Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sunday Devotional - That Empty Feeling

Isaiah 63: 17 Why, O LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance. (NIV)

One of the saddest sights that I see in ministry happens when people decide to no longer come back to church. It happens in every congregation that exists, but for different reasons. Sometimes people fall out with the pastor; at other times they fall out with the denomination; and there are other occasions when they just fall away for no apparent reason at all. They just fade quietly into the background and then they're gone. Their spirits are empty of God and their hearts are hardened. Whatever faith they once experienced is all gone, used up, and diminished.

In Glasgow, Scotland, there’s a controversy brewing because the Presbyterian Church of Scotland is closing a church building that was built over the site of a sixth century church. People from Glasgow are protesting and citing family connections of their great-grandparents as reasons for keeping the church open. But the sad and realistic fact is this: if the people have stopped going to church, why keep it open? Sometimes the biggest hypocrites are those who are outside of the church who want to keep it open for all the wrong reasons.

A church has a life, a ministry, and a mission to accomplish – it’s a living organism. It’s not a building, a sacred sanctuary, or a treasure house of memories. Every church is a mission station, not a museum.

As society changes and our Christian culture become more irrelevant to our civilization, we must ask ourselves this question: are our churches empty because our spirits are empty? Are our churches being closed because our hearts are closed to God?

I think we know the answers.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, come into our hearts so that we may come into Your churches. Take away our pride and arrogance, so that we may humbly serve and worship You. Remind us that faith is not a leisure pursuit, but that it is an eternal lifestyle choice. Keep us mindful that our lives belong to You and that our souls are empty without You. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie writes the daily devotional "Heaven's Highway" which you can visit from the links on this page. He also blogachutes on Fridays from the same blogpage - last Friday's was a humdinger!


Jodie said...


You asked rhetorically "are our churches empty because our spirits are empty? Are our churches being closed because our hearts are closed to God?"

I think it is because the churches are empty of the Spirit. Too much conflict, too little good news, too much of life as usual, too little of the alternate Kingdom of God.

I think people poke their heads in church because God speaks to their hearts and they want to have more. If all they get is more of the same brokenness they get everywhere else, they conclude either that God is somewhere else, or that what they thought was God was just a momentary flight of fantasy.

Either way, like hummingbirds in a flowerless garden, they just move on.


Stushie said...

What more do they want Jodie?

BTW, the church in Glasgow may be saved by money from the National lottery in order to turn it into a living heritage museum...

Jodie said...

Community, Stushie.

A place where you can take your mask off and be accepted for who you are.

Every institution in America has failed to provide human touch. Our families are in shambles and our work places treat us like throw away paper plates.

Americans are hungry for family and hungry for committed relationships based on love and forgiveness. Sometimes they don't even know what that is, except they hunger.

The Kingdom of God >is< family and it >is< commitment based on love and forgiveness. But you would never guess it by the way our churches behave.

Nobody really teaches that anymore.

If all people find in church is more strife, more divorce, and more painfully broken relationships based on unforgiving hostility, then why bother.

Its not that they want >more<. They want >different<.



Stushie said...

The trouble is Jodie that would mean that churches were full of perfect people instead of sinners.

The world is looking for something that cannot be found, not even in church. But IMHO, the church, imperfect as it is, is the nearest we are ever going to get to heaven on earth.

Even Christ's disciples were not above fighting, jealousy, denial and betrayal. And what about some of their wives? They must have felt abandoned at times causing a strain on their marriages...

We go to church to worship God, not a perfect ideal unbroken community.

Your points are well made, Jodie, but you're looking for something that doesn't exist.

Jodie said...


Why make such an either/or proposition out of it?

My own experience is that from time to time it does exist. Our God is a creative God. He makes things new where nothing existed before. People become new creations. I've seen it. And when we ask, sometimes he says yes.

So no, I can't let you excuse us on the basis that it would take "perfect people" or a "perfect ideal community". All it really takes is a little vision, a little listening, and a little faith.

You asked if people walk away from church because their hearts are hardened. I wasn't sure who's hearts you were talking about. I think it is those of us who stay in church who have the hardened hearts. We don't enter the Kingdom and we don't let anybody else enter either. So while we stand around the lobby arguing about it, they either find another way in or just walk away.

That's my own impression.