It has long been noted that this country goes through stages of evangelical revivals.It would appear that this is one of those stages.This is a time of great questioning, brought about by the Indian Ocean tsunami, the hurricanes that ripped through the Gulf Coast of this country and the on-going war and terrorism that seems to be a daily occurrence.
The people read the first part of Matthew 24: 6 (“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars”) and look around them.They hear the many preachers on television proclaiming God’s wrath will be directed towards those who have angered Him.They see the popularity of the Left Behind series and begin to think that this may be a good time to rethink one’s life.
Of course, most people will not look at verses 4 and 5 (“For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.”)And in their fears, they will not read that Jesus closed verse 6 with “but see to it that you are not alarmed.”
There is no doubt that many people today are looking for solace but the question must be, “will they find it in today’s church?”They see in many churches an exclusiveness which shuts them out; they see in many churches a hypocrisy that mirrors the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ time.How can they go to a church that claims to follow Jesus but walks in the footsteps of his persecutors and critics?
The growth of megachurches today suggests that they have the answer.Clearly they are welcoming many of those called “seekers.”But are they providing the Gospel or just providing a social outlet for these individuals?People seek answers to questions they do not understand and they are willing to go wherever they can find those answers.So it is not likely that they will see that what these megachurches offer is not really what they are looking for.
It is the same thing with the rise in what is called the “prosperity Gospel.”God shines his blessings on those that are righteous and lead the good life; it is clear that those who are poor or homeless must be sinners because God would never let a righteous individual be that way.It was this attitude that Jesus fought against in his mission through Galilee.It was this attitude that led John Wesley to begin the Methodist revival in the 1700’s.One’s life does not reflect sin nor do we always see the sin in one’s life.
At some point, we must realize that the church today must offer that which people are really looking for, the hope and promise stated in the Gospel.Consider the Gospel reading for today. (1) A paralyzed man wanted to get to Jesus because he had heard of Jesus’ healing powers but the crowds around the place where Jesus were so great that those bringing him could not get through.But this man’s desire to be near Jesus was so great that his friends took him to the top of the building and dug a hole through the roof so that they could lower him down.
The challenge that churches today face is stated in the Old Testament reading for today. (2) Speaking to the Israelites, Isaiah says to not remember the old things or consider the old things but remember that God was about to do something new.If the way we bring people into the church is to turn the church into a gigantic social club, then we are doing nothing new.If we hold to the old ways, insisting that the way things have always been done will work in the coming days then we are doing exactly what Isaiah said not to do.If we preach a version of the Gospel that blames sin for one’s social standing, then we haven’t learned anything from what the Bible says or what the church has done in the past.
The paralyzed individual was lowered down to Jesus and Jesus commended him for his faith, telling him that his sins were forgiven.He also commanded him to pick up his mat and go home.The Pharisees could not accept this, for one’s sins dictated one’s health.Jesus offered a new world, a new way; one that the Pharisees could not see, understand or accept.
There is no doubt that we have to reach out to those in the population who have never been to church or have not come in a long time.But do we offer them what they already have or do we offer them something new.Do we offer them social programs in the name of the church or do we offer the Gospel, the promise of hope for tomorrow?
Our challenge is to not look back for solutions for tomorrow’s problems; our challenge is not to think in terms of today for that which will come tomorrow.Our challenge is to accept Christ as our personal Savior and to let his presence in our lives be seen by others.Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, notes that it was God who established us with Christ and anointed us.That is what people will see.
The challenge we face is to let the Holy Spirit be present in our lives and to let the Holy Spirit be evident to others.I will admit that I cannot offer a quick and easy solution that will allow this to happen.It happens on an individual basis but when it happens everyone knows.As it noted in the Gospel, “they were all amazed and glorified God, saying ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” (3)
Mark 2: 1 – 12
- Isaiah 43: 18 – 25
- Mark 2: 12