The Way Things Were
For years I’ve been writing on the consumer mindset that has befallen the Western Church world over the last several decades (Check out articles like this one and this one to read more about the current state of the Church), and the serious impact it has had on the effectiveness and fruitfulness of the Church.
It is no secret that the American Church, especially, has grown so enamored with the idea of being cool and big that, as a whole, we’ve lost sight of what the Church really should look like.
A large portion of churches have designed their gatherings around the lost (calling it “Seeker Sensitive” (see the “Methods” section of THIS wiki article), a movement started in the 70’s and 80’s) rather than designing what they do around discipling and equipping their church body to do the work of the ministry. As a result we have a great deal of Churches that have become more like entertainment venues, and many smaller churches who seem to think these bigger churches are the epitome of success and must be doing something right because they’re drawing in the crowds and thus trying to imitate them.
In light of all of this, however, there have been a number of solid churches (both large and small) who haven’t lost sight and have been doing their best to be a beacon in the darkness to the other churches who have lost their way.
The Pandemic Shake Up (COVID19)
Now, as of today, March 27, 2020 – most (if not all) churches in America have been forced to board up their doors and get creative on ways to connect with one another in light of the COVID19 outbreak. They have resorted to live-stream services, pre-recorded services, online bible studies, Zoom Conferences, Social Media group pages, email, text, phone calls, and more.
Most churches are still putting a great deal of effort into making the 1 hour Sunday gathering viable over the internet for most of their church body. Some are making efforts to find discipleship opportunities outside of Sunday morning. And unfortunately, a great deal of people are still screaming that they want things to go back to the way they were.
Seeing all of these reactions, I can’t help but ask, should we go back?
The Longing For Egypt
In Numbers 14, we see the story of the Hebrew people (the people who would one day become Israel) getting a report (in chapter 13) from the spies who entered the promised land that there were giants and many people who would do them harm, and now they are complaining that it was better for them if they had stayed in Egypt.
Let’s see their complaint here in the first 4 verses:
1 Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. 2 Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. 3 “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”
The Hebrews were very literally standing at the edge of the promised land, a land God said He was going to lead them to and lead them into victory to claim, but there was a problem. They were scared of the promised land and where God was leading them, and to be perfectly frank…they didn’t trust God.
The Promised Land was unknown to them, but Egypt, Egypt they knew and were comfortable with. In Egypt, the Hebrews were slaves, sure, but they had roofs over their heads and food. They knew where it was all coming from.
They longed for Egypt.
Moses and Aaron fall on their face before God after learning of this and this is what God had to say to them (v11-12):
11 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? 12 I will disown them and destroy them with a plague. Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are!”
So instead of moving into what God knew was better for them, and that He had promised to give to them, they chose to go back to Egypt and become slaves again. God, however, had other plans and caused them to wander the desert for 40 years until they were truly ready to enter the promised land.
The Church in Egypt
We have been enslaved to the god of money. We have been enslaved to the god of popularity. We have been enslaved to the god of consumerism. We have been enslaved to the god of worldly success. We have been enslaved to false doctrines. We have been enslaved to society. We have been enslaved to governments. We have been enslaved to countless things.
Sure, at least in these conditions we know what we’re getting. We know where the money is coming from. But then COVID19 came along and radically shook things up. We were pulled out of Egypt and thrust into a retreat.
And now, we stand at the edge of the Promised Land, and have been given an opportunity to seize what is better for the Church. But the people of God are scared of the giants in the land. They are scared of the giant called “Pandemic”, the giant called “Disease”, the giant called “Economic Collapse”, and the giant called “Uncertainty”. Sadly, many Christians have treated God with contempt.
And we are left with a choice…
- Do we go back to Egypt?
- Or do we grab hold of this opportunity to step into the promised land?
How we respond will be the difference between wandering aimlessly or finding victory.
We Cannot Go Back
Church, I hope we understand that we cannot go back. We simply cannot look back at Egypt and say “those were better days” when they clearly were not. They were days of certainty. We knew exactly who we were enslaved to, but they were not “better days”.
This whole COVID19 outbreak has really opened the eyes of a lot of churches in a way that few global events have in my lifetime, but we are in real danger of being tempted to go back to the way things were before all of this.
We cannot go back to the way things were for the Church. No matter how tempted we might be to try and “make up for lost time”.
We all need to be on our knees before God and pray the prayer of Moses in Numbers 14:17-19 NLT: