“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
The quote above is the last sentence of Jehoshaphat’s prayer of deliverance and is found in 2 Chronicles 20:12.
In a majority of the churches in which I have grown up and attended, this level of dependence upon God was not modeled. Too often the church leaders thought they did know what to do and seeking God was not part of the process. Denominations had formulas and the formulas had to be followed. Too often, God had nothing to do with how church life was arranged. Even “non conformist” churches can fall into the rut of their non conformity.
Do you suppose that if every church business meeting and every leadership team meeting began with such an acknowledgement of dependence upon God, our church lives might be more dynamic and satisfying?
Jehoshaphat prayed his prayer because a horde of enemy soldiers was ascending to Jerusalem to wipe out what was left of the Nation of Israel. Without help from God, the outlook was rather bleak as Jehoshaphat and the people looked out over the advancing army. They had but one real option and that was to turn to the God who put Israel on the map in the first place.
I’ve never lived in a place where Christians are persecuted for their faith. I can imagine Christians in Islamic countries praying such a prayer because their very existence is tenuous. The same is true for believers who exist in totalitarian states. In both cases, the Christians have had the illusion of control and security stripped away by their government and culture.
Too often in our churches, we are more concerned about following the denominational model then following God. We are often more concerned about following tradition than being used by God to impact the world around us. I have no quantifiable data on this, but my guess is that the majority of the complaints that pastors get in their in-box are over trivialities. For many congregations, a change in the order of service would be tantamount to ecclesiastical treason.
To a certain extent, I get this. To do things in the expected way brings a measure of comfort and stability. Some of us are uncomfortable with change, and for some of us, change brings a reaction close to panic. We like things to be comfortable and change brings discomfort.
Yet, we serve a God who specializes in doing the unexpected. He hid the King of the Universe in a manger in a backwater town. He used a stuttering fugitive to lead a nation out of bondage. He used a boy who was sold into slavery by his brothers to save all the people in the region from an upcoming drought. He used some teens from a conquered nation to stand up to, and ultimately change the heart of King Nebuchadnezzar. The list of unexpected events is a long one.
Why then do we lean so heavily on formulas and traditions?
In business, we often quote the proverb, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” We should listen to the truth in that. We are unsatisfied with the impact that the church is having on the surrounding culture, but we are reluctant to make any changes. We keep doing the same thing over and over.
The truth is that we really don’t know what to do. Let’s stop pretending that we do and acknowledge our dependence upon God. Let’s engender a church culture that listens for the voice of God and responds to it.
We need this as individuals and as congregations.