Serving others is an important role in the church. Although it’s our attempt to reflect the heart of Christ, it seems to have gotten out of control. And by that, I mean our ministries stand in the way of the gospel.
“But wait, Andy. Aren’t churches doing ministry for the gospel?”
Let me explain. Ministry gets in the way whenever we’re so numbers-driven we overlook any real spiritual progress or lack thereof. Or when we go to great lengths to provide for others, but then hardly put any effort into having a spiritual conversation with them. Ministry gets in the way when the Message is smothered by our elaborate productions and muffled by the noise of our busyness.
Too many churches confuse productivity with progress. We’re easily excited when we have many things going on, but the reality is that there is still only a small number of transformed lives—real transformation, not the emotional changes of lows and highs. I’m talking about the sustaining penetration of the Holy Spirit to whom one repetitiously submits.
The model of the church today follows a very simple formula. If you add a worship service with outreach, you will get kingdom growth. This model is slowly becoming obsolete and no one seems to know what to do about it.
There was a point in time when these elements were working beautifully. Don’t get me wrong, in some places they still are. But if we keep doing the same things over and over and nothing is really changing, we need to stop and ask ourselves the hard questions: Why is church membership dropping? Why is the new generation not growing up in church? Why are churches reporting fewer baptisms per year?
How is it that we keep doing all this work of outreach and the statistics are still worrisome? We seem to be doing all the right things, yet there’s the element of sin that can never be fully extracted. But something essential is missing.
I believe there to be 1 secret ingredient that could turn this all around, 1 x-factor that has already been proven capable of propelling the kingdom of God forward. It precedes almost every single revival and spiritual awakening in human history. It is the most powerful force in our possession that when used, it promises the most incredible results.
I’m talking about having an outright dependence on God.
The dependency that says, “I will not move until God shows up.” “I will not speak until he places words on my heart.” “I will not breathe until he provides me clean air.”
The church doesn’t pray like it should. Our prayers in service are so timed and scripted. We pray out of formality and cadence. Only a small number of churches have prayer services on a weekly basis and usually only about 10% of the congregation shows up. Other than that, the new trend is to make congregational prayer an event. It happens once or twice a year, they’ll give it a snappy name and then create a nice flyer for SM.
On the individual level, when was the last time any of us prayed for 30 minutes… 60 minutes… 90 minutes? Need I remind you, there were once people who virtually lived in the temple wherein they prayed all day long. What happened to us? We ought to be drawn to prayer, like someone in the desert is drawn to water.
We consult our friends, Google and anything else before we go to God. Praying is often our last resort. This shows that we do not rely on him. We put our trust in our own intelligence, cleverness and resources while the God of resurrection is twiddling his thumbs—in a manner of speaking.
It’s not just more prayer that we need; it’s more dependency. You cannot have one without the other. The level of depth, transparency and tenacity is a reflection of our dependency on God.
If only we had faith… the miracles we would see, and the revolution that would come.