I used to attend a mega-church. There were 7 campuses with over 50 venues (now there are 14 campuses with over 100 venues). The pastor was well educated, had more theological background than I knew possible, and was published. The outreach there, both community and global, was astounding! The Gospel was preached loud and clear, and being fed was never a concern of mine. They taught Biblical truths in applicable ways in expositional teaching. It was a good church!
So, what was the problem? In a big church with a large staff and an amazing team of lay people, it can get easy to let others do the Kingdom work. I would go to church and to my small group, get fed with good and solid teaching, feel a little bit holier and like I knew a little bit more… and then go home. Every week I would leave saying, “I love my church! That was so great!” But I was missing something…
When we studied Revelation a couple of years ago we read a letter to the church of Ephesus. In this letter Jesus was warning them not to lose their first love. He said they were great at “doing” church, but not so great at “being” church. I have to be honest with you… sometimes my heart struggles. Sometimes I feel like I’m standing outside a crowd of Christians watching them partake in the beauty of Christianity while I self-consciously duck my head and look around and hope that no one notices that I’m not nearly as holy as they are. I find myself desperately trying to catch a little bit of that Holy Spirit that everyone else has, only to be left feeling empty, unworthy, and frustrated. And that feeling would then continue the downward spiral.
Fortunately I have a Savior who loves drifters. For those of us who find ourselves lost in the masses, we can take comfort in having a Shepherd who understands us. Don’t get me wrong… we should never get complacent in this area! But we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus is the Shepherd for the lost… and for the lost again.
A couple of chapters later in Revelation we see Jesus telling the lukewarm “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (3:19-20). Jesus is here speaking to an entire congregation of fruitless and passionless people. Maybe these Christians were like me. Maybe they got caught up in the “stuff” of life. Maybe they were standing outside that same circle wondering if anyone had noticed that they did not have it right. But Jesus just loves them and says, “Let’s get this relationship back to what it should be.”
So what do we do when we find ourselves standing outside the circle of Spirit-filled Christians? First, we repent. We ask God to forgive us, and we look our sin straight in the face. We spend time in prayer… real time, being honest about our doubts and fears and thoughts and hopes and dreams. We seek His will. We read His Word… not someone else’s words about God’s Word. While these are good things and there is time and place for them, now is not the time. Now, when we doubt and fear, we need God’s Word and His Word alone.
Christianity can never be something that is done for us. It is something that we do for ourselves in every decision we make… or don’t make. If you’re standing outside that circle, will you join me in pursuing our First Love?