Has anyone noticed the chill that seems to greet visitors when they enter a church. The chill may even extend to members. It is an icy sort of wind that blows through the soul of those who enter in to find warmth. I am not here talking of the temperature in the room. Nor do I consider the level of quiet reverence for the services. What I am speaking of is the attitude, or personality, of the Christians in the church. So very often, it is as cold and hard as and Arctic wind.
It strikes me that the church in America often behaves like a defeated church, or at the least a joyless one. Where did the notion that Christians should be solemn come from? I suspect it may be of Puritanic origin; it may just as well be part of the stoicism that has leeched into the pews.
I realize that not all churches are like this. Many are quite joyus. But many are not. How do they expect those who do not know Christ, and have no inner hope, to find it in a place as mournful as a tomb? It is a mystery to me. What hope to find hope is there in a crowd of defeated corpses?
What I am talking about is not a pew-jumping pentecostalism. What I am talking about is the need to find more joy than sadness in a Christian life. As a Christian you and I have been given the most fantastic and literaly out-of-this-world gifts imaginable. We often burn with a fire upon recieving it, then settle down to glowing coals. The problem is not in the settleing down, but in the dying out. The heat dissapates and we turn to ashes. We seem only vaguely aware of the warmth that filled us. We look around the world and see hunger and hate and war and bills and taxs, deadlines and comotions; and we despair.
Despair of this sort is strictly un-Christian. Yet we revel in it. For many non-believers a Christian is a dour, long-faced individual looking about to be sure noone is enjoying themselves. Nothing could be more damaging to the winning of souls. What appeal does such a Christian life have for someone already in enough sorrow and peril. If we show no hope, how can we expect them to look to our God for it?
Sadness should be only a reminder, a sidebar. It should be that twinge of pain that reminds us of how we came to our joy, and prods us to spread it to others. A Christian should not need to be reminded to be happy about his or her existance. It should flow from them just as surely as love should.
I am not saying that there is no time for sorrow. There is; but it is not our normal constant state. There is a time for anger and rightous indignation. But these should be guided by the love and joy that flows from Heaven down to us.
When I walk into a Sunday morning service, I do not expect it to look like a funeral. We have come there to worship our God. He has blessed us so richly to even be there to worship Him; are we to repay Him with sad faces and grimness? I think not. The next time you enter your church. Think of how wonderful it is that you even got there. And then see if that does not make you smile. Spread that joy.
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Thankfully, not all churches ARE like this. I and my family first walked into our home church 2 years ago this Easter after a very bad experience at a previous church we had been members of for over 9 years. The warmth and love extended to us that day plus the genuine joy in worship reflected a people that truly knew what God's greatest commandment is. (And yes we are Pentecostal, but they did it without even jumping any pews.) May we all remember that we are the only Jesus some people ever see, and be sure to reflect Him accurately. We do indeed have the greatest reason of all to be full of Joy..we serve a Risen Savior!! Thanks.