd and, from where we are seated way in the back on the bleachers, I am aware that I am only one in this amazing sea of people.
Holy, holy, holy;
Holy, holy, holy,
I want to praise You...
Hands lift up, here and there I hear the cry, “We love You, Lord!” My heart spills over with a sense that He is so close I can see Him smile as He quiets the angels in order to hear our worship, our song. Is this Heaven? Not yet.
It is Break Forth 2003 in Edmonton, Alberta. All day I have been jostled from place to place, from session to session - waiting for the doors to open, waiting for the escalator, waiting for friends - but it is not with the impatience I might feel in a line waiting to pay for purchases at Christmas time. Everywhere there is a sense of expectation and I am caught up in it.
I look at the faces as I am forced to stand here and there. Joyful faces, faces that are lit up by hearts asking the question, “Lord, what do You want to say to me this weekend? What can I take back to use and encourage my corner of Your kingdom?”
I see the excitement of passion! Much of the conversation centers around the sessions attended that have stirred up new ideas, fanned dying embers of enthusiasm to flame once more. People are praying with each other; hurt areas have been touched through the messages. Hope again springs forth in a place where it is safe to let God’s healing Spirit work.
“Lord, speak to me. Let me hear what You have for me...”
Again the music, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord...”
One of the gifted speakers talks of worship lifting us high up toward a God Who becomes more and more incredible as we focus on Him completely. Way down below us, as if we are high above the earth in an aircraft, we see little houses, little people....little problems, little temptations. What seems so large has suddenly taken a different perspective in the light of the relationship which includes a love all absorbing. The presenter acts as though this can be an everyday, every-Sunday-when-we-gather-together type of occurrence.
I ponder the illustration and know its truth yet I hear my mind respond, “...but not in our church - not in our people. Real church just isn’t like that.”
In “real church” I can’t expect to see faces coming on Sunday morning anticipating hearing from God. After all, where has He been all week?
In “real church” I can’t expect to see a celebration of joy as we sing before God together, one of a “sea of faces” who are sharing the journey with other hearts on their way home. I can’t expect to see tears streaming down cheeks in response to a love that comforts and cleanses. I can’t expect to see arms around weary shoulders lifting up tired pilgrims to ask for the meeting of needs – there’s no time, that’s getting too personal.
Real church can’t hold the excitement incited by passion for doing what we were made to do. Real church can only be a place where most feel a sense of duty and obligation - where, to stave off the guilt, we find a corner of our time to give what we can.
Real church will always be a place where few carry many, hoping to see the Holy Spirit finally crack the surface of the masks worn. Masks worn to prove that everything is alright, “I know my place, I’m doing what is right. Don’t put anymore pressure on me, save it for the next guy.”
Oh, Lord, is this the truth? No! As I sit in that huge gathering in the city of Edmonton, my soul thirstily absorbing every moment of refreshment, I realize that the enemy has a foothold in my mind. Even here he has dared to discourage and stamp out the vision held by God’s heart regarding the people that He loves - the people back home in my church.
Break Forth is a taste, a sample of the picture God holds dear to Him. I see it. And I bow, determined that I will allow Him to keep on renewing and reworking and refining that picture for it is not mine, it is His.
My church can become a place where joyful adoration is the result of freedom!
My church can become a place where humble confession leads to tears of forgiveness and repentance!
My church can become a safe place where arms reach out to help another who has stumbled.
My church can become a place where there is a sense of expectant excitement when we gather because we each know the place we love to serve and because we know our God will be there! After all, He has been there all week and Sunday is just a bonus!
My church can become a place where we encourage each other to be lifted up close to Him and see life from His perspective - little problems, little temptations....
I will commit myself to partner alongside God as He works out this vision He has for us. No, it won’t be a replica of Break Forth 2003 - at least not every week. But better yet, it will be a replica of something that is even more of an oasis - eternity, Heaven itself!
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Bernice, I LOVED this. It speaks so much to where my heart is right at this very point in time. As a 500 member, I would really like to use this article in the September Issue of FaithWriters' Magazine. Could you please send me a private message and let me know if that would be alright with you. I would just need a short, two to three sentence, bio piece about you to go with it. It would be perfect for the We are the Church section we include from time to time now. After reading it, I can't help but say, "Lord, are you trying to tell me something?" You really are reinforcing His message to me. With love, Deb (Editor, FaithWriters' Magazine)