What can happen on your way to Church?
I was reading in Acts, one of my favorite books of the Bible and read this:
Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o'clock prayer service.
Pretty neat. Two of the disciples were headed to Church because there was a prayer service going on and they wanted to worship. They set time aside, because it was important.
There was a lame man at the gate that sat there every day knowing that the religious would usually toss some money to him, because after all you look really spiritual when you give to the poor in front of everyone on the way into church. So, here come Peter and John on their way to the daily church prayer time. They see the lame man. They were headed in to worship God, but they decided to risk being late to the service by engaging with this person right in front of them.
“Look at us” Peter orders the beggar. I can just imagine the beggar probably kept his eyes down most of the time, as it must be embarrassing asking people for money every day. The beggar looked up expectantly at Peter’s words and thought he was getting another handout. He holds out his jar… as the words come,
“We don’t have any money to give you…”
Eyes drop down again at the awful trick. No money?
“…but what we have we will give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk”.
Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. 8He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.
Whoa! Crazy! Peter and John were on their way to church. They were headed in to do a good thing, attend a prayer service. But they did not let that stop them from doing God’s will outside the church building.
So often today, the American church is so concentrated on how to get people to find their way into the building that they have built, they miss the people God puts in their path every day.
Peter and John didn’t say “why don’t we help you into our church, so you can see how awesome our music, pastor, and children’s ministry are.” No, they chose RIGHT THERE AND THEN to show how Awesome Jesus is. They offered HOPE to someone that needed the healing touch of Jesus. And when he was healed, what resulted? The man worshiped Jesus! His Life was changed. He went running into the church dancing, jumping and worshiping! Crowds of people saw the power of the living God.
The reason the American church is dying is that we have come to a place where we have been told that in order to “witness” or share our faith with someone, we have to invite them to Church and let the programs, and preaching do the rest. It has given us an easy way out. A way to feel like we are doing something for Jesus, while never having to talk about Jesus. If I were to ask the average Christian in America, if their neighbors know that they are Christians, I believe most of us would say “Yes, they know I go to church.” That is not a satisfactory answer. Your neighbors knowing you go to church does not bring life change.
What if I changed the questions. Do your neighbors know why you believe in Jesus? What He has done for you? How your life has changed?
Another popular idea the church has embraced is, “share Jesus with someone and if necessary use words.” You can never share your faith and the “why” behind the Hope you have, if you do not use words. Never. Nope. It is impossible. Go to any courtroom. There is no such thing as a silent witness on the stands.
We have gotten things wrong.
We have made our religion “Church”.
We worship “Church”.
We invite people to “Church”, we make sure our Sunday morning “Church” is attractive and engaging.”
“It’s all about the weekend stupid” came out of the mouth of a prominent pastor a few years ago that encouraged Churches and church staff to understand we don’t need to spend our time on anything that doesn’t help our church flourish during the weekend services. That is not how it was meant to be. That is not why Jesus came.
Instead our religion should be a relationship with Jesus.
We should worship Jesus.
We need to invite people to Jesus, we should make sure every day our lives are so full of Jesus that people can’t help but to notice and want to connect with us as we have something attractive and engaging.
Listen to what happened when Peter and John decided to stop on their way to church, see a need, open their mouths and speak about the Hope they have in Jesus and offer that hope to a lame hopeless man…
All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God. 10When they realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astounded! 11They all rushed out in amazement to Solomon’s Colonnade, where the man was holding tightly to Peter and John.
12Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd.
Peter stopped for the 1 person God put in front of him, and in turn God brought him a crowd that he was able to share with. I believe that is going to be what we start seeing. Not people flocking to huge auditoriums, and church light shows, but communities flocking to Christians that are offering a real relationship with Jesus. Real hope. Real Love. The question is, will we be that Christian?
Go ahead and read the rest of Acts 3-4. They were arrested. Then let go. It’s a great story, and hard to imagine it happening to us.
It’s not hard to imagine that God can do miracles.
Hard to imagine because we would need to change what it looks like for us on way