1 Kings 19 records the time when the prophet Elijah hit rock bottom. It got so bad that Elijah hid in a cave, thinking he was the only worshipper of God left.
God confronted Elijah and suggested he go out to “stand on the mountain in the LORD’s presence.”
The author of 1 Kings records what happened next:
At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.1 Kings 19:11–13 (CSB)
I find this instructive because I have spent so much time in churches where we sought to recreate the wind, earthquake, and fire rather than listen for the whisper. We want pizzazz in our worship. We want lights and guitar solos and whatever else we can get to make Sunday seem special. We work hard to make the music bold and the preaching catchy and polished. We want to have a huge experience of God on a Sunday morning.
Maybe God is telling us through Elijah’s experience that we are looking for the wrong things and not putting ourselves in the proper position to hear from God.
Instead of following the latest church growth fad, perhaps we declare a day of fast for our local church while asking God what he wants us to do.
Maybe we should unplug the guitars and video screens and have a quieter worship experience. Maybe we should read Scripture in our Sunday service and do more listening than speaking. Maybe we should collectively search the Scriptures for the answers to the problems around us.
Maybe we are being called to ditch the big buildings and big budgets to focus on being obedient to the call of God.
Admittedly, I don’t have answers to what the church in 2021 should look like. I don’t know what any particular congregation should do in response to their situation. But I think that much of what passes for evangelical practice is not having the desired effect. We seem to be making theological consumers rather than disciples.
Perhaps we are not listening for that whisper that God used to reveal himself to Elijah. It was in the whisper, not the louder, more noticeable events that Elijah heard the voice of God. Maybe we’re impressed by the wrong things.
Let’s be open to hearing that whisper so that we, individually and collectively, can hear the voice of God to be sure that we are following his lead and not blazing our own trail.