Love, Lift, Lighten
In the average church service today the focus goes something like this:
"Listen. Learn. Lunch". It seems of paramount importance to offer instruction in righteousness, with the congregation remaining largely passive, and with the sense of fellowship enhanced by meals, meals, meals. The whole process takes on the appearance of a good show or lecture. The professionals have the floor.
But Jesus once criticized the misdirection of the religious leaders by reminding them that "It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves." A marginal reference in my Bible suggests that He was reiterating a promise contained in Isaiah 56:
6Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
7Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
Prayer. 'Well, we have prayer in the service. Usually right after collection. Pastor seems to touch upon all the bases.'
That's not what I mean. There should be some extended periods of corporate prayer wherein parishioners feel a liberty to participate around the room in their expressions of love to Jesus and in petition, burden and praise. This would be fresh; would contribute to a sense of transparency and trust; would be new and original; would teach us about each other; would work toward the realization of family in the faith.
Too often congregations are spoon-fed the Bible which they should be learning on their own. There are numerous translations and study helps in this day and age. Leaders should get more excited about being the facilitators of a praying force.
One suggestion might be to run occasional retreats where a dozen or so would withdraw to a residence or other accommodation for three or four days without interruption. They would learn prayer by DOING IT TOGETHER. They would wait upon the Lord. They would learn trust by baring their souls in sensitive testimony. They would learn Jesus by sharing one of the Gospels right through in workshop. They would learn family in the casual conversations and good humour around the den or meal table. All of this equipping and "opening up" would be taken back to the larger assembly. It would break down the barrier between you and the fellow sitting one pew over who remains a stranger after weeks and weeks. What informal friendships and diverse projects of grace could be forged out of this!
I am reminded of how so many Catholic couples have said that their lives were changed by the Marriage Encounter Weekend. Could the above retreats not meet with similar success? Could they not also become a venue for inter-denominational understanding and partnership in helping the community?
Something has to move us out of the "spectator sport" of going to church. In my respectful submission it is prayer and testimony. It would lead in our services and other Church life to an emphasis on..."Love, Lift, Lighten".
That is Body life for those who are caught up in a covenant of love with Jesus.
Take a look at the following small ebook: