This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.
- 2 Chronicles 31:20-21
“Were some watcher or holy one from the bright world above to come among us for a time with the power to diagnose the spiritual ills of church people, there is one entry which I am quite sure would appear on the vast majority of his reports: Deﬁnite evidence of chronic spiritual lassitude; level of moral enthusiasm extremey low.
“It is true that there is a lot of religious activity among us: interchurch basketball tournaments, religious splash parties followed by devotions, weekend camping trips with a Bible quiz around the fire, Sunday school picnics, building fund drives and ministerial breakfasts are with us in unbelievable numbers, and they are carried on with typical American gusto. It is when we enter the sacred precincts of the heart’s personal religion that we suddenly lose all enthusiasm.
“So we find this strange and contradictory situation: a world of noisy, headlong religious activity carried on without moral energy or spiritual fervor.”
- A. W. Tozer, Of God and Men
I know a church that is heavy into a basketball program that also has cheerleading. They never keep score. They pray and have devotions, even during halftime of the game that has no score. Heartwarming moments arise when a child who has not scored all season is handed the ball by the other team, just so that he can have the thrill of making a basket that is not counted. And the church counts it as evangelism in that about one-third of the participants are non-church goers.
Yes, Christian principles are being taught. These non-church people hear the words, or they have a conversation trying to drown out the person with the microphone in their hand. But is it effective? It might be more effective than packing a Bible and choosing an intersection where you talk to passersby, but I wonder. It is quite safe. Few people complain about that. Some do complain, but they are told what the program entails before the season starts, and they end up putting up with the devotions for the child’s sake.
But as Rev. Tozer asks, what happens during the off-season? What happens with the majority of the church during the season – those that do not participate in the basketball?
And is Rev. Tozer even asking the right questions? What is the spiritual condition of the people in the church? Wow! That is a hard question for the pastor to ask, especially when the pastor will be the first one blamed, although the question is one that pertains to each person individually. And in most churches, the pastor is not the one who examines all new members. But taking the blame? Certainly. Yes, a pastor can do a lot from the pulpit, but if onions are growing in every pew in the congregation, the pastor cannot be blamed for the lack of tomatoes.
Rather than check our “moral level,” let us look at whether we have a deep relationship with Jesus. Do we take Jesus home with us from church? Is Jesus with us throughout every day of the week? Do we read the Bible regularly? Are we constantly in prayer?
And while there are those that have to contend with the physical structure of the church building, do we really need all those things that Rev. Tozer mentioned? How many of them were effective when they were last part of a church’s annual programs?
Let us make it simple and teach people that God loves us and He wishes that we repent and turn to Him.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
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