I’ll take it from here God. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like for you not to be involved in this one. I’d like to see what happens when I do this by myself.
I stood up. I preached. People were visibly moved by my words. People laughed. Afterwards those in attendance shared how much my words meant to them. People made decisions to become followers of Jesus.
The only problem was God wasn’t involved.
Some would characterize my move as sacrilegious, stupid, or unchristian. I would simply respond that I think my prayer and God’s resultant absence was one of the best leadership explorations I ever made.
I’m trying to think through something that has been puzzling me as of late. Our church is all about life-change. If you’re a pastor, that’s what you’re aiming for. “I don’t care if it makes people comfortable or not,” we say, “we’re looking to change people’s lives.”
That’s the current mantra among we pastor types.
The reality is I’m becoming convinced that we can be in the life change business, and be quite good at it, but not have God involved at all.
Think, for instance, of the Mormon Church. Let’s say hypothetically a gal moves to Utah, and is not living, how shall we say, a wholesome life.
- Through random circumstances she becomes friends with some good old fashioned LDS folks who take her in, clean her up, and within a few years she’s completely turned around her life.
- Drinking is non-existent.
- No more drive-by one night stands.
- She is more loving, more forgiving, more content and more fully embracing of an others-centered life.
But did God do that?
Or did that come about because of re-socialization? Were her measurable steps of transformation a true by-product of the work of the Holy Spirit? Or was it a by-product of the change any mammal makes as it is socialized into a new network of relationships?
I think you see where I’m going.
I’m not convinced that just because people’s lives are changing in the churches we lead that God is anywhere nearby. It could signal that. It may not.
Life change = God is obviously involved at our church (old formula)
Life change = God could or very well could not be involved (new formula)
Would there be any difference whatsoever, over the long haul, if we kept up the show, the technique, the social pressure to change, but never invited or needed God to show up in our services?
Lives would certainly change.
But is that a good thing?