OK, so here I am awake at 4:30am, unable to sleep because of thoughts churning in my head about church ... it happens to me all the time on Saturday nights! It seems nearly every week before church I get a bit stressed. I think I really need to spend more Sabbath time on Saturdays in worship in solitude to prepare my heart for corporate worship on Sunday.
Lying awake in the pre-dawn stillness, I had a rather simple epiphany: a thought, an analysis, an evaluation which makes things "click" for me: we are a Martha church.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!""Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Not everyone, of course, and not all the time, but it seems that so often in a big church the sheer organizational logistics of herding so many sheep stack up so many tasks, to-do items, sign-up sheets, sub-committees, and taskforce teams that we lose sight of the goal, the whole point of why we're here in the first place. We're focused on getting the job done efficiently -- to make it through the event, clean up, pack up, say "job well done," and go home. But what was the point? Have we changed, grown closer to Christ, or drawn others closer to Christ? Or have we simply added another bullet-point to our "spiritual résumé"?
Occasionally I will pray this prayer -- it is a risky, controversial, divisive prayer, and really it's up to God to answer as He sees fit -- but when I have the guts, I pray this:
Sovereign Lord God, shut us down.
The machinery and system of church that we have devised in the traditions of man -- jam the cogs and stop us in our tracks. Break us and bring us to our knees before You, helpless and completely without recourse. Take us back to our first love -- You, and nothing else. We resolve to know nothing except Christ and You crucified.
For You, Jesus Christ, You alone are our Creator, our Redeemer, our Resurrection and Life, and our coming King.