Today's reading is part of a
mini-series I'm doing on the church. If you've
already read the introduction to this mini-series,
please begin here to read my response to the
If you've not yet read the introduction, please
read it first. The intro sets up the purpose
for this mini-series and will help you to make
sense of it all. Click
here to go to that intro.
IS THE CHURCH? - PART 6
Question Six: Is
the church fully cooperating with the Spirit
in what God is leading it to do?
I once saw a photo of
a large church during a worship service. The picture
was taken from the back, everyone was standing and
singing. The lights were bright, the music appeared
to be lively, everyone seemed happy, the praise team
seemed to be singing their hearts out , and all looked
like an ideal church setting.
But the caption read, "This is what a dead church
looks like." You had to look carefully to discern
to what the caption referred, like in one of those
Where's Wally? books. Over against the wall
was a table on which sat a small, model church building.
On the front of the little church building was a sign
that read, "Our church's missions involvement."
It was all dusty, cobwebs had formed all over the
"church," and no missions money or activity
was present anywhere. The outward signs were present
in the bright lights and smiling faces, but the soul
of the church was dead, evidenced by its neglect of
the main thing.
The question, "Is the church fully cooperating
with the Spirit in what God is leading it to do?"
is a question that must be answered by each individual
church. If I were to answer this question in regard
to the church as a whole, I'd answer, "Yes, there
are signs that it is." But when I consider some
individual churches about which I have knowledge,
I'd have to say, "I'm not as confident that they
truly are cooperating with the Spirit as they should
be." For many churches, it seems the soul of
the church is dead, even though there is so much outward
The word "cooperate" means, "to work
or act together or jointly for a common purpose or
benefit" (www.dictionary.com). For a church to
qualify as doing this, three factors come into play.
First, the church
must understand that God, through His Spirit, is up
to something all around that church. He's at work,
He's drawing people to Himself, He's involved in spiritual
warfare, He's healing the broken-hearted; He's at
work on almost every street doing what He does toward
the goal of redemption.
Trouble is, many churches haven't learned to recognize
how and where God is working. They often are too busy
doing their own thing: they're running their programs
at the expense of building relationships with those
up the street; they're worshipping the Lord of the
Harvest but failing to notice the part they play in
the harvest all around them; they talk about missions
but fail to go and do missions. In short, they are
self-centered and near-sighted. So far, I have to
answer my question in the negative.
Second, they must
choose to join with God, to work with Him in
what He's doing all around them; after all, that's
what God wants them to do and is likely the reason
He placed them there. The problem many churches have
is that they assume that because they are God's representatives
to their communities, that God's not at work there
unless they take Him to the neighborhoods. But the
truth is He's already there, already active, already
at work all around them. His ear is attentive to the
prayer of the helpless; He is mindful of those truly
seeking Him and He's at work in their world's to draw
them in. If He waited on the local churches before
He began to work in our communities, He may never
make it into the neighborhoods.
But He doesn't wait, and for the church to qualify
as cooperating with the Spirit, the church must choose
to join God in what He's doing all around it.
Problem is, it's not always pretty or clean or cut-n-dried
or redolent. God is at work in the home of the addict
right down the street from the church; are we going
to cooperate with the Spirit and join God in what
He's doing there? Are we willing to get our hands
dirty in order to be the voice of God to liberate
that addict through the powerful Good News of Jesus
Christ? God's at work in the abuser, the victim, the
homeless, the unemployed, the woman struggling to
stay with her husband, the businessman who lost a
fortune when the stock market tumbled, and the mom
who sees relief from all the pressures of life and
single-parenthood only in the barrel of a loaded gun.
You see, God really loves these people. I mean, He
not only created them, but He also sent Jesus to die
on the cross just as much for them as for you and
me. His heart bleeds for them; He longs to hold them
close, to wipe away their tears, to strengthen their
hearts, and to whisper in their ears that everything's
going to be okay. But something seems to happen to
us when we get saved: we seem to hoard God's love.
We seem to mistake being God's chosen people (which
is what the church is) with God's favored people (which
is what we are not).
The truth is He doesn't love those of us inside the
church more than those who are lost four doors down;
He loves them just as much as He loves us. He longs
to be in fellowship with them, too. He longs to see
them sitting next to us in worship, developing a heart
of compassion for their lost friends. He wants
to use them in the life of the next person who's ready
to enter the Kingdom.
But somehow, we've forgotten that; many of us no longer
remember how it feels to be without hope, without
love, without God; so what do we do? We install cameras
on the front doors of our churches and talk with the
dying world through little intercoms. We walk in to
the church building and find false security when the
lock clicks, shutting out the lost world. We don't
want to be bothered. When the stinky, dirty, unbathed,
and unkempt stop by the place that represents God
to them, that place that is the last place that smacks
of hope to them, we diss and dismiss them, telling
them that they'll find the answers they're seeking
and the help they need at another location just down
the street. Is that cooperating with the Spirit in
what He's doing in our communities? Did He bring that
lost, hurting, needy person to our door in vain?
Third, we have to
forget about only doing church and ministry and outreach
on our terms and learn to do them on His. Some are
guilty of wanting new people in their churches, but
only if they dress like them or smell like them or
look like them. But most people in need don't get
it all together and then come to church all spruced
up and ready to walk with the Lord. They come on their
terms, and their terms are, "Please, love me
and help me like I am. I want to get to where you
are, but I have to start where life finds me, where
I am right now. This is where I am; will you be Jesus
to me here, on my terms, in my space, in my life?"
If we're not willing to do that, to work with them
on their terms and on God's, then our church may end
up like the church in this story sent to me by my
friend, Gary, from Oklahoma.
One Sunday morning an old cowboy entered a church
just before services were to begin. Although the old
man and his clothes were spotlessly clean, he wore
jeans, a denim shirt, and boots that were very worn
and ragged. In his hand he carried a worn out old
hat and an equally worn out Bible.
The church he entered was in a very upscale and exclusive
part of the city. It was the largest and most beautiful
church the old cowboy had ever seen. The people of
the congregation were all dressed with expensive clothes
As the cowboy took a seat, the others moved away from
him. No one greeted, spoke to him, or welcomed him.
They were all appalled at his appearance and did not
attempt to hide it.
As the old cowboy was leaving the church, the preacher
approached him and asked the cowboy to do him a favor.
'Before you come back in here again, have a talk with
God and ask him what He thinks would be appropriate
attire for worship.'
The old cowboy assured the preacher he would. The
next Sunday, he showed back up for the services wearing
the same ragged jeans, shirt, boots, and hat. Once
again he was completely shunned and ignored.
The preacher approached the man and said, 'I thought
I asked you to speak to God before you came back to
'I did,' replied the old cowboy.
'If you spoke to God, what did He tell you the proper
attire should be for worshiping in here?' asked the
'Well, Sir, God told me that He didn't have a clue
what I should wear. He said He'd never been in this
How do you rate yourself in regard to cooperating
with the Spirit? How would you rate your church? Please
join me in praying that you and I will cooperate with
the Spirit in all that He wants to do in and through
us to the glory of God.
Then the King will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father;
take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared
for you since the creation of the world.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and
you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Then the righteous will answer him,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you something to drink?
38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in,
or needing clothes and clothe you?
When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit
40 The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever
for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you
did for me.'
Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from
me, you who
are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the
devil and his angels.
I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in,
I needed clothes and you did not clothe me,
I was sick and in prison and you did not look after
44 They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you
hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison,
and did not help you?'
45 He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever
you did not do for one of
the least of these, you did not do for me.'
Copyright © 2011. Faith
Matters by Dr. Ken Lovelace. All rights reserved.